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#58 It’s the End of the Semester!

May 5, 2009

Studying abroad is undoubtedly one of, if not the most, memorable experiences a college student is going to get, besides the one time when you get super drunk and fall headfirst, naked, into someone’s pool with a bucket over your head. My semester in HKU, truth be told, was a spiritual and emotional rollercoaster, full of ups and downs, Kodak moments, cringe-worthy awkward moments…you name it I’ve probably gone through it.

I still remembered the excitement and trepidation I felt the moment I landed after my very short 4-hour flight from home, stepping through the sliding doors of the airport into the wintry cold air in HK. Everything looked so familiar yet foreign at the same time. There was a whiff of uncertainty and adventure in the air, and I knew this is it, this is my moment, and I’m here to find myself…be it the good, the bad, the weird or the ugly, I will treasure this journey.

Till this moment, I still scoffed inwardly at my friends who had intense pangs where they missed home so much they wanted to book the first flight back. Coming from a predominantly Asian society, where MOST kids live with their parents till they are married (oh, God forbid, but what choice do we have), I thoroughly relish this little piece of haven, this refreshing taste of freedom that comes with studying abroad. My own space, my own responsibility, my own life, in my own hands. Our parents will always think of us as their babies, whether we are 5, 15 or 35. But something inside us tells us, they can’t hold onto us forever, and one day they will have to let us find ourselves…and the journey began.

I started the semester, hopeful to learn something new, not so fresh-faced as an exchange student that merged seamlessly into a sea of Asian faces, excited to be in a new place all by myself, psyched to have a whole new territory to explore. Eventually, as the semester went on, the novelty quickly wore off, as of most things, and everything began to become repetitive cycles of normalcy — grocery-shopping, check; laundry, check; cooking for one, check; waking up by myself in the morning (though not quite successfully), check; going to the doctor, check; partying till 5am, check. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t really deal with at all, and I finally felt like I was growing up.

The lectures were at best intriguing, because everything I hear about HK I hear it for the first time, and everything sounded interesting and new to me, but not the local students — from their deadpanned expressions I could tell they have heard it at least a thousand times. There weren’t any tutorials, something I could really really get used to. The readings were minimal; but the papers were hellish to write. Moreover, having the pass-fail option at the back of my mind didn’t help to alleviate my affliction of chronic procrastination. It was easy to skip classes and justify it by saying ‘Oh hell, I could still pass without going to one lecture”, and one lecture became two, and then three and there was the fourth…and was it the fifth time? And before you know it, exams are round the corner, and you thought HOLY CRAP, I only went for two lectures for that class for the entire semester, the first one to “make a good first impression” and the random one because you had to submit your paper in class.

And there was all the explorations around HK over the weekends, and getaway trips in China. There were easily the best part of studying abroad here, the hiking in the countryside, enjoying the non-urban scenery and for once getting away from all the air and noise pollution in the city. The natural landscape in HK was surprisingly beautiful. I am baffled how HK was never portrayed as a place boasting spectacular sightseeing sites and hiking trails. The shopping was only okay, it wasn’t as though there weren’t H&M and Sephora in other cities, and the local brands weren’t must-buy fantastic either. On the other hand, the food was amazing, especially if you’re willing to part with a little more money, you can find gastronomical deals at yummy rates in an equally sweet ambience. The dimsum was obviously THE thing to try, but the Japanese and Western cuisines aren’t too shabby either.

I would proudly say that HK wasn’t a bad choice at all, and now looking back, the places I’ve explored, the food I’ve tasted and the friends I’ve met…I *could* probably ask for more, but right now, it couldn’t be more perfect as it is.

It’s the end of the semester…I’m not ashamed to say that I didn’t quite miss home much. Not because I don’t love the feeling of being home and being around people I’m familiar with, but I was so utterly sick of being stuck in the same place for all twenty years of my life and I just can’t wait to break out of my shell and see the world. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing but this experience tells me that I needed this. I am more certain than ever about what I want in life, and I want to be out there to overcome any fear of being alone in a new place, to immerse myself in a new culture, to learn a new language and to begin living through all my five senses.

But before I dream about all of that, I just want to finish the finals so I can lounge on the beach in the likes of Stanley and Repulse Bay and enjoy the summer sun before heading home to the disgustingly artificial sands in Sentosa.

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