It's been over two months since I left Hong Kong. Hong Kong was such a big part of my life and I felt like I grew more in those 4 months than I have in my 4 years at UT yet whenever I look back it feels like a distant dream. It feels like I never really went to Hong Kong and I've just picked my life back up where I left it in August. Until I'm looking through some of my photos in Asia I get the pleasant feeling of "Yeah buddy I done did climb that ankor wat in Thailand!!!" Before my departure, I made a list of objectives I wanted to accomplish while I was in Asia. I decided to revisit them:
There are many objectives that I want to accomplish during my time abroad:
1. Be immersed in a different culture and accept completely different viewpoints and lifestyles.
I wouldn't say HK culture is that different from here. It was probably all the Asian stereotypes to the extreme. Asians do study ALL THE TIME, only play games, and are shy. It was hard to accept different viewpoints at first. In Language, Communication and Culture, we are reading a book called Language Shock by Michael Agar and he talks about a "number one mentality" that Americans have, believing that their way of life is the best way of life. I found myself often locking myself in my "number one mentality" but gradually I began to see the true meaning of different.
2. Find myself and figure out what the hell I want to do with my life.
Definitely helped. It's like that cliche saying "you can't love someone else until you love yourself", you can't move forward and find out what you want to do with your life until you find yourself. I found insight behind why my parents do what they do. I was lucky to meet my room mate in HK who was similar and different than me in the best ways possible. We were both Marketing majors and talked about marketing, strategies, and branding all the time. I miss that so much. I really found my passion for Marketing and for the first time feel confident in my major choice. I learned to stop being who I wish I could be but be the best at being me. I've taken a huge leap in figuring out what I want to do and now I'm in pursuit.
3. Work on qualities I want to improve - patience, worrying, controlling my emotions, letting things go
Well, the good thing about being 10000 miles away from people is that even if you get emotional you have to suck it up and you have to be patient and wait until you get back. I'm quite an impulsive person but I met someone even more impulsive than I - my room mate. We were similar in these ways, we were both emotional and impulsive and I felt we both helped each other improve in these aspects. I started internalizing my feelings more and put more responsibility in pursuing my own happiness. I'm still working on letting things go..
4. NOT gain another freshman 15.
My BIGGEST accomplishment!!!! I lost a whopping 12 pounds in Asia. Thanks to their small proportions and many choices of healthy food, I got back to the weight I was before college. And another pat on the back: I've been maintaining it since I've been back!!!
5. Create a global network for friendship and professional reasons.
Met a lot of amazing people from all over and I can't wait to see them again someday!!!
6. Become more knowledgeable about world affairs and issues.
Well, I became more knowledgeable about how unknowledgeable I am. But unfortunately, this aspect I did not improve on.
7. Learn to be truly grateful of my life and enjoying it to the fullest.
A work in progress :)
8. Improve my Cantonese
Dang it, using Cantonese was so inefficient. My friends in HK could speak quite good English and it would be such a headache trying to use Cantonese. I improved my listening but my speaking and grammar are still not good. I remember walking down Ladie's Market and my room mate told me to use Cantonese but my bad grammar and accent gave away my outgroup label fast than I can say "Tai gui le!"
9. Get in touch with my Chinese roots and explore my inner F.O.B.
I most definitely did! I have a newfound appreciation for learning Chinese. I also understand my parents a lot more.
10. Being able to apply everything I learn when I come back.
This is the hardest part. It's easy to forget everything you learned or what it was like when there is not longer the environment or stimuli. Studying abroad is like no other experience. You can start off fresh. No one knows you and there are no expectations on how you should be. I felt empowered with my newfound knowledge and open mind and I come back to America being surrounded by initial environment and it's hard not to fall into your old habits. It's hard to completely change when everything else is the same. I've became a lot more confident, a lot more open-minded, a lot more tolerant, but this is still a work in progress.