Wendy, White-Williams Scholar College Connection Class of 2013 and Central High School graduate, recently began her senior year at Penn State University’s main campus, where she has established herself as a highly driven student eager to take advantage of every experience her college education has to offer. After much research and planning, Wendy was able to fulfill her dream of studying abroad when she spent the spring semester of her junior year studying at the Chinese University of Hong Kong! As a Finance major with minors in International Business and Chinese, studying abroad in Hong Kong was a great way for Wendy to apply the skills she has learned in the classroom and hone her resume. Therefore, it’s not surprising that she has already accepted an offer to begin her career as a consultant for Deloitte after she graduates this spring! As Wendy clearly has a very busy and exciting year both behind and ahead of her, we’re so glad she was able to find the time to answer our questions about her wonderful study-abroad experience.
What was your first impression of Hong Kong like?
“My first impression of Hong Kong was that it was very cramped and overwhelming. There is a great restriction on the amount of land there, which is why it is normal for families to live in 50-floor high-rises with as many as five family members in a small apartment that is very similar or possibly even smaller than those in New York City. However, Hong Kong is much more than just another metropolitan city – it is actually surrounded by beautiful mountains and waterways. The university that I attended was called the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), and that was a 40 minute transit ride away from the main island of Hong Kong. CUHK is situated on very mountainous terrain, and my dorm room was on one of the highest peaks of the mountain. It was a 35 minute hike to my room every day, and that transit time includes using the outdoor escalators (yes, the walkways and roads are so steep that there are outdoor escalators for CUHK!) and elevators inside other facilities and buildings just to get to my room!”
What made you interested in studying abroad? How did you find out about this opportunity?
“I knew from the start of my college career that I wanted to travel and study abroad. I have heard many stories from friends who came back from abroad that really fueled my desire to go travel abroad as well. In particular, my best friend who was attending the University of Pennsylvania at the time chose to study abroad at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her experiences and photographs taken abroad inspired me to research similar study-abroad programs offered through the business college at Penn State. It was also important that I selected a program that would allow me to go abroad and still graduate on time within four years.”
Why did you choose to study abroad in Hong Kong?
“I chose to study in Hong Kong mainly because of my best friend’s influence. However, a part of me has always been fascinated by Hong Kong. I grew up watching a lot of Hong Kong dramas with my family, as we speak Cantonese at home regularly. Something that I found to be particularly compelling about Hong Kong is the fact that Hong Kong is very different from the rest of China – it was under British rule for 100 years before being returned to China quite recently in 1997. I wanted to experience first-hand what that mix of Eastern and Western culture would be like. To my surprise, post-colonial Hong Kong was very different from what I had expected. Yes, there are many English speakers there with British accents, but the distinct Chinese culture overrides the western traditions a lot more than I had thought they would.”
What are some of your favorite moments from your time in Hong Kong?
“Some of my favorite moments in Hong Kong are definitely the street food and markets in a region called MongKok. It was a great spot for my international friends and I to go for dinner in the local eateries and scavenge the streets for dessert afterwards. Other than the food and drinks, my absolute favorite moments would have to be the times I went hiking in many of Hong Kong’s vast mountainous regions. One hike in particular resulted in an impeccable shot of me doing a yoga pose above the skyline of Hong Kong. Another hike began with a sleepless night at 3am where my friend and I journeyed to another famous peak in Hong Kong to watch the sunrise.”
What is one valuable lesson or skill that you learned during your semester abroad?
“I cannot begin to express how much I have learned about myself during my time abroad. Living halfway across the world from where I was born with people I’d never met before was a great self-discovery experience. Not only was I able to walk away with new friends whom I still keep in touch with, but I also was able to gain a much greater appreciation for all cultures. Much of this new cultural understanding came from my travels outside of Hong Kong – places that I backpacked to include Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and even Australia!”
What advice would you give to another Philadelphia Futures Collegian who is thinking about studying abroad?
“My one piece of advice to ALL collegians is to go abroad!” For me it was an incredibly liberating and life-changing experience that took place at a pivotal time in my life. You’re only in college once, so why not use all that energy and optimism of youth to see the world? Not only do you come back home with new perspectives, but you also gain valuable skills that can make you more impressive to job recruiters, employers, etc. At the end of the day, going abroad enriches your mind in ways that a textbook cannot, which is why I say that studying abroad is a must!”