While Rosie Shepherd was admiring the snow during her year abroad in Norway (see her post of 4 July), Jordan Stock headed for warmer climes. Read on for his impressions of his year in east Asia: It has now been nearly one year since I left the refuge of Southampton to travel to about as far as you can get on the other side of the world, Hong Kong. I can only sum up the year with one word: Wow.
I had always known I had wanted to go on a year abroad before I applied for my course at Southampton, and it almost felt like my entire university experience was building up to it (I’d be lying if I wasn’t still trying to pretend that final year doesn’t exist . . . ). But I had never envisioned myself in Asia for my year abroad, even less so in Hong Kong, a place which at first, I didn’t know much about. I had applied for a place in America too, but in the end chose Hong Kong as it seemed more of a ‘jump in the deep end’ and in some ways that was true. Luckily for me, though, I quite liked that feeling and any presumptions or fears quickly disappeared upon arrival.
Hong Kong is actually a very small place, not much bigger really than the size of London, and is situated on the coast of South China. I think most people’s perceptions of the city are that of only a ‘metropolis’ or ‘concrete jungle’ and so I think they might be skeptical about spending a year there. However, don’t believe everything you see on the internet – Hong Kong has some of the most magnificent beaches, mountains, hikes, lakes, temples and waterfalls I have ever seen.
Don’t get me wrong, the concrete jungle element still exists, but I actually think this only makes for an extremely dynamic contrast between the cityscape and the surrounding nature (and seriously good picture opportunities). Plus, it makes for – yes I am biased! – the best skyline in the world.
Hong Kong can best be described as a thorough mix of western and eastern culture, which has a lot to do with it being a British colony up until the late 90’s. This mix is probably one of the most notable things about the city and it helped make it feel like my home almost as soon as I arrived. The city is also probably the most international place I have ever been, and even though, yes, being a white British citizen in Hong Kong certainly puts me in the minority (95% of the population is of Asian origin), I have never felt more welcomed, accepted and at peace in my life, which actually I think says a lot.
In terms of university life in Hong Kong (it’s easy to forget that I was actually there to study), I studied at The University of Hong Kong – which taught in English – and it was there I met some incredible people from all over the world. I think it is actually the most international university in the world and that’s quite amazing for such a small city. I also got the chance to study some music modules that focused more on Asian music, particularly contemporary Asian music, such as K-pop, J-pop etc. and I’d be lying if this wasn’t the most interesting and exciting aspect of contemporary world music I’d ever learnt about (take note Southampton, a module next year on Asian popular music please!)
When I left for Hong Kong last August, I felt all manner of emotions but I wasn’t quite sure how well they would all settle in my head when I arrived. However, they did – more than I could ever have expected – and it opened my brain to an essentially completely new world that I was to call my home for a year, filled with so many incredible people, places, food, culture, weather and most importantly, memories. Hong Kong, if you’re reading this, I’ll be back soon, this time hopefully for good!