Year Abroad: What I am Expecting

Year Abroad: What I am Expecting

Author: Eric Östring

The past few weeks I have browsed through the web like an internet troll trying to find blog posts of previous exchange student’s experiences in Hong Kong. Saying that I am extremely excited about my upcoming exchange at Hong Kong University is an understatement. Having read multiple blogs about various phenomenal experiences in Asia’s World City got me thinking: there are so many blogs about past experiences of exchange years in Hong Kong, but where are all the blogs about the expectations and thoughts prior to the adventure? Isn’t the build-up an essential part of any experience? I thought this is a space left unfilled, hence this is why I am writing this blog post. To express my expectations and thoughts of the upcoming adventure for anyone to read and for myself to organize them.

Before we got to my expectations I think it’s important to clarify why I chose to go to Hong Kong University for my year abroad, as this, of course, shapes my expectations. I’ve been interested in Asia as a whole for a long time. Originally growing up in Finland, Asia was a mysterious part of the world which didn’t affect my life in any meaningful way, at least on the surface. When I later learned about the size of this area in terms of population and economic presence, I was astounded by how I hadn’t given much thought towards Asia. This prompted me to change my perception of Asia which was based on anecdotes and statistics to one that is based on first-hand experience. Moreover, having learned more and more of Asia, I am drawn to it due to its plethora of opportunities, particularly in my field of interest, Data Science.

So, what am I expecting? Well, put it simply, many things. But for now, I’ll present to the most important expectations.

First of all, I am expecting a very different style of teaching and academic culture. After having read online, the embedded culture of a clear authoritative structure will probably permeate into academics too. I am expecting my education to be less about creativity independent learning and more about specification and teacher authority.  This means that the relevant material for my courses is most likely exactly what was taught and said in lectures, as opposed to an independent wider literature material. Another way to put it is that I expect to trade off broad knowledge of a topic for details of a particular sub-topic, transforming from a generalist to an expert. I also believe that I will be punching out later during the day. It seems that the general Asian work ethic is unrivaled throughout the world, which is something I wish will rub off onto me during my time there.

Second expectation: Travelling. Surprisingly, I am not expecting to travel too much during my time there! I am well aware that Hong Kong is a great hub to travel to other parts of Asia at a reasonable price, but I will probably not use this opportunity because I think a year may not be even enough to explore the whole of Hong Kong itself. Maybe I have a different philosophy about “traveling” and “seeing the world”, but I would much rather get to know a single foreign place very well as opposed to visiting numerous attractions in several places. I cannot wait to see what this place has to offer and make the most of my time to embrace the city and to get out of my comfort zone for a real cultural experience!

Third expectation: Dabble in Mandarin. An exchange is not a glorified holiday, but a golden chance to receive educational experiences that my regular environment cannot offer. Even before flying off, I am planning to get through a few levels of Mandarin on Duolingo, a language learning app.

“It’s the best city for sure”, “I will definitely move back there some day” and “The food is astounding” are typical sentences to hear from someone who has lived in Hong Kong. Beyond the inevitable expanding waistline, I hope to expand my outlook of the. My expectations are high, let’s see how Hong Kong holds up to it.


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