The top three things I wouldn’t have learned without studying abroad

Study Abroad

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

This past academic year, I had the opportunity to study abroad as an exchange student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. I feel immensely fortunate to have been able to experience another university’s academic program, meet people from all over the world, and immerse myself in an entirely new culture. As my year abroad comes to an end, I am slowly acknowledging the assortment of lessons I learned, solely from my experience in the exchange program.

Home really is where the heart is

Before I departed to study abroad in Hong Kong, I held the notion that new experiences and environments would ceaselessly be more enjoyable than those of familiarity. Even with the excitement that living in Hong Kong brings me, I was surprised to feel myself becoming so aware of the special place my home will always have in my heart. I developed a newfound appreciation for my home, whereas beforehand, I had taken it for granted. Particularly, after traveling and volunteering around Southeast Asia, I was able to directly experience at least a small percentage of the local lifestyle in some of the poorest countries in the world. This experience has especially affected my perception of my home and the privilege I have had growing up.

Different academic systems globally

Not only was I able to compare Hong Kong’s university academic system to that of the United States, but also I was given the chance to learn about those of other countries such as Britain or Switzerland. After arriving in Hong Kong, I was particularly surprised to be faced with such a different academic system. Although most exchange students take their classes abroad through a pass/fail system, Krannert requires major course grades to be directly transferred. Conclusively, I was given the chance to work directly with other local students on group projects and exams on a bell-curved grading system, and this different academic system and studying culture was eye-opening for me.

Differences can make friendships too

Quite often and naturally, humans tend to stick to those who are similar to themselves and shy away from those of a different nature, whether it be due to culture, hobbies, interests or other factors. I was raised in an environment of people similar to me. Studying abroad in Hong Kong helped push me out of my comfort zone to meet people with other interests or cultures. I was able to meet people who were studying in different schools and countries, in addition to the local Hong Kong students. Especially as I was given the opportunity to volunteer in other Southeast Asian countries, I was ecstatic to connect and become friends with locals from around the world.  I began to learn that despite these major differences in culture or personality we can still come together and create special relationships.

Evidently, studying abroad has taught me various lessons, not only in my academics, but also in culture and life. I believe that broadening my mindset and learning about other cultures is just as important as excelling in academics, especially when preparing for the workplace. Thus, I would highly recommend studying abroad to any college student, because I know that everyone will be able to takeaway meaningful life lessons.

Anna Pi is sophomore studying Finance at Krannert. She is from Seattle and South Korea, and is currently studying abroad at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

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