Today is Sunday 7th August 2016. I’m currently lounging on the sofa in a house in Bristol, eating an obscene amount of biscuits. In just under three weeks time, I will board a plane to Hong Kong – my home for the following forty weeks.
For those who don’t know me, I’m Danny, a 20-year-old dork from Belfast, Northern Ireland. In September 2014, I began a 4-year integrated MEng course in Computer Science at the University of Bristol. However, midway through my first year, I decided to move to the Study Abroad course; I would still graduate after four years with the same qualification, except my third year would be spent abroad at one of the department’s partner institutions.
Only a very small minority of people on my course choose to study abroad. I mean, it’s kind of weird, right? You arrive in a new city for first year, make new friends, find your way around, learn where the best kebab shop is… then two years later just up and leave – abandoning all the relationships you’ve formed and knowledge you’ve gained since you arrived. Your friends on 3-year courses will have graduated and maybe left by the time you get back. A lot of people I talk to say they wouldn’t study abroad even if they had the opportunity. I don’t blame them – Bristol is a lovely place to live.
The main reason I decided to study abroad is to challenge myself. To see if I have what it takes to survive thousands of miles from home, in a strange new place that’s completely unlike my hometown. Moving from Belfast to Bristol for university was not much of a change; they’re both standard mid-sized UK cities. Same language, same weather, same currency. I want to go somewhere truly different. Take myself 6000 miles out of my comfort zone and force myself to just deal with it. I want to try foods I’ve never heard of, speak to people from all over the world, and say yes to every invitation I receive. I feel coddled living in the UK, like I’m playing a video game on easy mode. Sure, everything is fun and familiar, but there’s no satisfaction, no sense of growth. I want to be presented with new challenges, opportunities to screw up and learn from it. Studying abroad will allow me to overcome this roadblock in my personal development and grow into a better person. Or at least that’s what I’ve convinced myself…
At first, I was shown a list of over 25 partner universities to choose from, although later for some unknown reason the list was slashed down to just 15. I felt like going somewhere too similar to the UK would defeat the purpose of studying abroad, so the universities in the US, Canada and Australia were out. Belgium? Ehh, doesn’t feel right. Too close to home anyway. Denmark? Maybe, but it just seems a little boring. That narrowed it down to two universities: Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
I agonised over this decision for weeks, comparing league tables, student/staff rations and other silly statistics. They both seemed like really cool places to spend the year. In the end, it was watching an aerial tour of the HKUST campus filmed by a drone that won me over. The campus is stunning. Futuristic white buildings scattered along the coast, overlooking a pristine blue ocean peppered with small green islands. I still haven’t seen it with my bare eyes, but even just watching it on a screen was breathtaking. That’s when I decided to go to Hong Kong.
So for the time being, I’m just hanging out with my friends in Bristol, making the most of the time we have before I abandon them for a year. Occasionally sorting out some of the boring stuff in preparation of my arrival – visa, insurance, flights etc… although I can only handle so much of that stuff before I need to sit out in the sun and drink a couple beers to unwind.
On this blog, I plan to write about pretty much anything I feel is interesting about my experiences in Hong Kong. Studying, traveling, eating, drinking, crying in the corner – whatever I think you guys would like to hear about. I hope to use this blog to keep my friends and family updated on all the dumb things I get up to here, and also to offer my own perspective on what I’m sure will be an absolutely incredible place.
Cheers guys, I hope you enjoy.
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