re: coming home

Back for Good (maybe).

I’m back! After about a month of constant travel, I returned to the UK on the 23rd June – just in time for the EU referendum and what lovely news to be welcomed back with the next morning *tears falling as I fall down in a slow circle and die*. The words of Take That might echo the thoughts of Leave voters this past week with my friend Grace suggesting that Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ should replace the United Kingdom’s National Anthem. Anyone else care to contribute to our EU fallout party playlist?

~

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2016 is proving to be a dismal year, so to brighten things up, I’ll refrain from lamenting on things I’ll miss from my exchange and look towards some home comforts that I’m glad to return to:

  • Personal space! Whilst Hong Kong is a city over spilling with vibrancy, one thing I won’t miss is constantly sharing space. Nothing beats having your own room, infrequent violations of one’s personal public bubble, or even taking your time with a meal without being shooed away for the next customer.
  • Me-time! As selfish as this sounds, travelling around with a group of friends really makes you cherish your time alone. It’s absolutely wonderful to explore different countries with close friends or develop new friendships, but it can also be exhausting being around people 24/7 (hello hostels). It’s nice to have some down time once in a while, reconsolidate your thoughts and just soak in being in a different country, rather than focusing on the next place to see or activity to do.
  • Sleep! For a pretty active person, I do love my sleep! Sure, if you have three months or more travel time, you can afford to sleep in now and again. If not, travelling usually means early mornings and late nights, which can also be a mood killer. (I get the sleep equivalent of ‘hangry’ if deprived of my slumber.)
  • Sensible currency! One crazily inflated currency is hard to get your head around, so try three in the space of a month. If you’re too lazy to pull out your phone before every transaction, mental arithmetic is necessary to convert back into GPB, but at least this cognitive effort is rewarded by pleasantly cheap prices. (Unless it’s Japan. Everything is expensive in Japan). Being back means not getting confused at the amount of zeros in the price, triple checking the notes I’m handing over and worrying about being stuck with useless coins!

It’s easy to romanticise this past year – certainly the best one of my life so far. However, the reality of returning will be an entirely different experience as I remind myself that studying abroad and working abroad are not the same thing! Separate posts will up in due course for all the places I visited, but for now I’m basking in the fleeting novelty of being back at home and in blissful ignorance of my unpacked suitcase.

re: making friends

You’re my globe-mate.

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One of the best things about university is meeting new people. When it came down to confirming my choices, I chose the University of Nottingham not only because of its study abroad programme, but also due to its many international links. With campuses in China (Ningbo) and Malaysia (Semenyih), not to mention the vast amount of students either exchange or full-time coming from all over the globe to study, your once limited worldview is fantastically broadened.

Of course, it is easy to research and keep informed about major international events, but speaking to individuals native to a particular country makes a larger impact on oneself than expected. You can read about shocking laws, such as the now eradicated one child policy in China, but for me, it didn’t seem real until talking about the topic with my friends from mainland China. Naively I thought it was something blown out of proportion by the media, a hazy rumour serving only to stir up xenophobic feelings in the western world. Thus, it was startling to me hearing their experiences and opinions, of growing up without siblings, of distrust towards their government and of confusion as to what to believe (i.e. the self-immolation incident in Tiananmen Square).

Studying in Hong Kong is no different. Through lectures and meeting locals, I have learnt about Hong Kong’s national identity crisis, more about the umbrella movement of last year as well as political controversies within the school. Conversing with other international students, I was so surprised to discover that South Korea still enforces conscription on its citizens, (further chats with friends told me that the existence of conscription is still quite common). Learning about these topics definitely makes me more conscious of the world outside my little localised bubble, as well as making me more active in seeking news not just pertaining to the UK, (after all, there’s only so much of David Cameron’s antics a person can take).

While making friends from other countries can make you more mindful of political issues, it also brings to the table many hilarious and amusing differences. In casual conversation with friends you might notice minute differences, which can lead to furious debates on what is ‘correct’ and what is not. (Bell pepper or capsicum?? Australians. Queue or line?? Americans.) Even well established holidays can be a topic for debate – you thought Christmas Day is safely on the 25th? Prepared to be challenged by the Germans who regularly celebrate the 24th instead! So, from friendly chats to late night conversations, there is a wealth of information to be learned about a person as well their culture. Being much more of a listener than a talker, this suits me just fine.