Life, Travel
Comments 9

How studying abroad changed my life.

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It’s been more than 3 months..

More than three months since I’ve traveled more than 7000 miles to Hong Kong and experienced life in a completely different world. I’ve always heard the quote, “Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” But, I never paid much attention to it. I’m not new to traveling around the world, ever since I was young I remember getting on the airplane and visiting my cousins in Vietnam, New York, or France. As an avid traveler, I never came back from a trip “magically” changed. But, that was different. This trip opened my eyes to all the beautiful things I’ve never thought to think about – or experience. I hope everyone will get the chance to study abroad, or live in an entirely different country for more than a month. 

1) Traveling alone is the best.

I’m more about adventures, less about routine.

I’ve always been a “stay at home, read a book” kind of girl. I hated hiking, didn’t really care much for sight-seeing, and although I traveled – I never really played the part of a tourist. But in Hong Kong, after spending my first month going to school and hiding in my hotel I realized that I was depressed, tired, and very lonely. I would buy food to go (sushi or mcdonalds) and eat inside my hotel because I hated eating alone.

After the first month, I began to regulary explore on my own. Sure, having friends to keep you company is fun… but theres something special about traveling alone. I remember Jane told me early on, “I love traveling alone. You can go to the places you want, you get to explore on your own time, and you get to see what you want to see.” I didn’t quite understand her… after all, traveling on your own seemed dangerous, boring, and lonely. But, now I understand.

I remember my first trip by myself, I decided to go to Causeway bay to shop at Forever21. As someone who is never the one leading, I found myself looking carefully at the directions to make sure I didn’t get lost. The first time by myself, I went to F21 (which was 30 minutes away), bought a shirt and immediately left. On the second trip alone, I went to Quarry Bay, walked through the markets, browsed some small shops and ate at a restaurant all by myself. After that, exploring by myself gave me a certain sort of peace that traveling/exploring with others could never give me. I loved being able to take as much time as I wanted to take photos, everything was done at my own pace, and although I was alone – I never felt lonely. 

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2) I really did find myself.

The only time I’ve ever been on my own was when I moved out with Brandon last year during the summer. We lived together for two months in a house with my friends. Yup, that was the closest to independence that I ever got.  But by going to Hong Kong, I left behind my supportive family, the love of my life and all my friends. I came to the city with a backpack, a suitcase, and that was it. 

Spending three months in a brand new city with a clean slate made me learn more about myself than all the years I’ve spent living comfortably at home for 22 years. I always thought I couldn’t survive without companionship, but that’s not the case anymore. Studying abroad taught me that you only really need two or three great friends to be happy. And those friends back in the States that never made time to talk to me? Now I know who my real friends are. 

I also learned to appreciate being Asian American. I never really considered myself a true american, yes – I did live in America but every time someone asked me where I was from, I would reply, “Vietnam.” I never thought to mention I was American. I always thought I had more in common with Asians than I did with Americans. Everytime I hung out with friends, I would associate my characteristics with being “Asian” instead of “American.” But, now I realize that I have more in common with my American friends than I thought; compared to the locals I did not have similar views on certain topics, and did not have much in common with them. Studying abroad made me feel closer and more proud of being Asian American. 

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3) I want to be more educated.

I never thought of myself as a close-minded person. Being a sociology major taught me plenty of things about America; but I never really grew as a person until this trip. I am astounded by all the things I did not know about other countries. I’ve never met anyone from England, Sweden, or Canada! And suddenly, I was spending everyday with people from all over the world. Yes, I admit – I felt dumb. Everyone knew about America, but I didn’t know anything about their countries. In these three months; I learned british slang, am able to locate Sweden on a map (thanks to Sham), know about Canada’s education system, among many others! I got a glimpse into different cultures and love it! I realized how horrible our education system was compared to the rest of Europe, and promised myself I would try my best to educate myself on their countries so next time I see them.. I won’t seem so ignorant. 

4) I began to appreciate everyone in my life.

 I realized this after spending many nights alone, missing my home and family. I am so grateful – to everyone. To all my friends back at home who made sure I was OK during the protests, to my boyfriend who forever was by my side, and to my parents who supported me through every decision I made. I am extremely grateful for the friends I made in HK who kept me company and helped me grow as a person. Living far away from everyone made me “grow up” and realize how good I have it. There is nothing missing from my life, Life is pretty much perfect.

5) I’ll never stop traveling.

I always had free flights… but never really used it for anything other than the occasional trip to Hawaii or New Jersey. I’m traveling to London, France, Sweden this summer and backpacking across Europe after graduation. Also, I am thinking about studying abroad in England… we’ll see how that goes!

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9 Comments

  1. RENÉE says

    definitely looking forward to studying abroad next year! i’ve heard nothing but good things from studying abroad. What were you studying?

  2. Beautiful piece. I grew up traveling all over the US, but when my kids grew up I started traveling the world. The one significant place I went that changed my life was Thailand. I learned so much about myself and different cultures. I grew spiritually in a big way. It changed me forever. Thank for sharing your travels.

  3. I so badly want to travel to Tokyo. I have this odd fascination with Japan and Tokyo. But I have been out of college for four years now and I didn’t go to a traditional college so I never had the chance to study abroad. I was to shy to do so anyways. lol

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