University of Iowa

Student Reflections on Race and Ethnicity Abroad: Hong Kong

February 26th, 2018

Hi! My name is Russell. I’m a Biomedical Engineering major from West Branch,  Iowa. I studied abroad the summer after my freshman year in Hong Kong, at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). My time abroad was undoubtedly the most memorable two months of my life, and I’d like to share   some of my experiences with you here.  

Before I went abroad, I remember feeling varying combinations of  apprehensiveness and enthusiasm. On one hand,  I was nervous - this was my first time ever traveling outside of the US,  and I knew zero Cantonese. But I also felt a feeling of excitement growing inside of me. Excitement to experience what life is like in a   country so different than the U.S., and excitement for all the adventures that I imagined having.  

My transition to living in Hong Kong was surprisingly easy. HKUST staff were amazing hosts - they took us on tours through the city, and held events so all the students studying abroad could meet each other. I found making friends was almost effortless since we all started off as confused tourists. My circle of friends quickly expanded to include students from China, Japan, England, Sweden, Denmark, and all around the US.

Over time, I also developed a broader understanding of my personal identity. In that US, sometimes I felt “different” because of my ethnicity (I’m   biracial, my mom is from Bangladesh and my dad is white). In Hong Kong, I  still felt “different,” but in a totally new way - I was a foreigner  in every sense of  the word! But   my friends and I grew to embrace this, and in turn, we each developed  new appreciation for our unique backgrounds.  

Looking back, I’ve also realized how much my perspective on Hong Kong has changed.  In   fact, the city grew on me so much that I now consider it a second home.   From making subway trips around the city to eating at hole-in-the-wall dim sum restaurants, I feel a strong connection to   this   Hong   Kong   and   its   people.   I   learned   to   find   comfort   in   the   bustling   city   and   in   the   densely forested   mountains,   and   have   grown   enamored   with   Hong   Kong’s   unique   culture   and   history.  

Above all, I’ve learned that we’re all a little more similar than we give ourselves credit for.  No matter if we hail from the highrises of Hong Kong or the plains of Iowa, everyone has dreams, ideas, families, and stories. Thanks to my time abroad, I’m happy to say that I  have a more wholesome appreciation for those similarities. Because of this (and   many   other   reasons),  I would  highly  recommend  studying  abroad  if  you  ever get the opportunity - you’ll never forget such a magical experience.  

Until the next adventure, 

Russell Martin

 

Please note that the opinions and views expressed by diversity ambassadors are solely those of the students and do not reflect or represent the views of International Programs or the University of Iowa.

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