Reflection: Semester Abroad

It’s been over a week since I’ve been back to New York from my semester in Hong Kong. I wish I could’ve been there longer, but all good things must come to an end. I wouldn’t exactly say that this was a life-changing experience, but it was one where I learned a lot about myself and discovered what I want to do in the future.

I was feeling somewhat lost at the beginning of this academic year. I was feeling uninspired by my usual surroundings and needed a change of pace from my routine. I always believed that in order to grow, one must always leave their comfort zone and seek for greater heights to achieve. That’s one of the many reasons why I chose to go abroad. However, being abroad wasn’t all fun and games. It was challenging but I was able to learn and grow from this experience.

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Beijing, China

Beijing the political, economic, and cultural center of China.

I didn’t intend on blogging about this trip. It wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy my time here, I did. This was the one trip where I focused more about taking in everything that I see, as oppose to trying to hit all of the must see tourist attractions. My intention for this trip was really just to see Beijing and to visit one of my closest friend from home who spending a semester in Beijing. All I have to say is that the air quality sucked and it’s probably the least English friendly city, but I am enamored by the depths of history that lies across this city.

Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is a must see if you are ever in Beijing, it was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of Qing dynasty. It is also where the Tiananmen Square and the Palace Museum is located. It’s crazy to think about the events and history that has taken place on these very grounds I’ve step foot on.

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Singapore

Singapore is truly a global financial center, as well as the central network that connects all of southeast Asia together.

Day 1: Fly to Singapore, Chinatown
Singapore is a 4 hour plane ride from Hong Kong. Our flight was pretty early in the morning, but we got to Singapore in the afternoon. Once we got through immigration, we took the MRT (Singapore’s Metro System) from the airport, which basically connects us to the closest train station by the hotel we were staying in. We stayed at Four Point by Sheraton, which was pretty affordable and pleasant stay. (Note: There was a Handy cellphone available in the room for us to bring out and use with data and local attractions to check out.) Once we dropped off our bags in the room, and freshened up from our plane ride here, we headed over to Chinatown to explore.

We had lunch over at Chir Chir, a Korean Fried Chicken shop located in Chinatown Point. We ordered a Piña Colada drink which came with a strawberry daiquiri syrup on the bottom, the Garlicky Chicken, and a spicy sweet glaze chicken.

After lunch, we continued walking around Chinatown, which led us to the Sri Mariamman Temple.

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Sri Mariamman Temple

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Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei is a modern metropolis with Japanese colonial influences, popular night markets, and busy shopping streets.

Day 1: Fly to Taiwan, The National Palace Museum
Once we arrived at Taoyuan International Airport, we requested an Uber to Hotel Papa Whale, the hotel we stayed in for the trip. Our first stop was the National Palace Museum, where it has the permanent collection of thousands of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks.

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We wanted to go inside to see the artwork, but it was closing early since it was Chinese New Year Eve. So we left the museum, and tried to walk around the city before dinner. We wanted to check out Shilin Market, which is a popular night market, with tons of street food. To our disappointment, it was like the zombie apocalypse when we got there, since everyone was home celebrating with their friends and family for the new year that is coming. We headed back to our hotel, but we stopped by Ximen Night Market which was up and alive. We tried their famous fried chicken bites, egg-scallion pancake, dumplings, and of course bubble tea.

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Weekend in Macau

“The Las Vegas of Asia”

Macau (澳門) was once administered by the Portuguese Empire from the mid-16th century till 1999. It was transferred over to China in 1999, but they operate their own governmental policies (apart from military defense). Macau has since transformed it’s city to a gambling and tourism destination in Asia.

How to get there: I took the Cotai Water Jet ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui to Macau, which only took about an hour to get there. It was about $355 HKD (~$45 USD) for roundtrip tickets.

Transportation: Once my friends and I went through the Macau boarders, there coach buses from different hotels at the entrance of the ferry terminal. The coach buses are completely free, since the hotels here actually want people to go to their casinos to gamble.

Where did to stay: We made reservations to stay at the beautiful Sheraton Grand Macau, located in Cotai where most of the hotels and casinos are located. It is very similar to the strip in Las Vegas, but it’s definitely not as crowded or wild.  Like any of the hotels in Macau or Las Vegas, it houses some of the biggest designer brand shops. Once we checked into the hotel, we made our way to the Macau side of the island.

We took one of the hotel shuttle to the other side of the island and transferred to another bus to get us to Senado Square. As you walk through Senado Square, there is a pathway with a lot of souvenir shops with pork/beef jerky and almond cookies you can sample as you make your way to the Ruins of St. Paul’s.

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Ruins of St. Paul’s

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Shopping Week

Shopping Week [adverb]: try as many classes as you can before you choose the ones that you want

If you’ve ever seen Gilmore Girls, you would know exactly what I mean. The first week of classes is basically shopping week for all of the exchange students here at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

It was pretty nerve wracking going into the first day of class without having registered in any classes. When I went into my academic advising session, they advised me that everything is going to be fine, and that I should go sit in all the classes that I am interested in taking. So that’s what I did. I looked up the university’s system and marked up all the classes that I have an interest in taking, and some backup options in case the classes I want are full. I probably went to a total of 8 classes during the week, unlike Rory Gilmore who wanted to try 80 classes before having her final pick. Here’s a run down of some of the courses I attended during the week:

International Business
I originally intended to study International Business when I switched over to Business Administration from Pre-Med, but since there was a language requirement for the course, there wasn’t really much time for me to fit into my schedule. I was excited to take the course; it seems to be a pretty easy course according to the syllabus. There is the usual group project, but there is also a quiz for the class. Continue reading “Shopping Week”

A Day on Lantau Island

Lantau Island (大嶼山) is the largest island on Hong Kong, which is adjacent to the Hong Kong International Airport. It is also the home to Tian Tian Buddha and Tai O, both popular tourist attractions.

My friends and I left campus around 8:30 am and arrived at Prince Edward Station to meet up with my mom and a few of her friends before heading to Lantau Island. We took the red line on the MTR from Prince Edward to Lai King Station, then we transferred to the yellow line and got off at Tung Chung. There are two ways you can get up to Ngong Ping Village where the Buddha is located: the bus or the cable cars. We decided to get a one way trip on the standard cable car which was $130.00 HKD. (I would’ve preferred to take the Crystal Cabin, which has a clear glass bottom, but my mother is acrophobic.)

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So It Begins…

Here I am sitting on a plane en route to China. My stomach all cramped up from the butterflies that filled my stomach. The thoughts about missing everything that is going on back home scares me even more (#fomo). Besides me, my mother is excited for the next few weeks she will be back in the country she called home till her teenage years.  Seven years ago, l’ve visited China, but my thirteen year old self hated it because I would much rather be home than to be surrounded by swarms of mosquitoes and smoke everywhere I go. However, I came back from the trip as a different person. To see the small town and village that my parents grew up in made me realize how fortunate I am to grow up in a country where there are many opportunities to succeed. A lot of things have changed in seven years, including the economic state of China. They’ve grown exponentially and continues to grow. Now seven years later, I am now back in China for a semester to study abroad. Never have I thought that I would be studying abroad in Hong Kong. It’s not the usual European study abroad experience, but it will be just as exciting. There’s so much to see and so much more to learn about this side of the world. I am going to miss my friends back home in New York and The District. I am nervous for what is to come, but I am excited for this new experience in a city like Hong Kong.

Day 1: January 4, 2017

It was still dark out, and I was up and out of the hotel room we were staying in for the past week to catch our bus to Hong Kong. My mom and I was visiting her home town, a small town in the providence of Guangzhou in China, before we made our way to Hong Kong. We took the 7 a.m bus from there and arrived at the Shenzhen Bay Port at approximately 10:00 a.m. There was hundreds of people going through the port, so definitely be careful and conscious of your personal belongings (especially phones and identifications). (Note: It is required that you go through customs whether you are going from and to Hong Kong to China even though Hong Kong is now a part of China.) It took about 40 minutes to go through both the Chinese and Hong Kong customs. Once we got through the boarders, we were on Hong Kong land. There was about another hour drive before we get to Kowloon, Hong Kong (main district of Hong Kong). The bus was stationed at Prince Edward (太子) Street, which was right across from Metropark Hotel Mong Kok, the hotel my mom was staying in (they have two other locations: Kowloon and Causeaway Bay). It’s a pretty affordable hotel in comparison, to others options around the neighborhood because the real estate in Hong Kong is really expensive.

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