Some people believe that travelling to the other side of the world is a life-changing experience, while others consider it to be a time-out from their busy daily lives.
But I see an exchange as something else: it is the creation of a new perspective for looking at life.
Firstly, my exchange to St Louis, in Missouri, in the United States, was the exact opposite of my expectations. The city is small; the weather is ever-changing; students are always studying; and there is little entertainment compared to Hong Kong. Everything seemed perfect, so why did I feel so melancholy? Why would I feel empty in a city that is tranquil, yet full of surprises?
That was when I started to change my perspective. Unlike other local students, exchange students enjoy more flexibility when it comes to their spare time. Stepping out of your comfort zone is never easy, especially when you are in an unfamiliar place. But I have been a more active student here in St Louis.
I have multiple identities: a photographer, a hiker, a traveller and an international friend-maker.
In addition, the most important identity you need to nurture is that of an independent and responsible adult. Overseas, no-one reminds you that you left your wet clothes in the washing machine, that you have a meeting that day, or that you forgot something you need for the day at home.
During our spring break trip to Washington DC, one of our friends lost her wallet a few hours before we were due to leave for another city. Despite this irritating news, we stayed calm and contacted the police and related authorities. None of us were prepared for such an unexpected incident, but with joint effort, there was a silver lining: the wallet was found.
Going on exchange teaches you that even though some days may be dark, there are always surprises around the corner!
All in all, perhaps there are people who have a different approach to life from the one I developed here. However, I can assure you that thanks to my new outlook, everything looks brighter now and I will be bringing home insights that will help me to appreciate life in a brand new way.