I miss Hong Kong. I miss the way the Central skyline lights up at night and the bustling atmosphere of the city, a contrast to rural New England, which is an interminable mass of misty farmland after dark. I miss spending Friday and Saturday nights with my friends, rather than preparing for Saturday morning classes. I miss eating delicious Hong Kong food, instead of Wok and Roll, the neighbourhood “Chinese” restaurant that delivers more stomachaches than it does authentic Chinese food.
But most of all, I miss my family.
I am in my fourth year at boarding school, but I do not miss Hong Kong any less than I did in my first year here. However, the more time I spend here, the more I realise that my love for Hong Kong is not a distraction but rather, a blessing.
As a sheltered 13-year-old who was still trying to come to terms with puberty, going to boarding school was an incredibly difficult adjustment for me. I was going to be leaving my family, as well as my friends at CIS, a school that I had been in for seven years. I was not ready to leave.
In my first year, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to stay connected to everyone in Hong Kong. But doing this, I missed out on a lot of opportunities to make new friends in my new environment.
The next year, I overcompensated, trying my hardest at forming more friendships at boarding school, while not making an effort to stay in touch with my old friends.
Both approaches are understandable and rather tempting for anyone in their first-year abroad, whether at university or boarding school. But in my own experience, achieving a balance between making new friends and staying close to your old ones will make you the happiest.
If you spend all your time trying to maintain your existing friendships rather than discovering all the new ones out there, you will feel isolated and lonely in your new environment. But at the same time, unplugging yourself from your old friends will make you feel like you are missing something important in your life.
Even after four years, most of my closest friends are friends from Hong Kong, and the two months I spent hanging out with them back home this summer were the best two months of this year.
So here’s my final little piece of advice to those of you leaving Hong Kong to study abroad for the first time: make the most of your new opportunities. There are times your heart will ache for everything in Hong Kong – especially during the cold winter months of New England, UK, or Canada. There are times that culture shock will definitely get the better of you and there are definitely times where you will groan in disgust at all the Asian stereotypes that still exist in the world.
You will definitely miss your friends and all the inside jokes and memories that you have shared. But social media and long vacations mean that your friendships will still be intact even if you are not physically next to each other everyday. Just remember that although times will be difficult, there are also new experiences and friendships and memories waiting to be created, and new inside jokes waiting to be laughed at.