Letters from the Dorm: Tips from a University of Auckland student on how to make the most of studying abroad and living overseas

Letters from the Dorm: Tips from a University of Auckland student on how to make the most of studying abroad and living overseas

Although it’s a good idea to stick to your compatriots when abroad, you can learn a lot from interacting with people from different cultures

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When you are abroad, you need to be more outgoing.

Here’s my advice to Hong Kong students planning to go overseas or those who are already studying abroad – try not to just stick with other Hong Kong students, but instead get to know more about different cultures.

I understand the prospect of living alone in a different country, especially at the start, can be terrifying – I have been there before.

Even though I speak fluent English and have some family connections in Auckland, the first few weeks of my life in New Zealand were nerve-racking. So it’s natural that a newcomer would seek to hang out with people from a similar culture, at least until they get used to their new surroundings.

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But studying overseas is a blessing in disguise, because you have an opportunity that your friends in Hong Kong do not, and that is you are LIVING overseas.

Most Hong Kong students are studying in countries such as Australia, the United States, Canada and Britain, which are multicultural and practise a different way of life. Many of their friends back home would be dreaming of doing just that, and possibly hoping to join an exchange programme to have such an experience. But it’s difficult to “experience new cultures” if your daily schedules are dominated by people who think or act in a similar way.

When you are abroad, things are different, and you need to be more outgoing. So don’t be afraid to interact with “foreigners” because you might meet like-minded people.

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I joined the newsroom of the university’s student radio station six months ago, expecting to learn how to write good stories. Even though many of my friends there are from different countries, some of our experiences are similar. Two of them lived in Singapore and one of them keeps a close eye on Hong Kong politics. I even managed to have an interview with New Zealand’s housing minister about the government’s affordable housing plans.

Working for the radio station also taught me a lot about New Zealand’s heritage and culture, especially the 1970s music groups on the country’s South Island.

Imagine being asked a couple of years after graduation, “What have you learned about the country where you studied? Can you answer the question? If you cannot, think about the reason you decided to go overseas. Is the years you’ve spent abroad worth it?

It is always good to stick to someone you feel comfortable with, but getting to know more people can make your overseas experience much more worthwhile.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Make overseas study worthwhile

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