Justin Leung, Hong Kong, University of Hong Kong (Financial Math and Stats)


  1. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

My biggest fear about studying abroad was fitting into the foreign culture of Hong Kong. I knew many people there only spoke Cantonese, so it did help that I had some familiarity with this language. Once I got there, I was in shock about how quickly I was able to pick up the language. Even though some of my friends only spoke English, they could get by through hand gestures and going to places that were English friendly.

  1. What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?

I wish I had researched more about Hong Kong before going abroad. I knew some of the history of the country, but going to the Hong Kong Museum of History and hearing about the ongoing protests opened my eyes. Along with that, I wish I had spent more of my time prepping trips to do instead of improvising it when I got there. Do your research on the rules and regulations before going, but also don’t stress out too much about it before going.

  1. What were your favorite classes abroad? How did they compare to UCSB?

My two favorite classes that I took abroad were an introduction to Mandarin class and an internship class that I took at Hong Kong University, I enjoyed the Mandarin class because it was a small class where everyone would talk to each other so it was easy to make friends amongst other students. The internship class was a group of 9 students trying to create a startup from scratch. It gave me hands on experience and helped me to develop my leadership abilities. I cannot compare these two classes to CUSB because I have not taken anything similar, but overall my classes abroad tended to be easier than at UCSB.

  1. What is one of your best memories from abroad?

My best memory from studying abroad was going camping on the beach only a few weeks into the semester with two of my good friends that I had recently met. It was a spontaneous trip, something I do not normally do, and it was nice to get away from the hustle of the Hong Kong city. Hong Kong is known for its great skyline and bustling city life, but being able to see the nature island sides of Hong Kong were my favorite parts. It taught me that I didn’t have to go far for adventure.

  1. What was your biggest challenge abroad?

My biggest challenge while studying abroad was socializing with the local students. This tends to be a problem in Hong Kong, because they tend to separate local and non-local students as well as the local students tending to be more on the quiet side. I found that if you make the effort to go and talk to them, they will open up and begin talking with you. Even if there were language barriers between some of us, speaking with them teaches you all about local life, I would recommend joining some organization where you are integrated with socializing with local students.

  1. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

My favorite aspect about the host culture was how welcoming all the families were. I had a host family that was set up through the university and two family friends who all treated me like I was part of their family. Even though there was a slight language barrier between the host family and I, they still treated me as their own, and with my improving Cantonese skills, I was able to meet them halfway. Hong Kong people normally have the tendency to seem unfriendly at times, but once you get to know them at a deeper level they are always kind.

  1. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us about your experience.

One of my business courses abroad was an internship class that I was able to take for credits. It consisted of 9 students and 1 supervisor giving us slight direction of where we were going to try and create a social enterprise. Although it was complicated to communicate at times with other students, it showed me that this was creating a startup is like. I thoroughly enjoyed my internship experience, it seemed similar to something I would take at UCSB; however, I wish UCSB would add a class like this to one of their programs.

  1. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?

I will miss the amazing dim sum and the hole in the wall Cantonese foods that I will not be able to find here in the United States. I tried to eat at the most local restaurants, which was easier for me because I could speak some Cantonese to them. I will miss going out to eat with friends every day because that is a huge part of the culture there.

  1. How have you changed since your time abroad?

I think I have become more independent since I have come back from studying abroad. Never before had I gone on solo vacation trips, which I did multiple times during my time abroad. I would also go out my myself to take day hiking trips when everyone else was busy. My Cantonese has greatly improved, and I can now finally have a conversation with my grandmother which is a huge accomplishment for me. I hope that more people will follow in my footsteps and study somewhere where their ancestors lived.

  1. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

My number one tip to anyone going abroad would be to pick a country that is a right fit for you. Prioritize the qualities that you want in a country to have, then go and find the right country that fits for you. Talk to people that have studied abroad in the past in that country and ask them about their personal experiences. I would highly recommend a country in which you would either consider living there for an extended period of time, or somewhere that you are very interested in the culture. Traveling around to different countries is great, but my favorite times were when I was exploring Hong Kong and felt like a local rather than a traveler.

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