University of Wisconsin–Madison

Study Abroad New Year’s Resolutions

The last couple of months have absolutely flown by. The holiday season has always been my favorite time of year. This is my first time abroad for Thanksgiving, my birthday, and Christmas, and it was a little bittersweet. I missed out on the classic turkey dinner for Thanksgiving, but a group of American exchange students organized a brunch, which may not be traditional… but was delicious.

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For my birthday, instead of the traditional Babcock Dairy ice cream (which I miss desperately!) and cheese curds, I got a group of friends from my Chinese class to try out Sichuan-style hot pot. After stuffing ourselves with meat and veggies, we visited WanChai for some bubble tea and egg waffles!

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Note to self… don’t take large bite of waffle before having your picture taken!

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Spending Christmas away from home was definitely the most challenging for me. Here, Christmas is a holiday spent out with friends, shopping, looking at the lights, and exchanging gifts. However, for me Christmas is always about family. It is the one time of year most of my extended family gets together to just spend a day cooking, eating, exchanging meaningful gifts, and catching up on the family news. Given all the time I’ve spent abroad or away from my family in Madison, this year was especially tough. I had a some solace from my boyfriend visiting over Christmas and New Year’s (thank you Jon, and happy one year anniversary!) and the knowledge that my immediate family was visiting soon, but it is not quite the same.

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Gotta love obligatory MTR selfies!
Gotta love obligatory MTR selfies!
So… with all that said, New Year’s has passed (at least, the western one… Chinese New Year is in February) and it is time for me to lay out my study abroad resolutions. I’m over halfway through my Hong Kong experience (though I may be able to go to Beijing next, more on that later), and its time for me to evaluate my progress thus far.
1) Eat more weird food. I’ve gotten pretty lazy with my meals lately, and have been eating western food more often than I care to admit. Hong Kong is known for crazy Cantonese dishes, and its now or never!
2) Climb more mountains. Some of my favorite memories from the past semester were on group or solo hikes in Hong Kong’s amazing parks, but I avoided taking more of those treks because they often take up a significant amount of time or energy. I absolutely need to do the Lion’s Rock hike, Dragon’s Back hike, and climb up Lantau Island.
3) Take more photographs. No, I don’t mean selfies. I’ve kinda been going back and forth about when and where I want to take my camera to get really nice pictures. I hate looking (more) like a tourist, but I really enjoy having quality pictures to show what life in Hong Kong is really like. I want to show more pictures of local life, housing projects, and the wet markets!
4) Spend at least 30 minutes each day preparing for the Foreign Service Officer Test. I recently learned that I was not invited to move onto the oral exams for the Department of State hiring process. While this wasn’t a complete surprise, I’m still a little disappointed. Rather than moping, I’m working to make sure I have an even stronger application next year.
5) Create memories through multiple medias. I blog, I dump pictures onto my Facebook page, and I Instagram weird moments of my day, but other than that… I don’t do a lot to record everything that is going on around me. I want to take more videos, re-start my personal journal, collect more tickets and postcards, fill out the Google+ page I’m sharing with the Oregon High School class I working with for the Classroom Connections project (hi everyone!), and I want to start making a couple of Shutterfly books filled with memories and thoughts from my time in Sichuan and Hong Kong.
6) Explore more. I’ve fallen into the trap where I know the districts where I am most comfortable: Sheung Wan has fantastic food, Tin Hau has the fabulous library, Kowloon Tong and Kwun Tong have good malls, and Lantau Island is a nice getaway. But I really want to make more of an effort to visit ALL of the MTR stops, and places not on the stops! More outlying islands, more local areas, and avoid getting stuck in a rut. Along with this, I really really want to visit Taiwan and Vietnam this semester. Financially, it didn’t work out last semester, but with a little more careful planning, I should be able to continue exploring abroad!
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So welcome to 2015, the year of the ram! I hope it is another amazing year filled with adventure, exploration,  and opportunity like 2014 was!