Hello everyone! I am just three days away from the longest flight of my life, and I couldn’t be more excited. My name is Abby, and I will be spending my senior year as an exchange student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology studying Genetics and East Asian Studies, and will be working at the US Consulate in Chengdu, China for the summer. I’m incredibly excited to be able to share these experiences with you, and hopefully inspire a few people to branch out and go abroad!
But, before I get into the details of each program, let me explain how I got here. Last year after returning from the summer History and Modern Development program, and after I got over my ridiculous jet lag and a mild cold, I began madly researching ways to get back to China. Although I wanted to study abroad again, I did have some serious challenges. After consulting (several) advisors, reading my DARS approximately a billion times, and many late nights staring at the IAP website, I came up with a short list of absolute requirements:
- Chinese language immersion
I’ve spent the past three years struggling to learn Mandarin. It has been wonderful, but if I want to be able to use the language in a professional setting, I need to continue my studies. Although Hong Kong natives primarily speak Cantonese, almost everyone also speaks Mandarin. Additionally, HKUST offers a variety of Mandarin courses and language exchange programs.
- Biology courses (in English)
I am, first and foremost, a Genetics major. I will be returning to UW for a semester to complete my capstone, but I also need to fulfill additional biology elective credits. Fortunately, HKUST is a world-class institution, and offers a variety of interesting and challenging biology courses, all taught in English.
- Chinese history and culture courses
Although I hope to absorb more Chinese history and culture simply by being immersed in the culture, I really enjoy having courses to structure my learning. HKUST has a variety of courses that fulfill this requirement. Additionally, they offer a variety of courses focused on Hong Kong history, which is distinct and interesting.
- Tuition near UW-Madison prices
By definition, an exchange program has the same tuition as UW Madison.
- Opportunities to give back to my community
In addition to blogging (which I hope you all enjoy and find informative), I will also be participating in the Classroom Connections program, which matches a UW student who is studying abroad with a local classroom. I am partnered with a class of 11th and 12th graders from Oregon, WI who will be traveling to China at the end of the school year. I hope to help them understand Chinese history and culture, and get them excited for their upcoming trip and all future trips.
- Opportunities to explore career interests
This is the major reason I applied to the State Department summer internship program. Last summer, I developed an interest in China-US relations, sustainable agriculture, and international development. Although I don’t officially know what my exact duties will be at the consulate, I am confident that my supervisor will include these passions into my project, and help me connect to others who may help me in the future.
And so, after months of planning, I am just days away from what promises to be the biggest adventure of my life. It is impossible to describe the exact mixture of anxiety, excitement, bewilderment, and absolute joy that is rumbling through my mind. Hopefully, the next time you hear from me, I will be happily settled into my apartment in Chengdu.