I have learned many things from traveling abroad. I will try to write my feelings about travel and what I learned from my experiences the past year.
It is my opinion that traveling and living abroad are two very distinct experiences. When one travels abroad, he or she only gets a taste of what life could be like somewhere in the world. When one lives abroad, he or she gets a totally different experience from that of a traveler.
When I first traveled as a tourist to Hong Kong, I was most fascinated by the beautiful and glamorous skyline as well as by the mountains all around the city. The huge shopping malls and the crowded atmosphere captivated my attention, and the tropical heat seemed exotic to me at the time. However, when I came back to live in Hong Kong for several months, it was not the things that had initially attracted me to the city that made me fall in love with this place.
The aspects of the city that I will always remember are its more intimate details, like the way people speak Cantonese here or the tiny restaurant in the corner selling dim sum during the evening. I will always cherish the memory of the voice in the metro telling me to mind the step between the train and the platform, and I will always remember my epic journey to the Philippines during the Chinese New Year. Most importantly, however, I will always remember the friends I made during my travels abroad. I had the great pleasure of interacting and making friends with a very international and diverse set of friends. I met people from basically every inhabited continent on Earth, and I am very glad that I was able to have this experience. Although people from different cultures have different ways of thinking, there are also many gestures that are universal. For some reason, a smile is always appreciated no matter where you go in the world. By traveling abroad, you learn the value of non-verbal communication. Being not able to communicate with someone verbally makes you better at communicating in other ways, and teaches you to be patient when dealing with people. You begin to learn other peoples’ customs, and even begin to like them! For example, I got quite used to drinking tea and getting dim sum on lazy Sunday afternoons during my time in Hong Kong, a traditional I will miss once I return home to the United States.
The most important thing I learned during my time abroad is the importance of travel. Traveling somewhere is a very different experience than seeing something on the Internet. By traveling, you learn a lot more about the world and your own place within the world. Especially when you go to a city like Hong Kong, you begin to feel like a screw in a giant machine, an insignificant part in the larger puzzle. When you peer into the windows of all of the public apartment buildings in Hong Kong at nighttime, you can see that each individual or family has their own separate and unique lives. You then realize that there are over three hundred families in one building! Then, I begin to understand fully the scale of the population density here. It helps to bring into perspective life, as seen from the Hong Kong viewpoint. It really makes you think about life in general, it really does!
Being here has made me consider my goals in life, and I prioritize them. Thinking about these things in life is very important, but we oftentimes do not have a reason to think about these things when we are so caught up and comfortable in our own lives. By traveling abroad, we can hit the pause button on our life (at least temporarily) and really take some time to think about what we are doing with it. Therefore, I urge every person to not just travel abroad, but live abroad and get the full experience of someone else’s culture. This will help you to become a more critical thinker.