Karan Sandhu in Hong Kong: Expectations for Studying Abroad

Karan Sandhu is a Central Michigan University junior studying abroad for a semester in Hong Kong. This is the first article in a biweekly series that documents her journey and new life overseas.

Many of us dream of traveling abroad during our college experience. At Central Michigan University, it’s easy to make those dreams a reality. In less than eight hours, I will be gathering my belongings, saying my goodbyes and flying toward a new adventure in Hong Kong.

While you never know what you might encounter while studying abroad, there are a few common things to expect.

1. Meeting new people from all around the world.

As obvious as it seems when you pack your bags and venture off to live in a foreign country, one thing’s certain – you will meet people from all over the world. Whether they are in your host country for work, school or leisure, the people you meet will be much different from yourself, which is the beauty of traveling. It’s not every day that you get to be around people from all six human-inhabiting continents, so get ready to partake in quite possibly the most dramatic cultural experience of your life.

2. Facing culture shock.

It’s one thing to travel to China for a week, but it’s an entirely different story when you are preparing to live there for five months. In comparison to seven days, five months is a long time. It’s a time where you will realize the bubble that you live in is vastly different from the endless horizons in your host country. You may feel uncomfortable at first, but with time, the difference in culture will shape you in ways you never thought possible.

3. Trying new foods you’ve never heard of.

What can bring people and cultures closer together than food? Food is essential for survival, yet something we all take for granted. Now that you’re heading off to a new part of the world you’ve never experienced, you’re lucky enough to get to try all the exotic cuisine not available in America. Of course, you can get Chinese take out on Mission Street, but there’s nothing like trying the authentic version in its place of origin.

When you study abroad, it’s best to have an open mind in all aspects; especially food. Try things that you can’t pronounce the names of. If you like it, great; if not, try the next thing you see. You only live once – so eat curiously.

4. Experiencing education from a different perspective.

Higher education in Ghana or Greece is going to be a lot different than higher education in America. You can count on the fact that the way your classes are structured and taught at CMU won’t be the same when you go abroad. If you’re lucky, you can knock out some major, minor or university program courses in the process. Not only is this educational experience valuable on a résumé, but you will also learn new skills that you simply couldn’t obtain in the confines of Mount Pleasant. Explore your surroundings, but also dig deep into your classes. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

5. Finding love (of travel).

You will find love, and it’s going to be a love you may have never felt before. That, my fellow Chips, is the love of travel. Everybody talks about wanting to see the world, but how many people actually do it?

Very few students take the chance to study abroad because it often involves filling out paperwork, visa applications, scholarship forms and so forth. So congratulate yourself and be proud that you have enough patience to get to the other side of the world. If you truly want to travel the globe, you can make it happen. The benefits? Everlasting wanderlust.