This would be my last blog entry as an exchange student at Maastricht University. I would like to wrap things up with 5 lessons that I’ve learnt while going on exchange.
1. Don’t take things for granted
Being on exchange means leaving my comfy bed at home, not having my family and friends close by, and situate myself in a completely foreign environment. Hong Kong, although being an international city, still has a lot of cultural differences from Europe. I remember back in the first week I was here, I got so shocked that shops are closed at 6pm here (shops open until 10pm in Hong Kong.) So not going shopping and walking around at night definitely needs some adjustments. The public transportation system is also a lot less frequent than in Hong Kong, so I need to do more planning and time management when getting around. I am also used to having my helper cook for my family at home, and here I have to cook for myself everyday.
All these little differences made me realize how lucky I am back home where I have my family and friend’s accompany. But this is also a great way to train up my independence and be “more adult.”
2. Stay curious
What differentiates a normal exchange programme and an extraordinary one? My take would be how much you’ve learnt. Sure you can just go between class and apartment, visit a couple of touristic spots, it would still be fun. But I’ve found what really opened my eyes is when I ask questions about everything, and actively seek for more answers. When I went to Luxembourg, I got curious about how did this small country managed to be so healthy. So I went through a couple of their government reports and realized how great the financial sector is doing. Joining walking tours also enlightened me with fascinating histories and legends. Moreover, I love meeting new people from different backgrounds, and exchanging cultural ideas brought in so many new perspectives. I am thankful for all the opportunities and people that helped me learn during this journey.
3. When life gives you lemon, make lemonade
No matter how much you plan and organize, things may not always run in a smooth way. There were times where I missed buses, panicked on streets, got lost on streets. I legit thought I was going to die on the streets. Well, I am extremely thankful that I can make it back home safe and sound every time. And my mistakes acted as lessons to remind myself to be more careful next time. There were also times when I felt lonely, or homesick, but I got over them soon as well. These little bumps and accidents might be rough for a short while, but they are part of what makes this journey memorable!
4. The world is your classroom
During this 5-month stay in Europe I’ve went to 32 cities across 18 countries. Travelling pushes you far out of your comfort zone. To wake up in a strange town is one of the most liberating and pleasant sensation – you are surrounded by adventures that help you discover the real you. Every place I went has new surprises to offer, be it the history, the culture, or the people. And these takeaways are definitely something I cannot learn from textbooks.
5. The world is your oyster
Going on exchange has allowed me to grow in independence, confidence and resilience. Although there were times where I had insecurities and doubts, I’ve learnt that everyone feels this way. It’s how I adapt to the situation that matters. I have proven to myself that I can achieve the impossible and overcome the unthinkable, coming out happier, stronger and better prepared for the future at the end of it all. The self-confidence prepares me to respond to any challenges ahead. There are always bound to be a few storms on the way – you’ll now have the adaptability and resilience needed to set your sail, carefully navigate challenges and continue on your journey.