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Caroline Wang

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Caroline Wang, Tai O

Caroline Wang (she/her) - Stanford in Hong Kong

Major: Computer Science
Minor: Art Practice
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo:  This photo was taken at Tai O, a fishing village built on stilts! You can go on boat rides and eat a lot of street food there, including some really good donuts and grilled pufferfish!

Questions and Answers with Caroline

Why did you choose to study abroad in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong has a lot to offer! I grew up in a Bay Area suburb, so Stanford wasn’t exactly a new environment for me. I wanted to study abroad in Hong Kong because I knew I would have a completely different experience and lifestyle than what I was always used to. Hong Kong is a dense city filled with brightly lit high rises, amazing public transportation, and a deep historical and cultural background. With how safe and accessible everything is, it is the perfect place to explore and learn how to navigate foreign situations.

What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Hong Kong?

Before I went, I imagined every place in Hong Kong to resemble the bright, colorful skyscrapers next to Victoria Harbor. I was not expecting to be surrounded by so much nature during my time there! While Hong Kong may be known for its vibrant and dense neighborhoods, it also has amazing natural landscapes and lots of opportunities for outdoor activities. Our school itself is located on a mountain in a less populated area of Hong Kong, so going around campus sometimes feels like going on a hike.

What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Hong Kong?

As a CS student, it was really nice to take classes that were all outside of my major. Even though I knew I was interested in learning more about Chinese culture and history, I never allowed myself to do so at Stanford because I was so focused on completing my major. Studying abroad in Hong Kong gave me the room to step back and take classes that allowed for new perspectives as well as new academic challenges.

What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?

I learned that I am a lot more competent than I thought I was! I used to be (and sometimes still am) an anxious person. But after being in Hong Kong and living through a wild mix of experiences, I am way more confident of my ability to handle different situations!

What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?

The most challenging experience I encountered was feeling incredibly lonely at the beginning of the program, especially at the start of our mandatory 3-week quarantine, and again right after I got out of quarantine. These moments were the most challenging because for once, I was physically very, very far away from my usual support system (my mom and sister), and also because I didn’t expect to feel lonely. I expected myself to be enjoying every second of my study abroad experience, rather than feeling sad and alone in my room. Later in the program, things picked up and I met some amazing friends, did some amazing things with them, and also realized that my earlier feelings of loneliness were completely valid. It’s tiring and unrealistic to expect yourself to be happy all the time during your study abroad. It’s important to be totally open and okay with any feelings that might come up during your trip.

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

I don’t really know if this counts as cultural, but the biggest adjustment I had to make was learning how to navigate through extremely small and busy spaces. From afar, the skyscrapers and high rises in Hong Kong create an amazing skyline, but when you’re actually on the streets, the buildings are maze-like and can feel suffocating. There are literal crowds of people constantly moving with you through already narrow streets, so it can definitely be overwhelming.

What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Hong Kong?

The best part of my everyday life was seeing the view from my hostel room window. It overlooks a wide river that is dotted with islands and ships sailing through, and I had a clear view of the very tall Guan Yin statue across the water. I never kept the curtains closed!

What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Hong Kong?

I have too many memorable experiences! But I think one moment that made me really emotional was my last night in Hong Kong. After having afternoon tea with my friends, we went to the West Kowloon waterfront and just enjoyed the amazing view that was Victoria Harbor. It was a moment when I realized that I had really been living and studying in Hong Kong for the past three months. I truly felt so lucky!

What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?

Chaotic, HUMID, surreal, cinematic, amazing!

What was your favorite food you had in Hong Kong?

BBQ pork buns from Tim Ho Wan!!!

What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?

An empty duffel bag! I ended up stuffing it entirely with new clothes I got in Hong Kong.

What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Hong Kong?