Victoria Xin (she/her) - Stanford at The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Major: Human Biology
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: Me at the top of Victoria Peak, tallest mountain on Hong Kong Island!
Why did you choose to study in Hong Kong?
To explore my Asian American identity.
What were your expectations before you went and how did they change once you were in Hong Kong?
I was dreading quarantine. Three days of absolutely nothing, just a small hotel room with a small window. However, during the actual experience, I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed respite away from the world, the food was manageable, I caught up on some reading, and it was over before I knew it.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Hong Kong?
My Hong Kong experience solidified my decision to get an Anthropology minor back at Stanford. A quarter away from the biology and chemistry curriculum I was focusing on allowed me to explore other interests, and I'm thankful to have interacted with some very knowledgeable professors on China Studies. I visited an anthropological field site with one of my professors while I was in Hong Kong.
What did you learn about yourself while studying abroad?
Even if you make travel mistakes, you'll be alright! I'm embarrassed to say that I ended up missing buses, trains, and even FLIGHTS. That's right. I missed a flight. I thought it was the end of the world at first, but with some careful maneuvering and conversations with the airline, I was still able to get back home. Thank goodness.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while abroad and what did you learn from it?
Navigating CUHK's campus. It's built on a mountainside and feels like the complete opposite of Stanford. Bikes wouldn't be able to travel up the steep mountain walkways. There was a bus system (their equivalent of the Marguerite), but occasionally, during rush hour, there would be so many students that the buses would be completely full! I ended up walking (basically hiking) up/down the mountainside to most of my classes. Still fun! Every day was a nature walk.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
Public transportation. To get around the city, you took the MTR, Hong Kong's amazingly efficient and immaculately clean rail system. The MTR runs through the entirety of Hong Kong's territories and even traverses to some of the major islands. One train comes every five minutes. If you wanted a more private experience, you could hail a cab by standing on the side of the road with your arm out.
What was your favorite part of everyday life?
Staring out across the bay to the twelve-stories-tall white statue of Guan Yin, a Buddhist figure, from my dorm window. It was so dramatically different from Stanford's landscape, reminding me that I was truly on the other side of the world.
What was the most memorable experience you had while in Hong Kong?
Off the coast of Hong Kong, on a small fishing island called Cheung Chau, two local friends and I sat at the beach with bowls of cold noodles in our laps and thought about what our futures would look like. One of them was interested in international law and wanted to travel the world. One of them wanted to be an author, and she divulged that she had been to this island before. She wrote a poem on a wall somewhere here, but she wouldn't tell us where. "It's a surprise," she said.
What 5 words would you use to describe the experience?
Hong Kong's islands hide poetry.
What was your favorite food?
This is an impossible question!! Hong Kong is a city of SO MANY good eats, but my top picks may be: roasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes from the street stalls, TamJai SamGor, Luosifen, Hong Kong milk tea, and of course, the pineapple bun (which shockingly doesn't actually contain pineapple).
What was the most valuable item you took on the program?
Water bottle! Hong Kong's climate is hot and humid. When we first arrived in the fall, it still felt like the height of Palo Alto summer.
What was your favorite music/band you discovered in Hong Kong?