I’ve been in India for 7 weeks, since November 22nd. A perk of exchange has been the ability to travel in between the time I finished my last exam at Flinders and the start of my semester abroad in Hong Kong.
I chose Hong Kong as my exchange destination as, having lived in mainland China (Shanghai) after high school and learnt Mandarin, I thought the Sino-Western fusion culture of Hong Kong would be unique and interesting for someone with my background and experiences. I am feeling excited about my exchange and am looking forward to meeting other students from all around the world. Another advantage of exchange is the ability to travel during public/uni holidays and weekends, especially in a place like Hong Kong which has great links and cheap flights to destinations all across South-East Asia. It’s such a great opportunity to see the world whilst we’re still young and relatively mobile.
Another reason why Hong Kong appealed to me was a scholarship provided by the university and funded by the Australian government. Due to its increasing political, economic and socio-cultural links with nations in the Asia-Pacific region, the government is willing to support Australian students to study in certain Asian destinations. This has immensely eased the financial burden of my exchange, and I am grateful that our governments supports initiatives like this and allocates funding towards them. I believe that in the Asian century, it’s very important for Australians to be ‘Asia-literate’ – to have a strong understanding of our region’s cultures, history and geopolitics.
I landed in Mumbai last night, until now I’ve had quite limited internet access. I’ve spent the last 7 weeks volunteering at the Baha’i House of Worship, more commonly known as the ‘Lotus Temple’, in New Delhi. I also visited Agra and Kochi. Even though my exchange studies haven’t yet started, I am really happy that I could combine the opportunity to go on exchange with my interests of volunteering, religion and travelling.
While living in India can be stressful and exhausting, I have learnt a lot here and feel that this experience will contribute to my exchange in Hong Kong by increasing my Asia-literacy further. I got sick twice here and had nasty episodes of vomiting and diarrhoea. Foreigners falling ill in India is so common that there’s even a name for whatever’s going on in their stomachs: ‘Delhi belly’. Our bodies are simply not accustomed to some Indian spices, flavours and/or hygiene practices. So anyone else going on exchange and/or travelling around in Asia, it’s important to remember to be clean and careful with what you eat and drink, and be particularly cautious of street food. Don’t drink tap water.
This blog post was rather late, but I am glad to finally have a strong internet connection and to be starting my exchange in a couple of days. I’m hoping my Cantonese can expand beyond a couple of phrases, but I’m nonetheless not too worried about language barriers due to the prevalence of English and increasingly Mandarin across the island. If I hadn’t lived in China in the past, I think I would be feeling much more nervous and perhaps afraid now; but because I’m somewhat familiar with the process of being a student overseas in a completely foreign culture, I feel confident and enthusiastic instead.
In conclusion, I’m looking forward to what I’m sure is going to be an incredible journey and I’ll utilize this semester for study, travel, networking and making friends before heading back to Australia in a few months with new insights, knowledge and life experience.
Bayan Yazdani, Bachelor of Psychology (Honours)/Bachelor of Letters (French) Semester 1 2018 exchange at University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong