Studying abroad not only meant going to a different university, but many other perks that came along with it.
Why did you decide to participate in the IE University exchange program?
I decided to participate in the exchange program because it was an amazing opportunity that IE University offered me. Having the chance to choose from one of 160 universities around the world and attend for a semester would be an incredible opportunity and challenge that would shape me as a person and help me grow.
Studying abroad not only meant going to a different university, but many other perks that came along with it, such as: going to a new country, meeting new people, learning a new language, taking new classes, having new professors, a new routine, new hobbies and clubs and a new way of learning. I knew all of this was going to be a challenge, but it would make me develop crucial personal and interpersonal skills, get out of my comfort zone, and take on a global consciousness.
Why did you choose the University of Hong Kong?
I chose HKU because it’s ranked 4th in Asia, and 36th in the world. It is one of the most international universities and I wanted to experience what it’s like to be in a big university with more than 27,000 students from bachelor’s, master’s, and postgraduate degrees.
What challenges did you face?
One of the biggest challenges for me was learning to work in teams with a culture different than my own.
All my life I’ve had European and Latin American classmates (I was raised in Colombia and Brazil) and worked in teams with them, so I already knew how to approach to them, how they react when there’s a problem, or how to organize ourselves when making a presentation. But going to an Asian university—where most people in my class were from China, Japan, or some other Asian country—was completely different, as I had to learn and adapt to their way of working. For example, before a presentation they would prepare it and practice it more than three times, and they had different group dynamics. However, in the end, this was very useful for me because I got better at working with people from different cultures, which could be very useful for my professional life in the future.
How was your day-to-day life?
Every day for me was a new adventure or a new experience! I would walk to university from the exchange student residence I was living in. Then I would arrive to a class called Sociology of Cultures, with people from China, Japan, and South Korea, which was very enriching because we exchanged ideas and learned from each other’s cultures. I would then have a Creativity and Innovation class that had many guest speakers who have created startups. Every week there was a different event, such as International Day; a conference with a very good speaker; or a club event like going hiking. Some of my other classes were Critical Thinking, Chinese Medicine, and Counseling in a Business Setting. However, I want to share that coming from IE University, I felt very prepared, especially when having to give oral presentations, work in teams, or write essays. In the afternoon I would either have class or go around Hong Kong discovering new things. Finally, over some of the long weekends, I would travel around Asia to learn about other cultures.
What advice do you have for future students?
I would highly recommend studying abroad because it has a lot of advantages. It can give you a deep understanding of other cultures and traditions, and you get immersed in a new culture by experiencing it from the inside. You meet people from around the world who come from very good universities. These people can become your friends and can be very useful contacts and relationships for the future. You are exposed to new ways of thinking and ideas that make you more open-minded, increase your curiosity, and help you learn a new language. You can also put this experience on your CV, broadening your employment opportunities.