As some of you are aware of, I will be participating in an exchange program next term at the University of Hong Kong. I’ve been asked many times why I wanted to go on exchange, and why I picked Hong Kong. Choosing HK was more for practicality than anything. I wanted to be in an exciting global city with a significantly different culture than here in Toronto, yet I needed to be able to get by without having to learn a new language. (Getting away from the notorious Canadian winter was a bonus.) As for ‘why exchange?’, that is a little harder to answer.
I gave people some pretty random explanations, like how I was bored last term, because I wanted cultural exposure, experience a new school, or “cuz it sounds fun”. Those are not untrue, but probably not the real reasons.
Around springtime, I might have been going through some kind of mid-mid-life crisis with mixed thoughts about what I’ve done and achieved so far in my twenty-ish years. I found the answer to be ‘not freaking much’ and labeled my life as rather unremarkable. Also it seems that this entire year has been a test of my breaking point, with its many joys and disappointments, successes and failures, which shook me up a little.
I’ve always been content with a ‘make do with what life hands you’ kind of adage. Then I realized I wasn’t satisfied. There was so much out there that I needed to experience, so it felt suffocating to stay in the same town, with the same people, living the same life. I felt like those around me were sprinting past, making their own routes through the landscapes, while I was just plodding along the beaten path. Being younger than most of my friends only added to my innate fear of being left behind, which I suppose finally got the better of me. I couldn’t sit around passively hoping for anything to pop up – I’d have to reach out to opportunities myself.
Excusing the sheer cheesiness, I guess the bottom line for why I wanted to go on exchange is some soul-searching. I want to discover, meet new people, do random things, make mistakes, learn from them, become a more worldly person. It’s partially a challenge to myself, to be thrown into a brand new fast-paced environment without any crutches, and keep my head above water. Five months is not nearly long enough, but I’m hoping for the dizziness of the experience to set me straight. I can barely take the monotony anymore, and I want a complete 180, but still be able to find my way back. Although this is my home and I’m surrounded by family and friends here, it somehow still feels empty, so I just need to leave for a little while.
And wouldn’t you agree that it’s the picture books you read as a child that leave the most lasting impressions?