The Backstory of My Study Abroad Journey
Studying abroad meant a lot to me, even in high school when I began my search for college. I always knew that I wanted to study and travel somewhere in the world, but I also knew that traveling meant having thousands of dollars. But that did not stop me from choosing a school that could fulfill my dreams of studying abroad. When I realized Georgia State University was in downtown Atlanta, had my major and had an awesome study abroad programs, I was sold.
The Pursuit of Studying Abroad
During my sophomore year I won’t ever forget telling myself after class one Monday, “this is my year to study abroad.” I went directly to the Study Abroad office that very day to sign-up for a consultation meeting. I can’t imagine how much excitement was filled in my eyes when I sat down to discuss what I was looking for in a study abroad program. There were so many options. There were exchange programs, Maymester options, GSU and non-GSU programs, but unfortunately they all had the same thing in common: they were expensive, and that was discouraging. Time passed and as I entered my junior year one of my good friends was preparing for a French exchange study abroad, and another friend of mine was leaving for a trip to India. I realized then that it was possible for me to study abroad if my friends, who are just like me, were able to. This time, with determination to receive scholarships, I focused a lot of energy on actually making the trip happen, and it did. Finally, my dream to travel had come true.
(I made a friend from China on the Plane. She taught me Mandarin, and later I learned that the language of Hong Kong is Cantone)
I researched and decided that the perfect program for me was a Hong Kong entrepreneurial-based Maymester program. I began asking about scholarships, and I even emailed the program director to find out more about how her previous students were able to fund their trips. She directed me toward the GSU Scholarships and I found out about the International Education Fee (IEF) and the Global Experience Scholarships (GES). The IEF is a $1,000 scholarship awarded to most students studying abroad, while the GES pays for almost 90% of a program’s cost and tuition. I applied for both and received both with the help of some awesome staff recommendations and an pretty awesome essay. With both scholarships I was officially on my way to Hong Kong without having to worry about financing my trip at all.
Getting ready for Hong Kong was an amazing experience in and of itself. I really focused my time and energy researching the country, learning about its new industries and making connections with start-up companies to learn more about the Hong Kong market. For my program we began Maymester with our classes in Atlanta, and from those classes we were able to learn about Hong Kong’s government and history so that we would be able to speak knowledgeably on certain topics. I really enjoyed our time in Atlanta learning each other and preparing for what was to come. During our last meet-up my program director answered last minute questions and then we all departed from class excited that the next time we would all be together would be in Hong Kong. The next day my boyfriend dropped me off at the airport and I boarded plane one of two not able to envision what I would experience in the next couple of weeks.
I don’t think there was any way I could have fully prepared my mind for the experience. On one of out last nights we went to an Egyptian Restaurant and stayed out all night doing karaoke, trying pastries, eating dim sung, drinking jasmine and ginger tea, and sitting along the bay. As the night turned to morning I watched the sun rise with my group, who at the end of this journey truly became family. I honestly could not believe I was really in Hong Kong; the experience was truly a moment in my life that I will never forget. Being in Hong Kong made me feel like anything I wanted to do was possible and for that Hong Kong will forever have a place in my heart.