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Hong Kong: Destination Guides

"I am more than what I think I am" – How to overcome study abroad challenges

Studying abroad can be challenging, but it’s also the perfect opportunity for personal growth. Sylvia Yeung from PolyU Design in Hong Kong shares her story.

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Studying abroad can have tremendous benefits. In addition to building your confidence and self-awareness, the experience can encourage you to connect with locals, build intercultural awareness and even improve your language and communication skills.


According to Universities UK, students who go abroad are 9% more likely to be in ‘graduate’ jobs six months after graduation, and are 5% higher wage earners six months after graduation too.


With so much to gain from studying abroad, we can sometimes ignore the challenges that this big decision can have on individuals.


Sylvia Yeung, originally from Sao Paulo in Brazil, is currently a student at PolyU Design in Hong Kong. Her interest to study in Asia was triggered by her desire to be closer to her Asian roots.


“I was born and raised in Brazil, but I grew up looking and feeling more comfortable and close to Asian friends, mostly with a Japanese background as Brazil has a large number of Japanese migrants,” she explained.


What are some challenges of studying abroad?


The excitement of studying abroad can mean that students don’t think about the challenges connected to this decision.


For Yeung, her expectations when moving to Hong Kong was largely influenced by a previous trip there with the experience being generally positive.


“I thought I could find myself. I became more interested in Asian culture, mostly Chinese, Hong Kong and Japanese. When I visited in 2010 with my family, I liked the dynamics of the city and the way things worked here. It all amazed me,” she said.


Brazil and Hong Kong couldn’t be more different; the language, lifestyle, geographical locations and way of life can take some adjusting to and at times, can be overwhelming.


In an article for PolyU Design, Yeung spoke about the challenge to connect with people after making the move. ‘In the beginning, it wasn’t very easy to meet people and make friends due to the differences in culture, language, perceptions and our busy schedules. After nine months, however, things have changed. I met people where I live; I met a part of the family that I hadn’t even known; I met people in activities outside school and started blending with classmates,’ she wrote.


What studying abroad can teach you


Yeung’s initial motivation for pursuing a study abroad experience for her university was to connect with her roots. Not only has this been the case, but she’s also found that she looks at Sao Paulo with a different perspective.


“I believe my connection to Hong Kong is more towards the city and the language. Each corner of the city is different and yet the same,” Yeung said.


“I guess being far away, amongst another culture and experiencing it for a while allows you to have another perspective. I think it basically helped me notice the things I missed in Sao Paulo and made me more critical about changes instead of just living on autopilot.”


Yeung has definitely become more independent since moving to Hong Kong and explains other ways her decision to study abroad has impacted on her personal growth.


“My family had a traditional way to raise the kids, so me and my siblings are quite 'good kids', and always have our parents to help if anything happens and so on.


“In Hong Kong, my parents can't watch over me or back me up quickly if I need anything. So, everything is on me. I had to learn everything by experience and not by having someone telling me what and how to do things.


“During this experience I acknowledged that I am more than what I think I am, that I can always do more and go further. I learned how to deal with some of my 'demons' and not to be that harsh with myself. I definitely learned how to be more patient and have more empathy for others,” Yeung reflects.


It’s important to remember that every study abroad journey is different and not everyone will experience the same challenges. Remembering how you will benefit from studying abroad and applying a positive mindset is crucial to making a one-of-a-kind opportunity worthwhile as Yeung explains.


“My advice would be to try to fully enjoy the city. Look for special places that will help to create memories and special bonds and make local friends through programmes, activities and apps. Sometimes it’s not easy but you need to persevere. Also, keeping in touch with people and friends from your home country may be helpful and give you some extra courage.”


Get your study abroad journey started now and search for a programme!