Moving to a new country and environment is never easy. For me, putting all my possessions inside a dinky little suitcase to start a new life on the other side of the world was a daunting experience. But thanks to my new friends and the thriving international community in London, everything has turned out just fine.
However, the beginning of my journey was especially tough. Despite my lifelong education at an international school, I still found myself trying desperately to fit in and dispose of all my “Americanisms” – for example, saying “pants” instead of “trousers” – that I’ve picked up from my peers over the years.
Worse was when my parents came to Britain to assist me in my university preparations; their insistence on speaking Cantonese all the time did not help me appear local in front of the bemused shopkeepers. I tried to convince them otherwise by conversing in the thickest English accent I could muster, but to no avail. Clearly, being in a minority ethnic group for the first time in your life has its challenges.
Fortunately, things got progressively better as my friends started arriving in the city. It was nice to have some fellow Hongkongers to hang out with, and the 10 of us in the dual law degree programme between UCL and HKU got along instantly.
The law course is demanding, so me and my peers enjoy relaxing and chatting in our dorm rooms over some fine Chinese tea to relieve stress. We also got the chance to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival at a nearby Chinese restaurant – complete with Cantonese- and Mandarin-speaking waiters. Though we also make an effort to mingle with peers from unfamiliar backgrounds, it is nice to feel back at home after a long week of work.
My first weeks in London were also much improved by one unexpected special guest – Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor – who greeted Hong Kong students studying on government-funded scholarship programmes to find out how we were doing abroad. Politics aside, seeing Lam take the time to speak to each of us individually was heart-warming. It was nice to know that there will always be people in Hong Kong who will look after and support us no matter what.
It may sound clichéd, but moving abroad isn’t as scary as it seems. Family and friends are just a Skype call away, and it’s easier than you’d think to make new friends. Just remember to have a positive attitude, and remain open to new experiences.