Instead of writing about my personal adventures, I wanted to take a minute to put something into a context that other exchange students can understand - or possibly people looking into completing an exchange.
At Brock University (and a lot of other universities - or so I've heard) when a student goes on exchange, their credits will return to Brock on a pass or fail basis. If I were to take Underwater Basket Weaving 101 at the City University of Hong Kong, and have it tie back to Basket Weaving - Underwater Style 1F90 at Brock University, it wouldn't matter if I could barely wind wicker twine together in a kiddy pool, or complete a deep sea research expedition to explore the strength of wicker baskets at ocean floor pressures - as long as I passed the course at CityU, everything would be fine.
This pass or fail attitude makes for a fantastic exchange, but it also lets academics get a little out of hand. When talking to some of my friends over here in Hong Kong we often throw around the joke "I'm not going to skip a class this week"; notice the describing word joke. I - among many other students - have failed to attend a single week thus far without missing at least one class.
Now, don't get me wrong; I love education. I respectfully pay for my own education (with the Ontario government acting as my sugar daddy) and am a firm believer in taking advantage of things that you've paid for; hence writing this after getting back from my 4th Ocean Park adventure (to which I purchased a season pass). However, there is a different attitude when you're on exchange - especially in a City as large and bustling as Hong Kong. There are simply more exciting things to do, than to go to class.
When you place them side by side - hiking a mountain and swimming on a beach, versus sitting in a lecture discussing the carbon-rearrangement that occurs in glycolysis - it's not hard to choose which one you'd like to do. I'm a huge nerd, and love me some metabolism shit, but give me a chance to get away from the pollution and the noise and I'm in. The trick however is learning to balance between the two, and not skipping too many classes - something I'm having trouble doing currently.
I'm passionate about all aspects of education; learning, teaching and researching (though I'm sure there are a lot more). I hope to continue on to graduate studies when I complete my BSc at Brock, however I know I'm going to find it difficult to return to Canada and complete a normal year in a normal classroom because of two reasons.
1. I've had an amazing year, done amazing things, and I'm not ready to stop doing them.
and perhaps the more important:
2. There are more things to learn outside the classroom, than there are within the classroom.
I'm not talking about street sense here; I'm talking about getting out and experiencing different cultures, traveling the world, meeting new people. It builds so much confidence, and opens your eyes to things you never even knew where there.
I've been told to pick my battles many times - I get passionate about everything, and want to challenge, improve and renovate everything I set my eyes on. I try to limit my enthusiasm, but with the amount of things I've been exposed to it's near-impossible. I used to think I understood the world, living in a quiet Canadian city, viewing news segments online; but until you get out and actually experience everything there is to experience - you're essentially staring at a cup of water next to the ocean.
What I think I'm trying to say here is that if anyone was thinking about doing an exchange - you most definitely should place it at the highest possible level on your priorities list. Two years from now when I'm (hopefully) in graduate studies, I'm not going to remember the lifecycle of dictiostelium discodium, nor will I even remember the exact carbon rearrangements of glucose when it undergoes glycolysis; but what I will be able to tell you is the differences between Thailand and Laos, the individual problems people face in Hong Kong, the diseases that affect this part of the world, and the wonderful experiences I've had to shape the life I will be living.
Not everyone will have this opportunity, but if there's a chance that you might - please take it.
Sorry about the rant! Just wanted to get that off my mind. In personal news, I really need to start learning how to balance both academics and exchange student fun; but carpe diem, right?
I'll post more later. I'm committing myself to making my blog better.