Most students abroad look forward to a taste of something new. Terence To wanted familiar flavors. In Boston, "I sometimes go several weeks at a time without being able to eat traditional Chinese food, which I grew up eating virtually every night at home." Born in Hong Kong and raised in New Jersey, the Boston College junior majoring in operations and strategic management and human resources management found it easy to adjust to life at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Clear Water Bay. He grew up eating most of the cuisine he encountered, his knowledge of the culture has prevented any big faux pas, and he is fluent in Cantonese, the primary language in the region. (This summer To is working as a trainee at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong.) So while surprises are uncommon in a country where most of his family still lives, To took us on a trip of rediscovery of his roots.
RUSH HOUR: After growing up near New York and attending school in Boston, To has been surprised that neither city compares with Hong Kong's "sense of urgency and hurried lifestyle." This is often evident while riding elevators, during which locals frantically tap the "door close" button, even when the doors are already closing.
PRESSURE'S ON: "Without a doubt, students take their work much more seriously here than in the United States. . . . Hong Kong students are ultra-competitive, devoting many more hours each week in the library than students in America and demonstrating much more anxiety during exam periods." And school's quite different, too, relying more heavily on technology like video lectures and "Personal Response System sensors, which can detect responses that students provide to questions via handsets that are issued to them by the school."
EASY GOING: Travel is easy in Hong Kong where, because it was under British control until 1997, public transportation directions are in English and Chinese. And the service is just plain good: "Fast, efficient, cheap, and clean, it is extremely difficult for me to imagine a public transportation system in the world that is more convenient than the one here in Hong Kong. With a sprawling network of subway, bus, and 'light' bus routes, it is easy to reach practically any desired destination in Hong Kong."
FLAVORS OF HOME: "Food-wise, my experience in Hong Kong has been amazing. On a day-to-day basis, people typically eat many rice- and noodle-based dishes here, usually served with a common meat such as beef, chicken, or pork along with a sauce such as curry, black pepper, or creamy corn. However, dim sum, soup noodles, and specialty baked goods are also popular, as well as many other types of food when people dine out at restaurants, including hot pot, Japanese food, and other 'higher class' traditional Chinese dishes."