Office of Study Abroad

Profile: Stephanie Yan '19

Stephanie Yan
Hong Kong downtown at night
Stephanie with school students giving high fives
Stephanie standing in front of a pool in front of the bay of Hong Kong

Major/minor: Chemistry and Health: Science, Society, and Policy majors

Study abroad program: Chinese University of Hong Kong (Spring 2018)

Reason you chose this program: I chose to do an exchange at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) to get in touch with my Cantonese heritage and to have the freedom to shape my study abroad experience on my own—as an exchange student, I was able to design my own academic path and truly embody CUHK’s student culture and the local life of Hong Kong!

Favorite classes: While in Hong Kong, I took a diverse set of classes: chemistry, psychology, management, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese)—however, my favorite class was “Art History of Hong Kong.” My professor was incredibly kind and knowledgeable, and was able to provide me an in-depth look into how the cultural and political history of Hong Kong has influenced its art scene today. This gave me an entirely new perspective to experience Hong Kong through!

Housing situation: CUHK has a nine college system within its university, where each student belongs to one of these nine colleges for the entirety of their student career there. During my semester, I was part of a college called CW Chu College, the smallest and one of the most internationally diverse of the nine colleges. CW Chu College is a fully residential college where exchange students are placed with full time students, who live at the college for all four years. Living with my roommate, who was a local student from Hong Kong, was one of the best experiences I could ask for—she became one of my closest friends during my stay and brought me to areas around CUHK and Hong Kong that I never would have thought to visit. We both provided each other insights into both Hong Kong and American culture. It was the ultimate exchange—she is actually doing her semester exchange this coming fall in Pennsylvania!  

Best memory: One of my favorite memories was a CUHK-organized weekend trip where myself and seven other exchange students from various different countries took a weekend to explore China’s rural area and to teach English to secondary school students. I loved the experience because it was atypical from the usual trip an exchange student would make. I became very close with the other students on the trip after unforeseen circumstances and overall interacting with the students and being exposed to rural China made the trip a one-of-a-kind adventure.

Greatest challenge: My greatest challenge was trying to define my identity as an Asian-American (particularly with a Cantonese background) in Asia. Having only limited knowledge of Chinese, I struggled at first to define the type of social experience I wanted and the type of people I wanted to surround myself with. In the end, I was able to manage a nice balance between befriending both local Hong Kong students and other international students (both those from other Asian countries and Western countries)—but it definitely took some time to find that balance. So don’t afraid to put yourself out there and surround yourself with a diverse amount of people!

What you know now that you didn't know before: There is nothing wrong with traveling by yourself (so long you are able to do it safely). Many students (myself included) felt pressure to find the ideal travel friends at the beginning of the semester—however, there are so many benefits to traveling by yourself! It’s an excellent opportunity to design your dream travel adventure and get to know yourself as a traveler.

Fact about Hong Kong that you think people would be surprised to learn: Hong Kong isn’t just about the shimmering high-rise buildings —it is actually an extremely bio-diverse landscape! Not only does the city hold the most skyscrapers in the world, it also is comprised of over 260 islands. Several of these islands are accessible by ferry, and are popular weekend destinations for exploring and relaxing!

“Don’t afraid to put yourself out there and surround yourself with a diverse amount of people!”

Stephanie Yan '19