It seems like time is flying by yet also slowing down. The harsh reality of being a student has kicked in. I spend more days than before in the library and going to meetings for group projects. But, I can’t believe I only have 43 days until I see my pup again. With all of the fun times and stress mixed together in this experience called ‘study abroad’, comes life lessons and skills that I can take and use in my career. In this post, I want to reflect on the soft skills I’ve developed during my time here in Hong Kong.
After taking the Clifton StrengthsFinder sophomore year, I found out that my number one strength is adaptability. This made sense to me since I’ve always been able to figure out how to survive and then thrive in new situations. That’s why, when I was feeling homesick after just arriving in Hong Kong I was confused. But what I realized is that even through the feelings of homesickness I still pushed myself to attend every event and say yes to new opportunities. Deep down I knew it was my adaptive instincts kicking in to help me get through unfamiliarity. I created a morning routine and constantly asked new friends to grab food because I knew doing these things would help me prosper. I’ve learned over the past three months that I can get by in almost all new situations because I learn from old experiences and use them for future ones.
Don’t get me wrong, I was confident in my abilities before studying abroad, but I have improved my confidence since being here. If you would’ve asked me to take a 10-day trip alone to another country back in 2018 I might’ve said no. Now, I’m doing just that when I go to Sydney next month because I’m confident in my abilities to fend for myself. (Update: a friend is now joining me for the last three days). I’m not afraid to ask strangers for help or strike up a conversation with other people in the hostel. I’m also more confident when it comes to meeting new people. A fellow exchange-student friend said to me “you really seem to like meeting new people.” I was flattered that my confidence in approaching other people was apparent. I think I’ve come a long way in terms of not being afraid to put myself out there.
What does it mean to be a leader? To me, it means rising up to the occasion when no one wants to or using your unique skill set to help out a group. Since the beginning of January, I’ve had opportunities to lead that I didn’t envision being a part of my experience. For example, I’ve been the “queen of directions” on the trips I’ve taken. Sometimes it can be a little nerve wracking having a group relying on you to get to the next place but I thrive on it. I’ve used my previous travel experience to comprehend new information such as Singapore bus schedules and back alleys of Guangzhou, China. I’ve also become a group leader for local Hong Kong students who wish to practice their English. We meet up once a week to discuss current events or differences in Hong Kong and American culture. It’s been a great way to learn more about the daily lives of local students and use my “unique skill” of being proficient in English to contribute in a positive way.
These are just three of the soft skills I’ve improved since arriving on January 6. I’m excited to see what other skills I‘ll fly away with in late May. Although it’s easy to be comfortable once you’ve figured a city out, I have to remind myself that the only way I’ll keep growing from this experience is if I continually keep pushing myself outside my comfort zone. I hope as you’re reading this, that you remind yourself to go beyond what you think you’re capable of because there’s always room for learning and improvement.