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School of Engineering

Building confidence in Hong Kong

Thursday, May 31, 2018
As her time studying abroad in Hong Kong draws to a close, Michelle Chan, E19, is no longer questioning her own skills.
Michelle Chan in Hong Kong
Photo courtesy of Michelle Chan.

This spring, Michelle Chan, E19, studied abroad at the University of Hong Kong. Michelle is a computer engineering major and a scholar in the Bridge to Engineering Success at Tufts (BEST) program. She blogged about her experiences in Hong Kong during the 2018 spring semester.

By Michelle Chan

As the end of the semester in Hong Kong comes to a close, I am left with much to process. The last month of finals was hectic with projects and exams. I tried to cram for school and hang out with new friends who I may never see again. I sacrificed sunscreen so that my sunburned shoulders could take me back to the beach long after I left.

I will miss the fruity desserts, the beef tripe noodles, and the dim sum. I will miss speaking Cantonese and Mandarin with the locals. I still cannot read and write well, but I am getting better. Many of the new Chinese characters I learned to recognize were from street signs and menus. Every improvement enables me more to connect with my lost home and culture.

Going back to the U.S., I feel an urgency to preserve my relationship with Chinese culture. To other non-Chinese exchange students, many foods I loved were foreign and unfamiliar. Their unfamiliarity with Chinese food reflects the relative lack of it in Western culture. However, it was exciting that they tried these foods, even if they were an acquired taste. That encourages me to try introducing friends in the U.S. to these foods.

Compared to Tufts, the University of Hong Kong gave less homework, but held similar learning expectations, to be demonstrated more through exams. I genuinely missed collaborating with my peers back at Tufts on problem sets where we could check each other’s understanding. Yet, the hours I spent revising alone reinforced my confidence in my own abilities.

Whoever I was when I finished high school, I couldn’t have imagined myself now, thinking through my own project designs and creating prototypes. I am bringing questions of “Can I do this?” to a close. From here, I am responsible for asking myself, “What will I do now?”

Although I am driven, I am also lucky. With the privileged position I am coming into, I’ll do my best to create opportunities for others to thrive, especially those of marginalized identities who have to work so much harder to overcome their odds and hardships. I have never felt more grateful for the people who believed in me than I do now.