AU Yan Tung, Hong Kong Baptist University
AU Yan Tung,
Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Humanities (Media Studies Concentration),
Hong Kong Baptist University
Student Exchange Programme at the University of Bergen, Norway
Student exchange programme enable students to study abroad at one of their university’s partner institutions. Studying abroad is part of my to-do list during university life, and I consider it an once-in-a-lifetime and challenging opportunity. I applied for an exchange programme and received anoffer to study at the University of Bergen as an exchange student, Norway, for the Fall Semester 2020/21. However, due to the pandemic, the programme was postponed for one year to the Fall Semester 2021/22. Luckily, I was more than happy to be an exchange student in Norway when the border between Norway and Hong Kong was reopened in July 2021, and I got one of the most memorable experiences in my life in my final year of study. I was a bit hesitant initially as I got an attractive internship offer from Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong at the same time. However, I would never regret going on an exchange instead of taking an internship. It was a life-changing experience to broaden my horizon and step out of my comfort zone in a Nordic country.
I could not be more appreciative of the exchange opportunity, as it was my first time traveling to Europe. For my main goal of going on an exchange programme, I decided to gain as many foreign experiences as possible to explore the global vision and broaden my horizons in a multicultural environment. Therefore, I was not only studying abroad but also actively grabbed different chances to join various local organizations as a volunteer and intern and some events/activities like social mingling, family dinner, and Christmas gatherings, to name but a few. I joined BSTV, a news reporting student organization from the University of Bergen, as a student technician to hold the camera to film and host a broadcasting event. I had acquired various lifelong technical and editing knowledge by holding a professional camera and using video-editing software like Premiere Pro. I felt very proud and appreciated that the video I had filmed had been published on BSTV's official Facebook page, and the reporter I had worked with gave me lots of compliments. Although I was an exchange student, they provided lots of supports and assistants with me. They were not only spending time talking with me in English but also invited me to different parties and events. I felt so grateful to have multiple chances to learn new things, hang out with new friends, and enjoy the local culture.
I also joined Hulen Bergen as social media intern to promote Hulen on social media platforms by using Facebook, Instagram, etc. Compared to Hong Kong, it was interesting that Norwegians have completely different social media habits, and I have learned a lot. All the experiences have broadened my horizon and enhanced my communication skills. However, some challenges happened as well. For example, the Norwegians mainly used social media platforms like Snapchat and Facebook, which are becoming less popular in Hong Kong. In addition, the leading social media traffic period in Norway was around 4-6 pm, while the peak hour of using social media in Hong Kong was 6-8 pm. Therefore, I had to do lots of research and market analysis beforehand due to the cultural differences. However, it was inspiring to learn about different social media behaviors from other countries, which broadened my horizon, enhanced my research ability, and boosted my creativity. After finishing the internship in Dec 2021, I was more than grateful to receive an endorsement and reference letter from my supervisor. All the experiences I had at Hulen would be eye-opening and provide a more precise direction for career development for me.
There were a variety of memorable moments I have experienced during the exchange programme. I met lots of friends from different countries, including France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Japan, the Czech Republic, Russia, Lithuania, Poland, etc. We shared our local culture and learned a lot from the cultural difference. Besides, as I was always interested in stepping out of my comfort zone and meeting new friends, I actively took the initiative to organize various trips or events. For example, I traveled to different cities in Norway and countries in Europe with a group of friends. I went to Trolltunga, one of the most awe-inspiring cliffs in Norway, situated about 1,100 meters above sea level and hovering some 700 meters above Lake Ringedalsvatnet, with a large group of friends (more than ten people) and had my first camping experience in a foreign country. It was surprising that it is free to rent lots of sports and leisure equipment (for summer, winter, and year-round. For example, camping equipment like tents, sleeping bags, bags, hiking equipment like cross-country skis and boots, to name but a few) in Norway! Besides, the quality of every piece of equipment was perfect. I felt a bit shocked at that moment because it was impossible to see a free renting service for sports in Hong Kong. I had learned that keen on doing sports is also part of the Norwegian culture, and the nature in Norway is worth exploring!
As a sport-addict, I could not be happier to do different sports in Norway. Incredibly there were plenty of hiking opportunities surrounding the city of Bergen, which is the city between seven mountains. One of my Norwegian friends told me that if you go hiking in the seven mountains in Bergen, you can claim honorary citizenship of Bergen. Before traveling back to Hong Kong, I had finished hiking in the seven mountains in Bergen and gained a real sense of achievement! Apart from the mountains in Bergen, I also hiked to other famous cliffs such as Trolltunga, Preikestolen in Stavanger (another city in Norway), and so on. The views on top of all the mountains in Norway were stunning. I felt physically more robust and in love with hiking after all the experiences.
It was surprising that I had just experienced some small cultural shocks along my journey in Norway. It was unexpected that the Norwegians acted differently from other European countries. The food price was definitely one of the "cultural shocks" for me in the very beginning: a standard set of McDonald's would cost me more than HK$100. However, after living in Norway for some time, I discovered that there were also some cheaper foods in the supermarket with good quality. Therefore, I usually cooked with my roommate and became more independent than I thought! Besides, the Norwegians were perceived as shy as they usually avoided holding eye contact and would not talk to a stranger unless first spoken to. When I arrived in Bergen, I did not know about it before. Therefore, I randomly walked into a Norwegian party downstairs of my apartment and asked to join. After the party, my Norwegian friend felt surprised and told me that "I am a bit surprised, and I think you're quite brave!" However, after getting along with my Norwegian friends, I learned that they were polite, depending on the generation. Young people in Norway tend to be more talkative and outgoing with strangers. Every Norwegian I had met was friendly, pleasant, and motivated. They always invited me to join different events and parties, making my exchange experience more fruitful and unforgettable. One more interesting fact to note is that, although the Norwegians are perceived as shy, they will become highly outgoing when they are hiking and becoming drunk. When I encountered someone during the hike, they would always say "Hi" to me nicely even though they did not know me. Also, as the Norwegian people love drinking alcohol, mainly the student tends to be very talkative and funny after they are drunk. During the half-year exchange programme, the time I was hanging out with local friends, observing various cultural differences, and enjoying foreign nature became one of the parts of the most memorable moments in my life, which inspired me to explore more all around the world.
In addition to the local experience, I also met many international friends. We studied and traveled together to different cities in Norway like Stavanger, Tromsø, Oslo, and other countries like Sweden, Denmark, etc. We saw the stunning Aurora, enjoyed the fantastic view together during the trip, cooked together, and shared a lot of cultural topics, ranging from political issues to cultural habits. It broadened my horizon from an international perspective and encouraged me to discover more. Also, I had tried lots of delicious food from different countries cooked by international friends, especially the unforgettable French dessert. Moreover, my language skills have enhanced in this half-year. I learned the German language and took it as a minor programme before going on exchange. However, it was hard to practice my German physically in Hong Kong. During the exchange programme, I met many German friends and used some German when speaking with them, which improved my German speaking. Besides, I not only became more confident in speaking English but also learned a few sentences from some new languages like Norwegian and French when hanging out with different friends. During the 6-month unique exchange programme, I did a variety of things that inspired me a lot, broadened my horizons, and enhanced my skills. I gained first-hand knowledge of a new culture from different volunteering and internship activities, improved my career prospects, and acquired life-long learning and skills. By making new friends worldwide in a separate geographical area, I stepped out of my comfort zone, enhanced my communication skills, improved my language skills, and became more adaptable and flexible to new circumstances. I had become more independent and confident after this life-changing exchange experience!
The exchange programme is an once-in-a-lifetime and challenging opportunity for me, and I am so grateful that I was able to be an exchange student in my final year of study during the pandemic. Besides, it is my great honor to receive the Reaching Out Award (ROA) from HKSAR Government. After reflecting on my journey during this half-year, the award has motivated me to gain a real sense of achievement and strive to be a better person. I will never stop stepping out of my comfort zone, learning everything new, and exploring more worldwide!
For my advice for potential ROA recipients, I will recommend keeping “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish, and Stay Humble” in mind. It would help if you never forgot that the world is always bigger than you thought, especially outside Hong Kong. Stepping out of your comfort zone will be the only way for you to explore the world and learn new things. It would be best if you always stayed hungry to explore the world and accept new challenges. It would help if you remained foolish and never were afraid of taking risks and discovering your potential. You should remain humble about your achievement and make good use of it to reflect on yourself and achieve a higher and higher level. Therefore, please stay hungry, foolish, and humble to unleash your potential in an international environment! Also, do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone to embrace new challenges! You are stronger than you think!