Having lived in a city where there are high rises as far as the eye can see, I was surprised how I saw Texas differently when the plane I was on landed. The single digit level buildings, the wide open land, and the terribly slow/inefficient public transportation system all made for an unexpected culture shock. Being able to drive for the first time in months though was something I sorely missed.
I learned a lot while in Hong Kong and her neighboring countries. My exchange experience involved me going to Taiwan, China, Macau, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, and even Vietnam! In each country, I did my best to learn about the local culture and stay away from the tourist hotspots. People abroad are very nice and are more than willing to show you around. I noticed that for them it is a form of national pride. Local food is much more delicious than what you’ll find at any Asian restaurant in Austin.
Hong Kong also has a lot of hidden wonders that most visitors (and even locals) get to see. Hong Kong might be known for its tall buildings, but its true beauty lies in the numerous parks surrounding the city. For example, there is an infinity pool and waterfall on Lantau island, Hong Kong. Most locals have never heard of the pool and it requires a lot of exercise in order to get there. But if you do, you will not be disappointed. The view is amazing, the water is just the right temperature, and there is usually nobody else there.
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is a highly competitive school with more than a few overachievers. While some classes I found to be incredibly easy, there were other classes were I was surprised by how challenging it was. I would not recommend taking classes that require a lot of outside class work, since it is a bit off-putting to have to stay in your cramped room while your friends are sightseeing in another country.
Overall, I would have to say that my exchange experience was very good. Being able to travel with new friends was something I hope everybody gets to do in their lifetime. Hong Kong is definitely a place I would recommend to do the exchange at for not only is the country located near some really interesting countries, but it also has some cheap food!