You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again – Azar Nafisi, Iranian writer.
HONG KONG – After having moved houses nine times and continents three times, I find this quote really resonates with me as I sit here in my little corner of South-East Asia. For a bit of background: I was born in Brighton, England and grew up around Oxford until moving to Orlando, Florida at age 7.
Two years later, I went back to England and then nine months later to Hong Kong, where I have lived for the past five years.
With every place, like Azar Nafisi, I have felt as though I was a different person, even with regard to my age. My abilities, interests, perspectives, daily activities, and so much more have changed since I became an expat.
I sometimes wonder how different I would be having never moved at all.
Hong Kong has turned out to be one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. I have learned so much, met some fantastic people and experienced the most refreshing things since moving.
Living here does come with its challenges: the Cantonese language barrier, the lack of space living in a mega-city, my other expat friends moving elsewhere and the humidity, to name some of them. But I believe these challenges, that normal British teenagers don’t commonly face, have made me a more resilient and grateful person.
One of my favorite things about Hong Kong is going to an international school where my small grade holds over 10 languages and countless nationalities. I love that everyone has different perspectives and how interesting discussing global events can become.
For example, in my Humanities class, we are learning about Nazi Germany. My teacher offered for us to look at some old German money notes from the Great Depression and my German friend was able to translate the writing on them for the class and interpret their value.
Experiences like this make me favor international schools over the other five schools I have attended. It makes the content we learn feel more personal as it relates to the history of a friend’s country, and therefore, it resonates.
Another thing I love about Hong Kong is the nature. This may sound odd as when people think Hong Kong, they think megacity and industry, but Hong Kong has beautiful beaches, mountains, hikes and wildlife.
I live in a place called Sai Kung in New Territories. Compared to the rest of Hong Kong, it is considered rural, even though there is always a 7/11 convenience store or a Starbucks nearby.
In front of my school, there’s a beach, a vast sea and visible islands. I actually live up a mountain with nine-foot pythons, porcupines, hogs, stray dogs and wild cattle that don’t shy away from society.
But the exciting part is, I am only a 30-minute drive away from Central, Hong Kong – the tourist hotspot, where I can see some of Hong Kong’s most famous landmarks, luxury shops and some of the world’s wealthiest businessmen.
I go to Central about once a week. It’s such a contrast.
The most challenging thing being an expat is feeling so isolated and the farthest thing away from the “average teen” but, does any teen really feel normal? I have learned over lots of goodbyes and new beginnings to just keep moving forward, although it can be difficult at times.
I really recommend Hong Kong or moving in general. If anyone reading this is about to move or is settling into a new place, try to embrace your new surroundings as it will make for a much easier transition.
Learn to love the new little things around you instead of focusing on that big picture of leaving somewhere familiar.
And it is unlikely, but if anyone reading this is moving or visiting Hong Kong anytime soon, leave a comment for me and perhaps I can help you enjoy all this exciting place has to offer, as I have only really scratched the surface here.
Lili Connell is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.