“There was this cute girl named…,” as made fun by friends is generally the beginning line of all my stories, but let us be serious here for a second. To describe a semester at HKUST, I will have to use the four letter word that our moms do not let us say a lot, but I am not going to do that. I will, however, say that every moment of it is worth leaving the comfort of home, because for every memory that is made, good or bad, sweet or bitter, there also is a story worth sharing. And there was actually this cute girl in my COMP class who was a total five letter word our dads do not let us call a girl with.
I spent the first day at HKUST the same way as everyone there did, internationals and locals alike, and I do not mean being awed by the sceneries. I was lost and had to walk up the back-road up to atrium alongside my family who came to send me off. Intentionally, I get lost from time to time just to remind myself of how I felt when I first came to study here, a feat not appreciated by Professors. I came to study abroad not to be the best, to feel special about myself or to blend in. I came because, just like me, it was different.
Every day presents a challenge. On a particularly bad week with a sprained ankle, a broken heart and a plate full of work, I just lied down on the ground and cursed to the sky. Knowing I have to do something, but not knowing what, I decided to just go out and do something stupid. I saw what I can become by just letting me surprise myself from time to time. I never knew I could dance (so terribly), but my sprained ankle did not seem to mind all that much.
Not only being surprised by myself, it was time to let others surprise me as well. I got to know many students at this very school whether through classes, student societies like AIESEC and ISA, or randomly meeting someone in an elevator saying, “Have you met my friend, Jamal?” who was not completely happy about it. AIESEC taught me a great deal about working with other people whether it is leading or following. The best thing I found about it is getting to meet amazing people carrying great ideas and they are not afraid to share them to the world. I also joined the executive committee of International Students’ Association due to seeing problems knowing I can help and to my surprise I was not the only one. It brings out the smiles in me finding some people who can talk more passionately about something other than themselves and these are ordinary university students just like you and me.
Amazed, I sit here thinking, “What will happen next?”