Dare to challenge yourself with new environment, new people and totally different culture? Isha CHATURVEDI paid a lot effort to overcome homesick and cultural shock and now is engaged in the University than anyone else, see how HKUST has transformed her in 3 years’ time.
Isha CHATURVEDI, Year 3, BSc in Environmental Management and Technology
To everyone reading my story, I am not different from you all; in fact like most of you, I have struggled at every staircase of my life. One of these staircase-struggles started when I first set my foot on the HKUST campus. I was struggling to smile, remain poised, not feel homesick and not cry. I wasn’t confident enough to approach people much less to face all the challenges ahead. My timetable was: wake up in morning, Skype with family, attend classes, stay in library, go back to hall, watch some movie alone on my laptop, and fall sleep really late, staring at old school pictures, yearning for the time when I would be back home. I know this sounds depressing, but it was the first step to something really great. Things didn’t remain like this for a long time. The people at UST changed everything. First I am so thankful that I got a roommate who wasn’t from my country as it aided to become open-minded and more respectful of other cultures. At first, we struggled a lot to adjust to each other but, gradually, we became really close friends, to the point that we got used to talking about our lives and sharing our views with each other. This was the first step of renaissance in my life. I became less ethnocentric and got my first close friend at HKUST.
In my Year 1, I was really passionate to get into Environmental Management & Technology Program (EVMT). Eventually, someone introduced me to one of the international girls in the program. At first, she was just like my mentor, but as time passed, she became my closest friends in the university. She would listen to my complaints, and be ready to hear me when I was at my lowest point. One time, on a really bad rainy day, I was shivering with high fever and so drained of energy. I couldn’t even leave my room to get food. I didn’t have friends in the hall I was living in, and my roommate was out that day. Luckily, I was talking to this EVMT-friend about my courses and she felt in my voice that I was sick, and asked me about it. When I told her that I was even too sick to go out and eat, within 10 minutes, she was standing in front of my room-gate with food and milk. This was totally unexpected for me because UST is known for its extremely stressful life and busy people. By that day, I felt UST’s reputation was completely wrong. Not only are students caring people, but there are counsellors, mentors, professors, advisors and many more people to help you and listen to you; all you have to do is take the initiative to approach them. And sometimes, I found, you don’t even need to do that. For example, my advisor used to email me every month, asking how I was doing, and later even wrote a recommendation letter for me.
Gradually things appeared more optimistic for me and I made a new friend in the same hall I was in. He would advise me of which interesting courses I should take, check my essays and course reports, and help me in Mandarin, among various other things. What is interesting about all these friends is that they are all from different backgrounds and have different religions and cultures and beliefs. This helped me in coming out of the conservative cage I had built around myself. I was able to see things from a different perspective. From politics, to religion, to science, to financial markets to current environmental concerns, I would talk about everything with them. I remember sitting in McDonalds with my Chinese friend, having long constructive discussions on some current world news almost every day.
A lot of people might say that I am writing this because I am studying in UST itself so I don’t have a good perspective, but the truth is that UST has completely transformed me. From that shy, homesick person who first stepped onto campus, I have turned into a confident girl who is full of positive vibes and sees things through an optimistic lens. My program is full of local – Hong Kong students, and many of my fellow students might say that it is hard to mingle with them, but things are not like that for me. I have got some really beautiful friends in the program, friends who talk to me about more than just projects and courses. This semester when I got really sick again (p.s. I get sick all the time), one of them asked if I needed her help to consult a Chinese Doctor. My department (the Interdisciplinary Office, which 90% of the people in UST don’t know about) has always supported me and given me life changing opportunities, for example, Exchange Summer Research, and Internship, plus it has friendly professors who invite students to their homes for dinner and playing games. I could go on bragging about UST but the fact that UST has painted my life with colours and beautiful people will never change.