My STEP signature project was an internship with a company called LexisNexis in Hong Kong, China. LexisNexis is a company that works as a legal research platform and content provider. I worked side by side with the Head of Strategy for the Greater China Region for the summer. Of course, this also gave me the opportunity to explore Hong Kong and meet many incredible people along the way.
Before leaving to Hong Kong I had heard over and over from family and friends to be prepared for a difficult adjustment period overseas, especially since this would be my first time ever leaving North America. I had been preparing myself for a great deal of culture shocks in many aspects of life, from food and living style, to simple social interactions with the locals. It was apparent to me that there would be certain difficulties that would come with immersing myself in a foreign culture, but, I was up to the challenge. However, much to my own surprise, the adjustment was virtually painless. I had felt right at home almost from the moment of leaving the airport. Much of this, I am sure, I owe to the wonderful advisors that were our points of contact while in Hong Kong, who did a fantastic job of explaining to us what to expect and how to best mesh with the native population. Part of it is also likely owed to the general ambiance and beauty of Hong Kong, with incredible sights to see everywhere you turn your head, from skyscrapers whose hectic light shows filled the sky every night, to the mysterious fog-laden mountains that overlooked the cities, it was difficult not to be enamored by all aspects of this new setting I had found myself in. Paradoxically enough however, what makes Hong Kong truly special is something that every city in the world has: its people. The Hong Kongers are undoubtedly what made the transition to living in the city so smooth. There is an intense and infectious sense of pride in their city that you get when talking with the people in Hong Kong. I was shocked to find how welcomed I felt in the city, as well as by how many locals were excited to hear about my experiences and share their own. Because of the kindness and generosity I experienced from the people there, the previous worries I had had about being able to fit in with the culture in Hong Kong were wiped away in an instant. This helped me learn a lot about what it is like to have to adjust to a place that is completely foreign to me, and at the same time realize that no matter where I am in the world, the people I meet can make it seem like home.
The very first person I met in Hong Kong was one of our in country contacts Mengxi. As you can probably imagine, after touching down from the 16 hour plane ride I was a little exhausted. Although the fatigue quickly gave way to the excitement of finally arriving in Hong Kong as well as the anticipation of the days and weeks to come, there was still a great deal of nervousness I felt. Thankfully, Mengxi was perfectly prepared to provide all of the relief me and the other OSU students who met with us at the rally location needed. As we traveled in the airport shuttle to the hotel we would be living in for the next two months we got the perfect introduction to the strange new city we found ourselves in. My eyes were glued to the windows taking in all of the incredible sights to see while Mengxi answered many of the pressing questions that were on our minds and gave us a great deal of information that would prove to be very useful to us. But more than anything, what I felt Mengxi was able to provide for us on that inaugural ride into the city was a sense of comfort that had been missing in the prelude to the trip. For many months I had been bombarded with questions, from myself and others, about how I would handle certain a hypothetical, or how various things in the city worked. For so long there were many question marks for me about this trip that created a sort of black cloud of uncertainty that marred much of it for me, and this ride into the city was the first of many beams of sunlight to shine through it.
The most frequent re occurrence for me in my time in Hong Kong was the work that I was doing. Five days a week, 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM I would find myself sitting in the same chair in the same office in a building in Wan Chai. While this may sound bleak to some, for me it represented a soothing consistency in what was otherwise an absolute whirlwind of activity. Certainly it helped that I was able to do important and fulfilling work with wonderful people. Specifically my boss Marina Kwok made me feel extremely comfortable in what was an entirely foreign situation for me (this was my first time working in a large corporate environment). She and all of the other members of the office made me feel at home in their work environment, which I am extremely grateful for. The work I was able to do while working there was not only relevant to my goals for my career, but also was very fulfilling in the sense that I was not just given busy work to keep me occupied, but instead was given important tasks, and could actually see the impact that my work was making in the company.
However, the most critical group of people I met while in Hong Kong, and the ones who I spent the most time with, were my fellow Americans from universities all around the USA. They were all fantastic people (even the Michigan kids) and I had an incredible time sharing this great experience with all of them. Their presence there was so helpful, as we were all able to relate own individual experiences with each other and not feel so out of place in this strange new land. They were some great partners to go on adventures with, both in the city and outside of it, and although I was only able to be with them for a short amount of time, I made many great friendships.
Now that the experience is in the past and I am able to look at it in retrospect, it is awesome to me how much I had learned and how much I have as a result of this experience. I can already tell it will be one of my fondest memories for a long time to come. The biggest takeaway I believe I gained from this trip, especially considering the uncertainty going into that I was feeling, was simply that no matter where you go in the world people really aren’t all that different. There will always be ample opportunity for you to make friends and grow as a person no matter where you find yourself, and with that in mind there is no reason to fear anything that comes ahead. I feel this attitude will help me greatly in the years to come as the onset of career quickly approaches and many unknown challenges and opportunities lie ahead.