Sam Speed reports back from HKU

And so, the first semester passes. Momentous in its entirety, to accurately put the last few months into words would take a mind far more sophisticated than mine, yet mine is all I have. This brings me to point number 1; if you decide to study abroad, buy a go pro.

Since my last entry, I have experienced both the best and worst moments of my life in such quick succession I am convinced I am permanently attached to some form of metaphorical rollercoaster, bumping along behind on the rails. As always, the worst first; merely a week after my last entry, I managed to destroy both the laws of physics and the last shreds of my dignity with a rather spectacular bicycle crash. Grisly details aside, I spent two weeks with both hands wrapped in bandages, unable to shower, write or even pull open a door, and with half my teeth shattered. As you can probably imagine, this was not my finest hour. 6000 miles away from home and completely helpless is an experience I would not advise.

And yet I have never witnessed so clear an example of ‘behind every cloud is a silver lining’. This event was not just a cloud but a hurricane, a destructive force wreaking havoc amongst every element of my life. And yet I have never felt more innovative, resilient and downright determined since, or indeed before, that crash. Can’t eat? Drink soup through a straw. Can’t open a door? Use your feet. Can’t shower? Have a serious deodorant budget. Thousands of miles from home, and yet here I was connected to a part of myself I have never had to use before, one of sheer adaptability; Mind truly does rule over matter.

S1Within a month of that accident, I was riding a motorbike through the mountains and cities of Vietnam. Advisable or not, the feeling of sheer exhilaration at being completely free, without phone signal and reliant only upon myself and my friends for navigation in the most rural and wild place I have ever seen was the most thrilling moment of my life.

Happily, I was a quick study, and my Vietnam trip was accident free. In December I visited Tokyo, the largest city I have ever seen and one which I am hard pressed to describe; vast and vibrant yet ordered and clean, Tokyo is a melting pot of bizarre realities stacked atop one and mixing together to form a honeycomb of lights and excitement. I have barely scratched the surface of these places, and yet to be able to close my eyes and visualise their vistas and beauty on a whim is a mind-numbing experience.

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Indeed, while I am exploring much of Asia, I am also tapping into the vast selection of academic pursuits offered here at HKU. I attempted to learn Cantonese at a beginner’s level, an experience that was enjoyable if not terribly successful (my apologies to the owners of practically every restaurant within 5 miles who has had to translate my rabbling).

King’s gave me the freedom to choose any module within reason, allowing me to explore elements of politics that have always fascinated me but which I did not have the time to do in London; contemporary Japanese politics and the moral philosophy of war to name but two. The university fully integrates exchange students into the discussion groups even though we are not technically full-time students, building a creative atmosphere that constantly astounds me; it is truly wonderful to see issues that I have always held as a given debated by students from every continent. It really is eye opening to approach issues from a different perspective and culture. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a different viewpoint on life!

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The next semester promises to be even more adventurous than the last; a trip to the Winter Olympics in Korea, a tour of China, and a tropical holiday to the Philippines are the main events, yet everyday life continues to amaze me equally as much. Every street has a new treasure, and round every corner is a new experience. One group of friends has left back to their home countries, and now I can accurately say I have friends on every continent; worldwide adventure, here I come! A new group has arrived, and through it all I have my fellow King’s College students. This Year Abroad really is spectacular.

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