Junior, accounting and finance major
UW-Eau Claire's study abroad program at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University was established in 2013 and is open to students from the College of Business. Reid Gresens, a junior accounting and finance major from Green Bay, is studying there this spring semester and is the first UW-Eau Claire student to participate in the program. Students at Hong Kong Polytechnic take courses relating to their business degree and have the opportunity to enroll in cultural courses. Reid is making the most of his time abroad, exploring nearly every inch of Hong Kong and making connections with people from all over the world. He has immersed himself in the culture and seizes every opportunity given to him, whether it be trying new foods or striking up conversations with local Hong Kong businessmen.
Reid shares his thoughts about his study abroad experience in Hong Kong.
What attracted you to the program at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University?
Besides being a great city for business, I chose Hong Kong because the official language is not English. I wanted to experience a vastly new culture, and there is no better place to do that than in Hong Kong.
Have you had previous experience navigating other cultures?
I had stayed with a host family in Costa Rica for one week in high school. I had never been outside of North America, so the culture was vastly different from anything I had experienced before.
What courses do you currently take in Hong Kong? What other activities are you involved in?
I am currently studying Chinese history, operations management, intro to marketing and business finance. Besides traveling and hanging out with the awesome people I have met, I joined an organization called Let's Talk, which is a group that allows people of different languages to come together to teach it to others. I was paired with three Mandarin Chinese speakers who taught me some new words and things about their culture, while I told them about some English words and about America.
What experiences or interactions in Hong Kong have had the greatest impact on you?
My most impactful experience actually came when I was in the Philippines. A friend and I were walking around the capital of Manila when we stumbled upon a slum. It was exactly like one would picture a slum, and I had never seen one before. Much to my amazement, everybody was extremely happy, even though they literally didn't have anything except for each other. It showed me that if they can be happy with nothing, I should not complain about what I have.
What has surprised you most about your time in Hong Kong?
What most surprised me here is the diverse landscape Hong Kong has to offer. Although Hong Kong is a huge city with 7 million citizens and more skyscrapers than any other city in the world, in under a half an hour train ride in any direction I can see mountains and beaches.
Has your time in Hong Kong changed you or changed how you think about the world?
I have learned that what one person thinks is extremely weird is completely normal to another person. We should not be forcing our beliefs or culture onto other people because we are all happy with different things.
How has this experience enhanced your college experience?
My college experience has been affected in the sense that I have seen a vastly different teaching style and I have seen the different study habits of the students here. I can use some of these experiences (staying up until 5 a.m. to study is not one of them) to further enhance my ability to learn back home.
What advice would you give other students who are considering a study abroad opportunity?
I would say stop considering it and just do it. There will be no other time in your life where you will have the opportunity to live in a different country for five months with very few obligations. The experiences you will have cannot be matched by anything else in life.
To learn more about Reid's experiences in Hong Kong, check out his blog.