Dominic O'Connor

Dominic O'Connor

My weekends were the biggest difference, these were spent in one of two ways, either travelling Asia or exploring Hong Kong. I visited a lot of different countries and became a lot more confident with my ability to handle tough situations.

Studying abroad for a year was so much more than travelling. I took myself out of my comfort zone, I was almost 6,000 miles away from my home. I was in a completely different culture and it hits you hard when you first arrive. The home comforts aren’t there, the food eaten is completely different, people speak a different language and there’s a 7-hour time difference so ringing home isn’t the easiest thing to do! But these differences are all part of the reason to why your year abroad will be so special. No matter the destination of your year abroad, it will be a unique experience to you. Sure you can travel and see these amazing places, but studying in a different country is so much more than that. Being at a different university exposed me to different teaching methods and ways of thinking, I was also able to study modules not previously available to me, as well as learning through different means, this means different skills are developed and new knowledge is gained, making you a much more rounded individual.

Studying in Hong Kong is very different from studying in Leeds. The first two weeks of term are the ‘add-drop’ period. This is the time you enrol on your desired classes, you go to them and see what they’re like, and if you don’t like it, you swap! This system allows a lot more freedom with the topics you study and if you’re crafty you can give yourself a longer weekend! The classes are also much smaller than in Leeds, making it a much more intimate environment with open group discussion and debate encouraged. Not only that, but the method of assessment differs a lot, there’s a lot more emphasis placed on coursework, most of which is group based! This was brilliant in a number of ways, personally I found it provided me with an opportunity to develop interpersonal skills and communication on a weekly basis. Group work is by no means new to me, I’ve done it at Leeds, however working with people from different countries and continents was new to me. This means that the ideas and ways of thinking were completely new to me, and with so many different ideas being bounced back and forth you quickly began to think outside of the box to solve problems.

What’s more is that whilst being abroad I became a member of an international community, this means I have friends and acquaintances across the globe, providing me with the opportunity for further travel and cultural experiences. However, whilst I was at my host university this provided a number of benefits on several occasions. My host university held an international festival to promote cultural diversity and education for its students, I was fortunate enough to be able to promote British culture whilst simultaneously learning about the traditions of other countries, learning the holidays and accompanying stories that many of my new friends grew up with.

Being abroad for a year provides you with the opportunity to really try something new and you may find a new passion or hobby that you had never thought of trying before. Whilst I was in Hong Kong I became a member of the Hong Kong Baptist University rowing team, a sport I have never taken part in.

There’s a lot of ways a year abroad can benefit you, but it won’t benefit any two people the same way. Your experiences are unique to you, you react to them in ways somebody else may not think of and you learn a lot about yourself and what you’re capable of. To really understand the benefits and rewards of a year abroad, you need to experience it yourself.