By Lily Gershon
There is nothing I’m prouder of than my Hong Kong identity. If you asked someone about me, they’d probably say “Lily, the girl from Hong Kong” because I’ve made it into a personality trait. There aren’t enough words in the English language to describe how special Hong Kong truly is to me. At the end of every term, there’s nothing I look forward to more than disembarking from the fifteen-hour Cathay Pacific flight, into the warm embrace of 100% humidity, jumping into a red taxi to cross the remarkable Tsing Ma bridge, gazing across the renowned skyline and driving through Mid Levels, returning to my harbour view apartment.
The best decision my family ever made was to move from London to Asia’s world city. Admittedly, my family was meant to live the stereotypical expat life by agreeing to live in Hong Kong for two years for business. Two years soon turned into over twenty as the city transformed our lives. Three kids, two dogs and a lifetime of happiness and memories later, we can safely say Hong Kong is our home.
There is something for everyone in the city where East meets West. In a city with a constant buzzing aura, it is impossible to get bored! You aren’t more than twenty minutes away from a beach no matter where you are on the island. From the skyscrapers, shops and endless restaurants in Central and Admiralty to the tranquil sands of Repulse Bay, this makes for an easy getaway from the bustling city. If you’re after a vibrant nightlife, Lan Kwai Fong (or LKF) and replacing your CCTV nights at Bab’s for Wanchai Wednesdays will make for unforgettable nights out. What better way to cure a hangover than exploring Hong Kong’s picturesque scenery? From the ocean views in Dragon’s Back to the famous 100km MacLehose trail, you’re spoilt for choice to see the best of what Hong Kong’s landscape has to offer. Let’s not forget Hong Kong’s pulsing sports scene – from the Rugby Sevens to the Jockey Club to Dragon Boat Racing, there are a plethora of opportunities for you to participate in. Why not explore Hong Kong’s markets, delectable cuisine and even go on the monumental Peak Tram, viewing the city from a panoramic perspective? Alternatively, hop on the historic Star Ferry to cross the ‘fragrant harbour’ (Hong Kong’s direct translation in English) to gaze upon the famous skyline in the foreground of the striking mountains. From island hopping to climbing the steps of Big Buddha, the possibilities are endless!
It is no good completing all these activities without the incredible friends you meet in Hong Kong. The friends you make are the easiest hellos and the hardest goodbyes you’ll ever experience. After all, you become more than friends, quickly forming a chosen family to replace those you left behind overseas. Due to Hong Kong’s strong sense of safety and independence, you’re able to freely explore and create lifelong memories from an early age with the most amazing people you’ll know. I’m so fortunate to have made close friends from all walks of life from the melting pot of Hong Kong’s various cultures and nationalities. Hong Kong is many things, but most importantly, it’s my home and I’m so privileged that I have bits of home in the form of my friends scattered in every corner of the earth. In such a small city, everyone knows everyone, you’ll somehow always have a mutual connection – definitely making the international school kid experience the best preparation for somewhere like Durham.
Despite my international school kid experience, I struggled when adapting from Hong Kong to Durham. I still constantly toil with the mental gymnastics of converting Hong Kong Dollars to Pounds. I’m also guilty of mixing up my English and Hong Kong phone numbers which have made for a few awkward situations when accidentally giving out the wrong number. I’m constantly working in several time zones to call my loved ones. I have also fallen victim numerous times to people thinking I’m American due to my international accent – no one can place where I’m from. However, the pros of being an international student outweigh the cons – I love sharing my experience of growing up overseas.
There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t count my blessings and realise how lucky I am to have grown up in such a unique city. The Hong Kong spirit truly leaves a mark on your soul that stays with you wherever you go. Growing up in Hong Kong with those I’ve met along the way has shaped me to become the person I am today and I could never be more grateful. To my Hong Kong friends and family: 謝謝，我愛你。
Image: Lily Gershon