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Academic Abroad:
Not That Different

Faith Reineck | La Amatista Road| UC Santa Barbara Senior

On the surface, Del Mar and Hong Kong seem like completely different worlds. Although English is widely spoken in both, the former evokes images of a relaxed beachside lifestyle, while the latter evokes images of a chaotic mass of skyscrapers and people. There is validity in each of these notions, but I’m here to tell you why moving to Hong Kong hasn’t been as much of a culture shock as I expected.

1. Cali - Mex
First and most important, Hong Kong has Mexican food. No, it’s not Roberto’s, but the Cali-Mex chain is found throughout the city, and offers a Chipotle-style build-your-own-burrito or bowl. Additionally, there are sit-down Mexican food restaurants such as Mexus, featuring a portrait of Donald Trump with a mustache and sombrero.

2. Hiking
Many people don’t realize that Hong Kong is more than buildings. A two hour hike from Kennedy Town will get you to Victoria Peak, the famous vantage point with a stunning panorama of the city. On the south side of the island is Dragon’s Back, a hike affording scenic views of the sub-tropical landscape and ocean. A quick bus or MTR ride will also take you from the main island to the New Territories, a less populated area with hikes up to 15km (9.5 miles). As someone who grew up doing the Torrey Pines hike on a weekly basis, hiking in Hong Kong is a surprisingly adequate replacement.

3. Beach
Hong Kong has beaches that rival those in California, with Repulse Bay, Clearwater Bay, and Stanley among the most popular. Beaches get very crowded on weekends and holidays, but the white sand and calm water are worth it. The calm seaside areas may even make you feel like you’re in the South of France, with restaurants like St. Barts in Clearwater adding some French charm. The occasional swell even allows for surfers to take their long boards to Big Wave Bay, although surfers seeking more of a thrill might take a two hour flight to Hainan Island in China, or Okinawa in Japan. The world class waves of Indonesia can easily be reached with a cheap ticket and a five-hour flight.

4. Yoga
Yogis rejoice! Yoga is huge in Hong Kong, with the city home to Lululemon’s main Asia office. Aside from studios such as the popular chain Pure Yoga, there are frequently free yoga events in parks and the previously mentioned beaches. With the city’s humidity, doing yoga outside over summer feels just like a Hot Yoga class at CorePower!

5. Hollywood / Disneyland
Between Hollywood references and Disneyland, the Southern California cultural influence has clearly reached Hong Kong. Hollywood Road, leading from Sheung Wan into Central Hong Kong, is lined with antique shops and galleries. Across the bay in Kowloon, there is an Avenue of Stars, modeled after the one in Hollywood, featuring Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee among other Asian celebrities. Disneyland is a quick MTR trip away on Lantau Island, decorating for Halloween and Christmas just like the one in Anaheim.

If you look at each number of this list, you might think you were reading a list of things to do in California. While I’ve managed to find my dose of California in Hong Kong, I also recognize the importance of experiencing the local culture. By living in Hong Kong, I get the chance to not only continue my favorite activities from home, but also to indulge in world class dim sum and pick up some Cantonese phrases along the way. Anyone who has the chance to study, visit, or work in this unique Special Administrative Region (lovingly referred to as the SAR), go and know that you will still be able to bring a slice of California with you!




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