Huffing and panting as I made my way to AC3’s Bistro, I was 5 minutes late (as per usual) to my lunch meeting. Sunyeol PARK (Hall 11, Year 4, Finance) was already there, patiently waiting and greeting me with his smile. We had a few classes together and had a few occasions where we checked our homework together. From our few encounters, I got to know that Sun, who was born in South Korea, spent most of his adolescent life– 7 years to be exact– in India.
After finishing his elementary school in Korea, Sun wanted something more. He wanted to explore the world outside of Korea. A family friend opened up the idea of studying in India and so with a leap of faith and a bunch of courage, he and his sister packed their bags and went to India for a new start.
His life in India was not without a struggle. The extreme difference in culture, as well as language barrier, was the toughest challenge he had to overcome. He mentioned how in class, his Indian friends would speak to each other in Hindi and he would ask them to speak in English, but to no avail. It was a constant battle to fit in, but in the end, he realized that while he’s in India, there is no fault to try to blend in and learn their language. He took notes and picked up the language.
The battle to fit in did not end there. It is quite obvious that Koreans and Indians do not share any similar features appearance-wise, and he was often treated differently because of it. When he took the public transport, quite often whispers and even rude comments would follow. Being able to understand the language, he often found himself in a difficult situation—the constant battle of wanting to stand up for himself but also realizing that he was in another country and he needed to behave accordingly.
“Do you ever regret it? Going to India?” I asked. He shook his head, “I never once regretted going to India. I used to be very shy but now I am more outspoken.” Despite the hardships he went through, it had made him a stronger person. He made valuable friends and learned valuable life lessons. If there was one thing I admired most in Sun, it was his independence. Being apart from his family for such a long time, he was able to make decisions for himself, be it good or bad. He’s not afraid to stand up for himself when he has to. I still sometimes complain to my mom when things don’t go my way, but hearing his story made me hung my head in shame. While I need someone to constantly reassure me that I’m doing the right thing, Sun is ready to step out of his comfort zone and reach it.
Coming to Hong Kong was also solely his decision. He wanted to further explore his opportunities in an English-speaking country, so here he is now at Hong Kong, pursuing a degree in Finance. He initially aspired to be a banker, but as we all know, university is the place where we grow and figure out what we really like, so now Sun is looking at his options to become a consultant as he enjoys talking to people.
Our meeting had to be cut short due to another appointment I have, but I left the place more inspired than ever. We tend to cling to our own people. Locals hang out with other locals, Indonesians hang out with other Indonesians, Koreans hang out with other Koreans and Indians hang out with other Indians. We don’t go out of our way to really get to know new people, except for the exceptional handful of other international friends we say hi to. We tend to stick with our own people because it feels more comfortable, and sometimes stepping out of our comfort zone is a bit easier said than done. However, we should learn from Sun. Despite the challenges we may face when we meet new people and new culture, we can always gain something from it in the end. University is the place for you to know yourself better, and with the diverse culture in CityU and the Student Residence, it is the perfect place for you to grow and challenge yourself day by day.
Writer: Natasya Viona CHANDRA (Jockey Club Harmony Hall)
慣性遲到五分鐘的我用急促的步伐喘着氣地往劉鳴煒學術樓（AC3）的西式餐廳走去。剛到達餐廳，就看見PARK Sunyeol（舍堂十一 / 經濟學系四年級）正耐心地坐在某一枱，以微笑迎接著我。我們曾經一起上課，亦曾經有過幾次一起複習作業的機會。在這些交流的機會當中，我認識了Sun。他雖然在南韓出生，大部分的少年生活卻是在印度渡過的，達七年之多。
文: Natasya Viona CHANDRA (賽馬會群萃堂)
譯: 何栢妮 (李兆基堂)