UMD: A Globally Connected University

Alexander Pollack

Alexander Pollack

Program: ENGR Exchange: Hong Kong Polytechnic University​
Term: Spring 2018
Major: Computer Engineering

I had already traveled quite a bit before going abroad but living in Hong Kong really opened my eyes to the world. Often times, when you travel with friends or family, you're seeing the major sites and hanging out in touristy areas. Experiences like traveling the countryside of Vietnam, exploring Chinese cities absent of any English speakers, and getting to peek into North Korea from Seoul helped me gain an understanding of different cultures and lifestyles. 

Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: Don't be afraid to branch out. At Maryland, you know where people similar to yourself tend to hang out so many people surround themselves with like-minded individuals. That absolutely wasn't the case for me in Hong Kong so I ended up spending time with people I had little to nothing in common with other than we liked to explore and have fun. It turned out great! 

On one of my first days in Hong Kong, some exchange students got together to hike up Lion Rock. We did no research beforehand and only knew that it was supposed to be an easy ~90 minute ascent up stairs to the top. Well, that's not at all what happened. We quickly got lost. Somehow, we ran into a friendly group of locals that showed us to the top. What we expected to be a quick and easy hike took 5-6 hours and had 100+ ft. drops just inches away. I'm not particularly great with heights so yes, there were parts that I couldn't stand but at the same time, it was an incredibly memorable experience. We stayed in touch with that group of locals and ended up going on several more hikes with them!

Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: If you work at it, you can make it possible! I started planning my study abroad a year in advance so if you can get a head start and figuring out all the logistics and how it will affect your progression towards your degree at Maryland, that's incredibly helpful.​

The educational environment in Hong Kong was different from anything I had ever experienced. Your success depends much more on your ability to communicate with classmates than to communicate with teachers. At UMD, one might try to seek out a professor during office hours to get some extra help. In HK, professors weren't the best resources for students. To ameliorate this, I worked hard to develop relationships with students, spend time with them in library, get involved in their group chats, etc. Local students helped me solve all my course-related problems.