Honors students get first-hand look at Hong Kong

Editor's note: Nine students from Sac State’s General Education Honors Program spent three weeks in June in Hong Kong. They took a course at Chinese University of Hong Kong and visited sites in the city and the surrounding region.  Zachary Corbo (Class of 2016) and Sienna Nguyen (Class of 2016) give personal accounts of their immersion in Hong Kong’s ever-changing culture.

I am a third year Government student in the Honors Program and will be serving as Honors President for the coming year. 

Hong Kong Honors

As our time in Hong Kong comes to a close I am extremely happy that it has gone better then I would have ever expected. 

The Honors Program’s basic teaching philosophy asks its students to view the world around us in a way different than we normally would, to expand our thoughts and in essence place ourselves in the shoes of others. This can be a difficult task to do sitting in a classroom on Sacramento State’s campus, and it is not until you truly remove yourself from everything that you are used to that you really understand what it means to look beyond your own environment.

Though our time in Hong Kong has been short I have had the chance to experience the daily life of a Chinese University of Hong Kong student, and the challenges that the country has faced and continues to face.

For example, in class our professor presented us with half a dozen music videos that he specifically chose to portray the evolution of Hong Kong’s identity. Beginning with a video from the 1960s/70s, the piece portrayed people in need, but emphasized that the government would not provide for them. He included one from the 80s asking for liberation and revolution from the British government, and the presentation culminated in a video produced by the Hong Kong government after the millennium, which depicts people celebrating the new Hong Kong identity and spirit. As a former British colony the country still holds on to some of the trappings of a British city—driving on the left side of the road, the spellings of some of its locations—but the British rule also still has an unseen effect. 

The phrase “one country, two systems” has become synonymous with the daily life of Hong Kong’s citizens. Before 1997 they were not quite part of the UK and after their “liberation” they are not fully a part of China. But every day, and even more recently, the people of Hong Kong are beginning to see increased influence by the People’s Republic of China in their local politics.

Several unofficial referendums are currently being voted on by Hong Kong citizens, though they are considered illegal and invalid according to the Beijing government. The referendums ask for increased democracy in the selection of Hong Kong's chief executive (essentially a president), as current candidates have to be vetted by the Chinese Communist Party.

As a government student I find it to be a particularly interesting time to be in the country. Our class also includes discussions on the political system and current issues in Hong Kong and China.

All in all, it has been a great trip and hopefully just one of the many places I am able to visit abroad. I encourage my fellow Honors students and Sac State students to consider spending some time studying abroad. You might just find more then you expected.

--Zachary Corbo     

How could one describe Hong Kong? Simple—indescribable.

There are simply not enough words to fully express the wonderful beauty and experience this country has given me. If anything, this traveling experience has opened my eyes to how magnificent the world is. Not only that, but being Chinese also helps me understand their culture and their people; I can empathize with them and “blend in.” 

However, that’s beside the point.

What’s incredible about having the same ethnic background is that it helps with understanding how and why their people act and do the things they do.  Even for those who were not of Asian or Chinese descent, the best thing about travel is that you can get the hands-on experience and work alongside another culture, to blend in, basically.  I believe that this can allow others to see that there are other people in the world. 

In Anthropology 2H, we studied people, but we also studied how and why people in other parts of the world practice what they practice, do what they do, and act the way they act. Basically, how we may perceive ideas might differ from another country’s perceptions. This helps with being more open-minded and being more self-conscious about others. And, by experiencing this first-hand and at a personal level, you will grow, not only as a student, but as a young adult.

I remember in our Honors 1 First-Year Seminar, there was a philosopher we always mentioned named Rene Descartes. He states, “Resolving to seek knowledge other than that which could be found in myself or else in the great book of the world, I spent the rest of my youth traveling… gathering various experiences, testing myself in the situations which fortune offered me, and at all times reflecting upon whatever came my way so as to derive some profit from it.”

Descartes believed that traveling offered more than a book, that one can learn so much more with experience than reading. True to his philosophy, there is so much more to gain by visiting foreign lands.

Hong Kong is only one of the many places to experience. If there are any countries that inspire your intrigue or interest, go for it! You will not regret the lifetime memories and moments you make and breathe in.

--Sienna Nguyen

For more information on the Honors Program, visit csus.edu/honorsprogram.

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