Postcards from Abroad: Cole Highhouse

BGSU individualized studies student says exchange program will set him apart during job search

This past semester, I had the opportunity to study on an exchange program at Hong Kong Baptist University. Over the course of the semester I traveled to Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, experiencing different Asian cultures through the sights, experiences, food and people.  

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, meaning that they maintain their own political and economic system, similar to the nearby region of Macau. I spent my semester on the Kowloon side at the top of the 18-floor residential hall. Getting around the city was no problem with public transportation from the rail system referred to as the MTR, which is surprisingly efficient given that it is the fourth most densely populated region in the world. Hong Kong also boasts being the city with the most skyscrapers in the world, currently sitting at 317, which coming from someone who grew up in Bowling Green, took a lot of getting used to.  

Most days were spent exploring different areas of the city, escaping the heat and usually deciding between noodles or rice when it was time to eat. Hong Kong’s unique mix of city and nature allowed you to be on top of a mountain overlooking the city one hour and downtown Central at a club the next.  

Another huge advantage of this program was the opportunity to meet others from all around the world that were also studying on exchange. I was able to simultaneously learn about multiple different cultures and share these new and exciting experiences.  

From walking the streets of Shibuya, Tokyo, to talking with locals in rural Vietnam, I was able to do things I had only dreamed of two years prior. Travel to me is all about learning the different ways people live their daily lives and the perspectives they have of the world around them. I found it to be so easy at the beginning of the semester to feel detached from my surroundings. Not only was I sticking out like a sore thumb with long blonde hair and blue eyes, but it was my first time overseas and somewhere where I felt truly out of place. As the semester went on I found myself discovering the similarities while also embracing the differences. Hong Kong, and Asia in general, is almost as far from small town America as it gets, but humans are the same everywhere.

At BGSU, I am working on completing the individualized studies program with a focus in many aspects of the entertainment industry as well as a marketing minor. While I did attend marketing courses at the university in Hong Kong, I found my time spent attending events, learning about regional trends and getting to know the perspective and passions of locals was much more beneficial to future career and life goals. I wanted to spend time getting to know how these different countries or the communities within, view and embrace American music and the culture that goes along with it, while also learning about their own popular music that has yet to take hold in the United States.  

My experience on exchange has given me a unique perspective on values held outside of America that I believe will give me an advantage and set me apart from others in my future career.  

I couldn’t be happier with my decision to spend a semester in Hong Kong and I’m thankful for everything I’ve been able to gain and the friendships and bonds I made. Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive, especially visiting somewhere like Southeast Asia. I urge everyone to look for opportunities to expand themselves out of the bubbles that we form around ourselves.