Alekhya Uppalapati

Major: Business Administration

Hometown: Kitty Hawk, NC

Study Abroad Program: Chinese University of Hong Kong

Studying abroad in Hong Kong was a life-changing experience. Key highlights of my visit include 1) my immersion into Chinese culture and friendship with local students 2) my finance and Chinese classes at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and 3) traveling to mainland China.

My immersion into Chinese culture through friendships with local students was the most rewarding part of my study abroad experience. Unlike most international students, I lived in a dorm with mostly local students – as a result, I spent most of my free time with Hong Kong and mainland Chinese students. Whether celebrating Chinese New Year with their families, sightseeing in Hong Kong, practicing UNO for an inter-hostel competition or simply catching up on our day, I appreciated the relationships I formed with them and the opportunity to understand their opinions and points-of-view.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong is a world-class research university with a top business program. My finance classes included Investment Analysis & Portfolio Management, Financial Markets and the Emerging Markets of China. In my Investment Analysis & Portfolio Management course, our final project required us to maximize returns of a mock portfolio. My Financial Markets course provided a much needed introduction to the Hong Kong equity and debt markets. We learned key concepts such as red- and blue-chip shares and the implications of Hong Kong’s linked exchange rate with the United States on Hong Kong’s interest rates. One important takeaway is that Hong Kong’s real interest rates fluctuate with inflation in the United States rather than inflation in Hong Kong. Finally, my Emerging Financial Markets of China course provided an overview of China’s developing markets – we discussed the impact of China’s political system on the gradual liberalization of economic policies and debated China’s exchange rate policy. This course prompted me to participate in a 2-week “Doing Business in China” Program at Peking University to continue my study of China’s unique and rapidly developing economy. While in Hong Kong, I also took two Chinese courses and practiced my Chinese with local students. Though people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese as their native language, local students were still happy and willing to practice Mandarin with me. I now feel confident that I can speak Chinese conversationally.

Finally, Hong Kong’s location facilitated easy and frequent travels to mainland China. We often traveled to Shenzhen (the bordering city) to shop, eat or simply sightsee. Two important trips to mainland China included 1) teaching China in a rural Chinese town and 2) sightseeing in Beijing. I traveled by bus with other university students to Zengcheng, a small town located several hours from Hong Kong. In Zengcheng, we spent the weekend teaching English to middle- and high-school students. The students were excited by our presence and curious of our experiences and ways-of life. They had never traveled outside of their province, not to mention outside of China. We shared stories of our hometowns, families, typical college days and travels. We were surprised by their enthusiasm to stay in touch with us using ICQ, an application similar to Instant Messenger, which none of us had even heard of. Another important trip was my first visit to Beijing – I was struck by Beijing’s unique mix of the old and new. I experienced the powerful history of the Middle Kingdom in visits to the Great Wall, Forbidden City, old and new Summer Palaces and Temple of Heaven. I also experienced the monuments of modern China: the Bird’s Nest, CCTV building and tens of new skyscrapers.

My experiences studying abroad in Hong Kong have allowed me to better appreciate Chinese culture, way-of-life and traditions and enhanced my perspective on foreign relations and international business. I look forward to staying in touch with my local Hong Kong friends and traveling to Hong Kong in the future.