‘Stories and memories I’ll never forget’
While studying abroad, Thomas Kittross spent a weekend in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, where he visited the Petronas Towers (above), the Batu Caves, and sampled some of the best food he’d ever eaten at street stalls.
If you ask Thomas Kittross about his most memorable experiences abroad last spring, set aside plenty of time to listen.
There were that many of them!
For example, during his spring 2017 semester at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the mechanical engineering major:
- Camped on a beach in Hong Kong and swam that night among bioluminescent plankton that lit up when he touched them.
- Ate the “best sushi” in the world during a whirlwind trip through Japan over spring break, including stops in Toyko, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima.
- Savored the opportunities to meet other students and “teach each other about the differences in our cultures.”
“I could go on and on for days about ‘particularly memorable experiences,’” Kittross says.
He had a hunch study abroad would be like that. “I had talked to many people who had studied abroad in the past, and not one of them had a negative experience. It just seemed silly not to take advantage of the opportunity,” Kittross says. And besides, “it is such a unique experience. It gives you the opportunity to live in and learn about a different culture in a way that would be hard to replicate later in life.”
It took some research on Kittross’s part to sort through all the different study abroad options. “There also are lots of forms to fill out and people to get approval from. So you need to be a little self motivated to go through the process,” he says. However, people like Ted Pagano in the University’s Center for Education Abroad, and John Lambropoulos, the chair of mechanical engineering, were happy to help him through of the process and answer questions.
As a result, he was able to take two courses at HKUST that count toward his major and three others that count as electives. He also received a $2,000 University scholarship in addition to his usual financial aid.
“While I probably would have been able to study abroad without (the scholarship), it allowed me more flexibility,” he says. “I was able to do more travelling, and be more adventurous while I was there, which honestly made the experience so much more worthwhile.”
In what ways?
“First of all I gained a lot of knowledge about a culture I was relatively unfamiliar with,” Kittross says. “I also gained confidence in my own independence.
“My top advice for other students thinking about studying abroad is simply to do it! If you are thinking about it but are unsure or it sounds scary, I promise it’s worth it.
His other advice is to step outside of your comfort zone. “I chose Hong Kong even though I didn’t know anything about Asia, but that made is so much more of a learning experience.”
Click here to read the blog Kittross kept, full of photos and descriptions of his adventures while he was abroad.
Hong Kong offered Kittross a variety of photo opportunities, from the brightly lit skyline to serene views of nature in the surrounding hills.