When I left Hong Kong in August 2013, I really didn’t think I’d be back anytime soon. I was headed back to home after attending a few years of high school in the Shenzhen, and the only thing on my mind was where the next four years at Simon Fraser University would take me.

Just as I was about to finish my undergraduate career, however, an internship for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong caught my eye. I applied, went through an interview over Skype, and was offered the position. A few weeks later, I staring out a tiny oval window as the airplane began its final approach.

Yup, four years to the month after I left, I found myself back in Hong Kong.

Starting Out

I actually arrived about a week before my internship started, which gave me a chance to settle down get used to the time difference, as well as find my workplace for the next little while and explore the area. It was nice to visit some new places, as well as some that I haven’t been to in years, and see how the city has changed in my absence. The area I live in, Tai Wai, has certainly grown and changed compared to the sleepy neighbourhood I left in 2013.

One thing that hadn’t changed, however, were these little critters. I had completely forgotten about their existence for the past few years (actually, they were replaced by the silverfish I find all over my house in Canada), so seeing one scatter across the table was a shock. I would have constant battles with them over the next few months.

When I lined up for the bus for my first day, I’ll admit I was a bit apprehensive. I was starting with just one other intern (three more arrived in the upcoming weeks) and to make things worse, this was my first genuine office experience so I did not know what to expect from the environment.

Now, a typical workterm at the Chamber lasts 4-8 months, and the constant turnover meant that a smooth transfer of knowledge was necessary. On my first day, Jason (my manager) ran through a short orientation during which he explained what the organization was all about and the direction he saw it heading in. After that, I was shown some guides created by previous interns which detailed everything from dress codes to the typical workflow. They were a tremendous help, although much would become obsolete over the upcoming months as the organization’s processes were tweaked and refined.

Settling In

As time went on, I began to grow more and more comfortable in the role. I continued to add to contacts to our CRM, but also started creating reports and communicated with our members for various reasons. I also discovered the building’s 4th floor balcony, which became my regular lunch spot due to it’s open air and nice view. At the end off my first week, we spent some time rearranging the boardroom and cleaning out the supply closet. In the process I got to keep a pretty sweet Hong Kong Airlines A350XWB model, which I saved from the getting thrown away.

By the time the weekend came, I was pretty exhausted. I was looking forward to a few nice relaxing days off, but life had different plans for me as I ended up catching a cold. I was bedridden for the entire two days (and more), and to make matters worse, my home internet refused to work in my room. That meant that I was stuck watching episodes of The Sopranos on my hard drive as I waited out the virus. Funny thing is, the internet started working fine again on Monday.

I was so sick that I ended up taking a day and a half off the following week. While I was actually at the office, though, I helped out the Events team alongside my regular duties. Because their intern hadn’t arrived yet, I was out and about delivering and picking up things for mixers and seminars which gave me a chance to explore the city a little more. One of the first places I went was down the street to the Mustard Seed co-working space, passing a flock of real estate salespeople on the way there.

Halfway Point

Fast forward a few weeks later, and we had our full cohort of interns on board. The team was entirely from Western Canada, with two UVic students, one UBC, one UofAlberta, and of course me from SFU (I note this because one of the managers pointed out that this was a little odd, as interns at the Chamber are usually from Eastern school such as Waterloo or UOttawa).

We ended up having a little social after work which was pretty fun, moving from a tasty Korean dinner to the Coyote bar for a few drinks. Some of us got together to attend the Wine and Dine Festival at the end of October as well, enjoying an evening of snacks, as well as wine and beer tasting. There, we also learned about different types of wine glasses.

I was pretty productive at work as well, combining my passion for design with business development and communications to create various marketing packages. This was awesome because it provided an opportunity to gain some practical experience for my marketing concentration and to have some solid work samples. I wasn’t in the office all the time, though. I got the chance to explore Central (pictured above) a little bit as my manager and I made our way to the Canadian Consulate, and I visited the Colliers International office and Ivey Business School campus while helping the events team.

Read more: Thinkin’: Halfway Through My International Work Term

Outside of work/work-friends, I spent a majority of my weekends out and about in Hong Kong. I spent some time in places I’ve been before, like Sham Shui Po and Tsim Sha Tsui (TST), as well as some new areas around Hong Kong Island and the New Territories. Highlights include visiting the Wong Tai Sin Temple (1, 2, 3) and Kowloon Walled City Park, which has a pretty awesome history. At home, I got a chance to take in the NHL China Games, albeit on my 12-inch laptop monitor.

October ended off a bang, as we hosted Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong Chief Executive, at The Conrad and got to taste their amazing food. I also traveled to the St. John Ambulance building in Mid-Levels to pick up a few plastic dummies for our First Aid course where I learned how to do basic CPR. The next day, I took part in the Beach Cleanup in Tuen Muen, then rode a Public Light Bus back home. Lastly, I attended the SFU Alumni Mixer at the Hong Kong Banker’s Club, where I listened to a lecture about AI and reconnected with an old classmate who was also in Hong Kong for a co-op term.

November

Yup, this month gets its own section. That’s how crazy it was. In fact, the Chamber attended 23 events in 22 business days, hosting or co-hosting 15 of them.

For me, the month started off with the New Chairman’s cocktail to welcome our newly-elected chairman, Todd Handcock. Held at the Vistra office in Lee Gardens, I had a chance to meet some of our members, many of which I had been emailing so it was nice to put a face to their names. Afterwards, most of the team went out to Lan Kwai Fong for a little night out.

I’m not sure if that was the best idea, however, because the interns and Events Manager had to be up early the next morning for the annual Terry Fox Run. I made it to the Renaissance College just in time though, and helped out with registration. After the run, I ended up taking a stroll by the water at the Ma On Shan Promenade. I got back to Tai Wai in the early-afternoon, so I took the chance to explore my neighbourhood as well.

The next day, I made the long-awaited train ride to Shenzhen for the first time since graduating high school in the city. I only made it as far as Luohu directly on the border, but it was nice to be back in the city in which I spent such a significant part of my life. Nostalgia is a funny thing though, because I definitely didn’t remember the foul stench of cigarette smoke that I encountered everywhere.

The weekend after was Remembrance Day, so I made my way down to The Cenotaph in Central to attend the ceremony. Afterwards, I went exploring, visiting the many landmarks in the area such as IFC, the Standard Chartered building, Prince’s Building, and more. What’s cool is that many of these buildings are connected through various skywalks, so pedestrians don’t even need to go outside to walk between them.

At work, I attended the Plastic Waste Crisis event held at the RBC office. During the set up, we delivered chairs and other equipment to the venue using a GoGoVan, which is basically Uber for cargo vans. Once we got there, I helped a little with IT but mostly sat back and watched as the panel discussed the current state of our oceans and environment.

Next, we visited another Canadian company, Thomson Reuters, to help host the Investing for Young Professionals event. Located in the ICBC building, the office had a great view of the famous Bank of China building. I was assigned to timekeep, but still got a chance to listen in and learn a little for myself.

On my way home after work, I took a quick detour to New Mandarin Plaza in TST to check out the Christmas lights. I visited the area in 2013 and took a picture of them then as well, so it made for a cool before/after shot. And let me tell you, phone cameras sucked back then.

You make like: When In Rome

The next week, I attended the CN event at the classy Foreign Correspondent’s Club in Central. Well, that was after walking around in circles after getting off the bus, and then climbing a billion stairs through a sketchy alleyway because the area is seriously confusing. It was worth it, however, for the hearty English breakfast. That wasn’t the end of my day, however, as I took a Public Light Bus with my manager to Cyberport for the Waterloo Velocity event.

The Final Stretch

After a long and busy November, I was very much looking forward to a slower last few weeks of my internship. Not to say it wasn’t fun (because it was), but it was nice to take some time and catch my breath.

The month started off great, with the Chamber’s President taking the team out for a dim sum lunch. Then, we celebrated my manager’s birthday with some cake and had an all-round lazy Friday. Over the weekend, I visited the TST side of Victoria Harbour and the Chi-Lin Nunnery (pictured above).

Afterwards, it was straight back to the Chamber Life, as we prepared for the Transpacific Entrepreneurial Conference held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC). That Monday, we got to the venue early to set up, then went to grab lunch at a nearby Hong Kong cafe before heading back. By the time the event was finished, it was dark which made for some great shots of the Hong Kong skyline. Later that week, I manned the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Booth at the annual Hong Kong SmartBiz Expo held again at the HKCEC.

Then came the big one: our Canada150 Celebration at Ocean Park. I hadn’t been to the Park since I was 11 years old, so this was huge for me. Getting there bright and early, I paid my dues by attending my scheduled shift before heading out the explore. Along the way, I had lunch with my fellow intern at a cliffside restaurant before taking the cable car to meet up with my parents. Later that night, I attended the lighting of the Christmas Tree and watched performances from the International School of Nanshan Shenzhen choir and Ocean Park Mascots.

It was a cold evening, and I got sick again.

The last week of my internship included an event hosting the Canadian Ambassador to China and our staff Christmas party in Kwun Tong. And after one more day of regular office work, the President brought the team out once again for a nice farewell lunch on the last day. It was a fun little celebration during which we reminisced about the past couple months.

Conclusion

Funny how things work out sometimes.

A few months before I applied for this position, I was in the middle of applying for Academic Exchange to City University of Hong Kong. I cancelled my application, however, because I was too scared to break out of my comfort zone. I mostly wanted to visit and immerse myself in the Hong Kong lifestyle for a little bit, but couldn’t bring myself to face the uncertainty of being unemployed afterwards. At that point, I was mostly resigned to the fact that if I were to visit the city anytime soon, it would have to be as a rushed two-week vacation.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that I was initially reluctant to even take the internship, even after I was offered the position. I knew it was going to be expensive, and I wasn’t entirely sure what impact the experience would make on my professional development.

But experiences are what you make them to be. It would have been easy to just sit back, do whatever I needed to do as an intern, and go home. But going in, I knew I wanted to do something that would be worth more than just four months of work.

So, I looked for opportunities to do more and to gain the experience I was looking for. In doing so, I stepped out of my role to learn tools such as Adobe Creative Suite, MailChimp, and X Themer to create front-facing brochures and information packages. I made an concerted effort to see and do as much as I could.

During my four months at the Chamber Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, I experienced many unforgettable moments, such as attending events at the Collier’s International office in Central Plaza, running around the city with a dolly full of chairs and catered canapes, and welcoming the Chief Executive of Hong Kong to our CE Luncheon.

Most of all, I had the chance to explore Hong Kong in a way I would have never gotten to do otherwise.