Kung Hei Fat Choy!! Happy Chinese New Year!
(And a very belated one)
It’s a few days past the end of Chinese New Year and officially a year since I first traveled to Hong Kong. Last January, I was right in the middle of the hubbub, haggling in the markets for Year of the Snake decorations to put in the apartment and picking out elaborate cards to send to family and friends. Now, as we welcome the Year of the Horse, I am back sitting in my dorm at school sending Chinese New Year e-cards to my future employers, who live in Hong Kong. Yes, that means I am moving to Hong Kong after graduation. A lot has changed in the past year!
Last January, I had no job and would never have expected to be moving to Hong Kong, a city where they speak the wrong type of Chinese (Cantonese, really?!) and everyone’s mannerisms are more British than Chinese (which makes sense as a previously British colony). I had an informal interview with the company I will now be working for while I was there, and because I didn’t pack any formal interview-appropriate clothing for my vacation, I remember cobbling together a not-so-impressive outfit of sandals, a sun dress, and my older sister’s blazer thrown on top.
I met them in their office and was flabbergasted to find that you could see the mountains and the ocean right through their office windows. Definitely beats the cubicle life.
I was even brought a cup of tea as I waited. And I don’t mean that Lipton stuff, I mean real and true, loose-leaf Chinese tea. YUM!! The tea aficionado in me immediately gave them bonus points for that. The informational interview was helpful and as I shook the CEO’s hand at the end, he said to me, “be sure to apply here after graduation!” As I walked out of his office, not even a 2nd semester junior at this point, the last thing I wanted to think about was where I was going to work full-time, let alone consider moving to a different country, so I didn’t think much of his suggestion at the time. Two years was too far away.
But somehow things have a way of working out. I took an internship that summer with a finance group in New York and upon realizing that the internship only went until August 2nd, and school didn’t start until September 3rd, I decided I would do something fun with my extra month of summer. Visions of traveling and exploring came to mind, but when I randomly received a LinkedIn request from the Hong Kong company’s CEO in May, months after my informational interview with him and having had no contact with him since then, I had a flash of bravery and sent him a message on whim, asking if I could go to Hong Kong to intern for him for the month of August, even though they didn’t have an internship program. Despite the 12 hour time difference and having messaged him at what was very late-night his time, he responded within an hour, cc-ing the other partners of his firm and attaching a contract right off the bat. People in Hong Kong are nothing if not efficient! To be honest, I had been willing to use all my New York-earned money just to put myself over there and get some international experience, but they offered me a salary for the month and covered my flights there and back!
I finished my New York internship on a Friday, flew to Hong Kong that Saturday, arrived there late Sunday night, and started work bright and early Monday morning. On the way back, I did the same, flying back the night before classes started. Exhausting, yes, but that additional month helped me find the company I want to work for and the city I want to live in.
Now, I am back at Harvard for my final semester of school, studying for the CFA to take in June (for my job) and once again taking Chinese classes (haven’t done that in 2 years). Maybe not the best class choice for a spring semester senior, seeing as I must trek to the far away Chinese department building 5 days a week for class to discuss topics I can barely voice an opinion on in English— Discuss your views on the Chinese insurance market for 15 minutes, ready go. Discuss a recent M&A deal— but I am happy with the end result. I’m moving to Hong Kong after graduation and am so very excited.