Manson Tung looks back at the Hong Kong skyline from the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade.

TUNG’S TRAVEL JOURNAL: How a summer abroad taught me to do more with less

At the end of my Summerbridge experience, I went to see my dean of faculty Jason Kim, for a friend/wrap-up interview visit. He asked me a simple question: What did you learn at Summerbridge? It was a one-sentence question, but the answer could fill a couple tomes.

Junior Manson Tung taught at Hong Kong Summerbridge from June 21-Aug. 15. This is his final blog.

First is the obvious. I learned how to be a teacher, and all the many facets that come along with it. (Read my last blog if you want a more in-depth explanation.)

But I also learned some other life lessons this summer.

I now understand the value of money. Prior to Summerbridge, I would plunk down $500 HKD ($80 USD) for a nice dinner with my friends without thinking. But seeing how hard it is to earn that same amount of money—the blood, sweat and tears that goes into making a project successful—has made me rethink my calculus.

I also learned just how privileged I am. Growing up at Country Day, spontaneous weekend vacations to the Bay Area, Tahoe, or even Los Angeles seem fairly normal. Country Day students—in fact, Americans in general—are accustomed to a very high standard of living. But being in Hong Kong and getting to know real Hong Kongers (not the Peak jet set) have shown me that I need to value the things I am privileged enough to own. Not only that, but it is my duty to spread the luck that I was blessed with around.

Living in Hong Kong, on the other hand, has shown me that I can do more with less. The average Hong Kong apartment is already minuscule—some apartments called “cage homes” are the size of a king-sized mattress or smaller—and, in comparison, my aunt’s apartment is large. (It is considered a hoe ztauk, or a McMansion, which is why one should always buy homes at the heights of avian flu epidemics.)

But it was tiny for a person used to American-sized living. Sacramento may not be Texas, but it might as well be for comparison’s sake. It turns out that in Hong Kong anything bigger than 900 sq. feet, even if five people share the same home, is considered mansion-sized. On public transportation, anyone taller than 5’11 has to duck their heads repeatedly across the city.

But what you lose in space, you make up for in convenience. Within a quarter of a mile from my aunt’s apartment were five massive shopping centers the size of Arden Fair Mall, as well as any cuisine my stomach desired.

This summer has taught me that I do not need a big house to make myself happy.

These are all material lessons. But I discovered a different more philosophical one.

My students taught me that no matter what situation is happening in your life—no matter what is going wrong or will go wrong, no matter how unhappy you are—if you look on the positive side and try your hardest, something amazing will happen. They carried this spirit through the city, and passed it along to me.

So as I sit in the Taipei Airport lounge, wondering how did I spend my summer and what lessons did I learn from it, I try not to think of the sadness of leaving my students—or leaving my Asia-based family.

Instead I will get on this last leg of my journey and take with me all the happy memories and life-long lessons that I’ve learned this summer.



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