And so ends the 16-day journey that is GBS 2017. For me, the second time around as student leader was just as rewarding as the first. I came in with two primary goals: to guide the team in bonding as closely as possible and to share the unparalleled experiences that I had had on the trip last year. Reflecting on these two weeks and the semester leading up to them, I am content to say that I have met those two goals.
When Dr. Eke asked me to take on this role at the end of the trip last year, I was on the fence and did not think much of it. I could not have imagined at the time how much this experience as student leader could have helped me personally mature. Though there were moments of frustration, I do not regret the decision one bit. From these mere two weeks, I can certainly say that I have improved in group planning and conflict resolution between multiple parties, among other critical skills.
What really surprises me the most, this year and the last, is just how close a diverse group of students like us can become. We came in from different majors, experiences, and backgrounds. Some of us could speak Cantonese fluently, while others had never even been previously outside of North America. By the end of the trip, we were 14 peas in a (long) pod, hoping to forever hold onto this bond. Truly, I don’t think I’ve ever shared so much laughter in two weeks.
I will sincerely miss Hong Kong. Having been there a total of nearly ten months over the past three years, this city has felt a bit like home (or at least a close friend’s home) to me. Reflecting on what really makes Hong Kong so special, I realize that it has been because every time I am there, I have been with some of the most amazing people a friend could ask for. Now going into senior year and then (hopefully) medical school after that, it fills me with bittersweet tears to think that I may not get a similar chance to return for a while.
At the same time, I am anxious and curious to find out who ends up stepping up to the plate to return next year on the GBS 2018 trip as team leader. It is a neat moment at the end of the trip when everyone says their farewells, but there is at least one person, yet to be determined, for whom it is not yet truly goodbye with PolyU, MS Wong, Alex Kee, Aaron Leung, and the other Hong Kong correspondents. By the end of the trip, no one really feels at this moment that they would be themselves ready to take on the role of student leader. But, having been through this process, I believe earnestly that everyone on the team is so exceptionally talented and would be more than qualified to lead, should the interest be there to do so.
In the end, I would like to give a few quick shout-outs. First, to Chambrel Jones, who has so kindly volunteered to be our Penn faculty leader and correspondent, keeping us together and safe. Second, to Alex Kee, our Hong Kong TA, who dedicates these two weeks every year to take us wherever we need to go, without whom we would be lost and stranded. Finally, a shout-out to Rohit Shinde, the best roommate one could ask for. Honestly, some nights Rohit and I would just laugh and talk for hours before going to sleep, about absolutely anything.
So long, GBS!