When I left China after a year of calling it home, I never would have guessed that less than a year later, I would be back. Thanks to a spring break opportunity provided by an internationally minded school like NYU Law, I returned to the other side of the world before I had truly re-acclimated to Western culture.
The Asian Law Society (ALS), a student organization at NYU Law, offers law students the chance to take a spring break trip to a different Asian city each year. The trips are heavily subsidized by generous donations from large U.S.- and U.K.-based firms with international offices. Past ALS delegations have traveled to Tokyo, Beijing, and Shanghai. This year’s destination was Hong Kong, a city I had frequented while living across the mainland border in Shenzhen, where I was inspiring the youth of China to learn conversational English.
Fifteen NYU Law students made the thirty-hour round-trip journey in mid-March this year. Our experience with Asia varied from those with years of work experience, to those who were native or had family in the region, to students who had studied abroad, and finally to some who had no exposure whatsoever, but had a strong curiosity in the culture and learning about practicing law in Asia.
While other law students spent spring break lying on beaches or preparing outlines for exams (or both, for those talented enough to multitask), we spent the week visiting offices, attending information sessions, and having lunches or dinners with firms, government agencies, and non-profit organizations, in consideration of our potential future careers in Asia. All of the firms with whom we spoke emphatically told us that economic growth had led Hong Kong to become the financial center of the world. A bold statement to make to a group of New Yorkers, yet everything we heard or saw only supported this declaration.
Our week was not all work and meetings. Our fearless trip leaders, Julia Tong and Gabe Lopez, made sure to schedule plenty of social excursions, involving hot pot dinners, the Big Buddha on Lantau Island, dim sum lunches, the horse races, late-night dumplings, street markets in Kowloon, fresh seafood on Lamma Island, and a night of clubbing before boarding the plane to throw our sleep schedules off all over again.
While I am still not sure if living in Asia long-term is a part of my career goals, I cannot imagine a more worthwhile way to have spent my spring break than exploring the possibility.