An extract of an experience whilst studying abroad written by Charlotte Brill

Everyone tells you before you embark on a year abroad that you are going to have many amazing experiences, most of which you will remember for the rest of your life. I expected such experiences to consist of food, temples, beaches and a being part of a whole other culture. I never expected that I would sit through Super Typhoon Mangkhut, which held a level 10 hurricane warning and a red rainstorm warning for 10 hours on at the start of my year.

Prior to the Storm there were mixed feelings about how severely Hong Kong would be hit as we all gingerly tracked the progress of Mangkhut on the Hong Kong Observatory information page.

My roommate, Scarlett Zhou, who is from mainland China told me that it wasn’t until she spoke to a local student that she started to take the storm seriously as typhoons often hit her home city in China, but they are never very bad.

Across campus, taped crosses were appearing on all the large windows. This coupled with numerous emails informing us of all the precautionary measures, emphasising that we do not go outside to ‘experience’ the winds as we would be hit by flying debris, intensified the reality that a dangerous storm was imminent.

Knowing that we would not be able to leave our homes we all stocked up on food, mainly countless pot noodles which we seemed to be living off anyway! The shop on campus was emptied as everyone prepared for the worst.

It became clear that Mangkhut had reached national news when we all started to receive notifications from our friends and family concerned about our welfare, in what was meant to be the worst storm to hit Hong Kong, and Macau, in over 50 years. The father of  another Sussex student was so concerned that he paid for her to fly to Kuala Lumpur to avoid the adverse weather that was on its way.

It felt surreal to be part of the news, and the chaos, rather than following it safely from a distance. I woke up to howling winds, beats of rain against my window and the trees taking an absolute battering.

The Hong Kong Observatory reported maximum winds of 121mph, marking Mangkhut the worst typhoon to hit Hong Kong since 1979. Moreover, water levels rose phenomenally, by almost 3.5m in places, bursting banks and causing flooding; the casinos in neighbouring Macau were ordered to shut for the first time due to severe floods.

It was very lucky that Hong Kong did not take a direct hit, with Mangkhut travelling 100km south of the Island. I cannot fathom the devastation Hong Kong would have faced if it had been much closer.

Once the Typhoon warnings had been reduced to a Number 3 warning signal, and after a full day stuck in our dorms, it was safe to go outside and see the devastation that Mangkhut had caused on campus. All classes were suspended due to road blockages caused by felled trees, which most of us students would claim to be a perk of the storm!

On my way to the train station most paths were blocked by felled trees, branches and leaves scattered across the whole campus. Furthermore, glass had been shattered, signs pulled from the concrete and at least one door had been ripped off its hinges. The MTR (Mass Transit Railway system) was chaotic getting to Central Hong Kong due to obstructions on the lines; there were crowd control measures and heavy delays.

Despite the sound of the wind, and the fear that a tree would hit and smash our window, overall, the storm was not as scary as we thought it would be. It seems that the University, and Hong Kong in general, was prepared with warnings and precautions being sent out well in advance.

Another Sussex student, Cairo Williams, stated that the build-up was much scarier than when it actually hit, especially since shops had been ransacked and masking tape (used for the windows) had long sold out.

We appreciated that we were very lucky to have been in decent housing and are now all safe. It will be a slow process to clear all the damage and debris in Hong Kong, but the country has not hesitated in getting back on its feet, with everyday life resuming very soon after the storm subsided.

An interesting weekend to say the least but I can say that all the Sussex Students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong are alive and well. Bring on the rest of our exchange, but no more scary typhoons please.

Charlotte Brill studies Anthropology at Sussex University and is currently on a year abroad studying at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Be sure to pick up the next edition in the Badger, where the travel and culture team will be featuring a spread specifically on studying abroad; the highs, the lows, multiple guest writers and all the reasons why it will be one of the best experiences of your life.

Don’t miss talks hosted by the team from the study abroad office hosting across campus in the coming weeks for all the information you’ll need.

Categories: Culture Travel

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