Connected during quarantine: Students flourish in Notre Dame’s exchange programs with Hong Kong universities

Author: Colleen Wilcox

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This spring, two University of Notre Dame students arrived in Hong Kong to start their semester abroad. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Notre Dame undergraduates participated in exchange programs with the University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

As part of the program, they had to quarantine for three weeks due to the COVID-19 guidelines in Hong Kong. Crystal Lin, an accounting major studying at the University of Hong Kong, and Colin McKechney, a computer science major studying at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, were up for the challenge and vowed to take advantage of their mandatory three-week quarantine.

The director of the Hong Kong Global Center, Catherine Leung, wanted to do more than just supply the students with essential needs and send movie and book recommendations. Leung called on the local alumni in Hong Kong to serve as mentors and connect to the students virtually. She also helped connect the students to online language programs.

“I wanted them to make the most of their time in quarantine, even though they’re experiencing the city of Hong Kong at its quietest moment,” says Leung.

“In a sense, the restrictions and unexpected circumstances forced them to grow and adapt to a new culture and country.”

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Leung says the students were committed to studying in Hong Kong, despite the government’s quarantine requirements.

For McKechney, the experience allowed him to connect with the Notre Dame community and local students in a unique way.

“My time in quarantine allowed me to meet several very interesting people whom I still talk to today,” he says.

“The fact that most of the city closed allowed the other exchange students and I at HKUST to meet each other and get to know each other better.”

Lin says the experience taught her a lesson on flexibility.

“I knew when I chose Hong Kong that things wouldn’t always be easy,” she says. “However, with the restrictions in place, I was able to focus on my responsibilities on campus and my new courses in Hong Kong.”

Once she was able to connect with her new classmates, she spent a lot of time hiking and getting to know students from all over the world. McKechney enjoyed getting out of quarantine in time to celebrate his first Chinese New Year in Hong Kong surrounded by his newfound Notre Dame family.

“I take immense pride in how these students stood with Hong Kong during one of its most difficult times in history,” concludes Leung.

Learn more about opportunities in Hong Kong.

Originally published by Colleen Wilcox at on March 02, 2022.