This post was written by Emily Labattaglia, a member of our 2016 summer cohort in Hong Kong.
It’s unusual to reveal the reasoning for a story’s title at the very beginning. However, if I could truly encapsulate my experience this past summer in one word, it is endless. Although summer has come to an end, and we’re all well into another year of classes, what I’ve learned and experienced this past summer will stick with me forever. I call it the endless summer, for many reasons of which I am about to dive into.
I embarked on this journey to Hong Kong with an open mind, an eager heart, and an ambition and passion to see more and do more. What I came back with is more than words can adequately express. With Sage Corps, I was given two obvious opportunities: 1) to immerse myself in the startup scene and 2) to experience a different culture and what it’s like to live in a city abroad.
However, with these two obvious opportunities and the right perspective on things come endless opportunities. At my startup, Steel Available, I worked alongside the CEO and two co-founders on a daily basis. I learned the ins and outs of launching a startup - their struggles, milestones, successes, and failures. I was given a great deal of responsibility, and really felt that I had complete ownership of my projects and it was my company too. It’s definitely exciting and made me want to go to work each day and check the next tasks off of my to do list. There were even nights that I stayed later in the office just because I wanted to, the environment was energetic yet comforting. My startup was based in an accelerator and co-working space called Blueprint. Being surrounded by high-energy, motivated, entrepreneurs and hearing their stories truly instilled in me a sense of determination and a feeling that I could do anything I put my mind and energy to. There were always other entrepreneurs next to me with the same mission. My experience led me to realize and value the importance of the people by my side. My bosses became my friends. It was a sad farewell, especially after a summer filled of team bonding activities such as squash, swimming, family dinners, sushi and sake, and even karaoke!
So at the end of the work days, I would make the 15 minute walk back home. And there is nothing more exhilarating than walking on unexplored streets, hearing people speak a language you don’t know, and seeing signs you can’t read. You’re opened up to worlds you don’t know and haven’t yet explored, and it pushes you to keep learning and experiencing. Hong Kong is rich in culture, food, and geography. We would spend the weekdays working and the weeknights exploring the city, meeting new people, and eating delicious food. The city is home to cuisines from all over the world, but my favorite was definitely going out for dim sum and eating xiaolongbao (soup dumplings)! On the weekends, we were hiking mountains and riding speed boats to secret beaches. Hong Kong is an extremely diverse city - in people and geography. I encountered people from all over the world, speaking many languages. It’s a buzzing city with endless things to do and see, but then there is beautiful untouched nature close by. A break from the bustling city is only a subway or ‘minibus’ ride away, and you’re in a beach paradise or at the beginning of a challenging hike to the top of Hong Kong.
The combination of being abroad and working at a startup makes for a powerful one. You are exposed to unfamiliarities that force you to exit your comfort zone. It’s being faced with trying new foods, learning new customs, networking with people from across the world, and seeing breathtaking sites and views that give you the sense of motivation and inspiration. The intangibles I learned from my experience with Sage Corps has taught me endless lessons and opened up endless possibilities for my future. I can’t wait to see what’s next.