Once a Tourist, Now a Local

Between my graduation in the early summer of 2015 and my start at Kepler Cannon the following fall, I spent 2 months backpacking through Southeast Asia. I am a lover of travel and experiencing new places, peoples, cuisines, and cultures; I like to dive into a place and experience it in the fullest, which is why I chose to spend my “last summer” traveling an exotic part of the world, learning to cook the cuisine, drinking tea with locals, and sleeping in mountain villages. The end of my travels were bittersweet – sadness that such an amazing adventure was ending, but ecstatic to start my new journey at Kepler.

Little did I know that Kepler would offer me the ability to experience foreign lands in a way I never could have on my own.

My very first day on the job, one of the founding partners took me to a lovely outdoor lunch on a windy cobblestone street near our offices in New York City. Expecting a nonchalant introductory meal, only minutes into our conversation, I was told that I was already being placed on a project, and it would be in… Hong Kong!

Within weeks, I was on the sixteen hour flight over the Pacific, leaving the Big Apple for the Pearl of the Orient, and burgers in the Financial District for soup dumplings in Causeway Bay.

I got off the plane, showered, changed, had my first congee in the airport lounge, and headed straight to our client site (it was easy to find, as their name towered atop one of Hong Kong’s many skyscrapers). The ride from the airport to Hong Kong Island traversed long bridges, providing amazing views of lush green islands popping out of magnificent blue waters. I couldn’t believe that I was back in such a beautiful and different part of the world, and it was my job!

The bustling energy, heat, and humidity all reminded me of my summer travels, although the way I experienced the place was wholly different. There were the more striking changes from my experiences just a few weeks prior: I wore a suit instead of a tank top, stayed in a nice hotel rather than a $3/night hostel, and ate at Michelin star restaurants more often than off the street (if you ever find yourself in Hong Kong, go get the soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung and the pork buns at Tim Ho Wan – you won’t regret it). Though there were fewer beers and beaches than during my summer travels, the most amazing part of my adventure was what only Kepler could offer – the experience of living in Hong Kong, instead of merely traveling through it.

Working in Hong Kong allowed me the opportunity to experience the city like the locals do – taking the same trains, working in the same buildings, but most interestingly, partaking in the local economy and work culture. As such a uniquely international epicenter of business, working in Hong Kong is somewhat fundamental to having the true Hong Kong experience.

I sat side-by-side and worked with natives day in and day out; by doing so, I was able to learn about Hong Kong from the people themselves, through experience, observance, and conversation. Best of all, my job not only allowed me to pursue my love of learning about new cultures, but such learning was a crucial component of the work itself: as part of our strategic engagement with the CEO of a global 500 client, our work required coming to an in depth understanding of the local market and the people who comprise it, in order to best serve their unique needs and preferences.

I could never have imagined that I would enter the working world in such an incredible position.

Only a few months removed from years of studying in rural New Hampshire, I was splitting time between two of the most exciting, interesting, and fast-paced cities in the world. I was able to experience the joy of discovering a new country in a way that can only be done by living and working there. Trading in my backpack for a briefcase did not turn out to be such a stark change after all.