I never planned to do a gap year, but here I am in Hong Kong having the time of my life! When I first arrived in this alien city I was scared, frightened and alone. Now I have more friends than I ever thought was possible!

It all started on 10th September when I set off for Hong Kong possessing little knowledge of the world I was entering. I was met by the people I now work for who were fantastic and put me at ease straight away. Over the next few days I was introduced to another seventy westerners, who were also working for the same company as me. We now all live together in the same apartment block in Hong Kong.

Two weeks later I began teaching in a primary school. The children are amazing. When I first arrived they made me feel like a famous pop star. They huddled around us at break times and asked us to sign pieces of paper for them. My teaching partner and I were the first Westerners they had seen in their school, so this was all very exciting for them. Teaching the children can sometimes prove difficult as their standard of English can be very low and my Cantonese is non-existent. But the work I do is very rewarding. The children run to my classroom and after only five seconds after the bell has rung they are sitting in their sits eager to start. They find me very interesting and questions about my life are constant.

The Chinese culture can be very different in some ways. The Chinese people can appear very rude: please and sorry do not seem to exist in their language! I have learnt a lot about other cultures during my time here and I certainly look at the world with a new perspective. I have also learnt not to look shocked at the Chinese people's very blunt comments!

The best thing about my Gap year is all the travelling I have been able to do. I recently visited the Philippines and was amazed by the country. They are so poor, yet are the nicest people I have ever met and they are always willing to go out of their way to help you. Next week I am flying to Sydney for a two-week break. I am very lucky to be so close to these places, making travel cheap and easy. My months here haven't all been a bed of roses. Money is tight at the best of times, seeing a doctor takes all day and bad days at school can leave you in tears. But I would not change my experience for anything. With some of the best nightlife in the world and more shops than you could dream off; Hong Kong is a fantastic place to live. With trips to Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos planned for the near future, how can a girl complain?

Alice Holden
North Point, Hong Kong.