From Hong Kong to the UK: An international student finds her place through song

Durham University
Dani Leung feels strong emotions write the best music, so something good came out of her homesickness. Source: Dani Leung

Strong emotions write the best music. Homesickness is one of them, something Dani Leung felt acutely when she first moved from Hong Kong to attend Durham University International Study Centre in the UK this year. Now that she’s more settled down, she’s turning her experience into a song. Titled “Where I Belong”, it’s about Leung finding somewhere to fit into. “Trying to be strong, where do I truly belong?” Leung sings.

She’s grown to love her new home too, especially the streets of Durham, the street performers and the sheer confidence they exude to express their art publicly. The Cathedral is another one of her favourite spots because it’s huge and motivates her to do well in her studies. 

“I feel like I belong here in the UK because I came here to fulfill my dreams, but at the same time I feel like I don’t because I don’t fit in with the others,” Leung tells us. “So I wrote this song to ask where I belong.” Below we talk to this Durham University student about music, fitting in and her classes:

What made you choose to study abroad and at Durham University?

Music is actually not a popular subject in Hong Kong, so it lacks resources for me to study and find really good teachers. Additionally, the education system here in the UK is much less stressful than in Hong Kong. 

What made you choose to study music at Durham University? 

I chose music because I am really bad at expressing myself to others, so I write songs to express myself better. Writing songs is like writing diaries, there’s so much to tell and to let people know. 


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To me, music is like a language. We all come from different countries, but somehow when we listen to other language’s music, I can feel the singer’s emotions. 

What do you like most about studying at Durham University and the UK?

The UK is a really big country compared to Hong Kong, they don’t have high buildings with noisy cars running around all day (outside of London). The air is fresh here and it makes me feel relaxed. Everyday when I look up to the sky, I get motivated and inspired.

Walk us through your process of making music. Where do you get inspiration from?

The process of making music is not easy, sometimes I get stressed out just because I don’t have a good theme. The inspiration comes from the story of my life, what I have been through, and the most important and upsetting or happiest moments in my life. Most of my songs are like diary entries, containing my inner feelings and telling a story. 

What has been your most memorable experience outside of Durham University?

Meeting new friends, living together and spending a lot of time together. Since all of us are from different countries, it’s interesting to share our cultures with each other. We even make food from our home countries to enjoy together. 

Tell me about your hometown. If I came to visit you, where in your hometown would you take me?

Hong Kong is a really small city, but a packed one. People there are stressed and rush around everyday. But Hong Kong is famous for good snacks and really good food, and even though it’s a dense city. “The Peak” is a perfect hiking spot to admire the wonderful landscape of Hong Kong. 

Have you explored the UK? What’s stood out for you thus far?

Not really because of COVID-19 restrictions, but I did get to go to Newcastle. It’s a really big city, and they even have a lot of Chinese supermarkets and stores. I also went to the beautiful Whitley Bay where I enjoyed walking by the sea. 

Durham University

To Leung, writing music is very personal, like writing in your diary. Source: Dani Leung

What’s the local food in Hong Kong like? 

Local food in Hong Kong is really good, my favourite food in Hong Kong is rice noodle. In Hong Kong, they have this really popular brand called “Tam Jai” that everyone there loves. My least favourite food there would be stinky tofu — true to the name, it stinks. 

What is one thing you miss from Hong Kong, and how do you substitute it?

I miss the food from Hong Kong, which is why I go to Chinese supermarkets to buy the ingredients and make the food myself. 

What advice do you have for international students looking to start a new chapter in the UK?

Meet more people who don’t come from the same place as yourself. It’s interesting making friends from all over the globe. Cherish being in the UK as not everyone has a chance to go there to study. Make the best use out of your new chapter, work on improving yourself by setting goals and go for your dreams. Don’t give up!