"While I was in school, I found an opportunity to study abroad in Hong Kong for a semester, so I jumped on it. I got things set up so that I was in a good position to have a good time and be pretty financially strong. Once there, though, I lost my discipline and ended up spending a lot of money very quickly – clothes, travelling, and especially going out with newfound friends. I was crazy in love with my girlfriend back in the US, so I had her visit for a week, paying for half of her airfare and hotel.
So, of course, about halfway through my 6 month visit, I was so far overspent that I only had a few hundred dollars to cover all my expenses for my last few months. And, having a student visa, I was barred from any employment. I fell pretty hard into depression. I couldn’t leave the dorm room for much, since I needed to conserve energy and money, so I became a sort of internet hermit for a few months. I lost a lot of weight from malnutrition and was experiencing other symptoms. I was definitely not healthy, either physically or psychologically. And in my depression, I let my relationship deteriorate heavily, leading to its end. It was a pretty awful time.
Eventually, I did make it through. When I got back home, I started classes up and got a job, started working out and bounced back physically and mentally. But the psychological part really hurt me, taking me years to resolve. I think that coming to NYC was a pretty big milestone in that recovery – it was sort of me proving to myself that I was able to survive out on my own in a new and difficult environment. Being here for two years now has reunited me with a part of me I think I left in Hong Kong."- Stephen Sweat