Tuesday, April 18, 2017

HNC’s Multicultural Interest Group: Bringing a Platform for Diversity to the HNC

The first time I studied abroad in mainland China was in 2013 when I moved to from New York City to Xi’an. One of the things that I noticed from the very beginning of my study abroad experience in Xi’an was that every time a person asked me where I was from, he or she would find it hard to believe that a person with brown skin, black hair, and dark brown eyes could possibly be from America. I could not fully comprehend why this belief was common in China until I was exposed to mainstream media which depicts almost all Americans as white. The more time I spent in China, the more encounters I had with people who held this idea. For someone who, for almost all his life, grew up in one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse cities in the world, I felt as if the movies, T.V. shows, and social media in China were not doing justice to the America I have experienced.

It was not until I arrived at the HNC that I had the chance to meet other American students of color who shared a similar experience in China and felt that a platform to showcase the diversity at HNC, including that of America, was needed. The more conversations that I would have with students about their diverse backgrounds, the more I felt inspired to create this platform. When my first semester at HNC came to an end, I began to brainstorm on the different possibilities that an interest group could be organized to project the diversity at the HNC. From the very beginning, I knew that racial/ethnic minorities in the US would be one of the topics that I wanted to pursue. Other topics included LGBTQIA+ topics and different cuisine from around the world. However, more importantly, I wanted the weekly meeting to also reflect the diversity at HNC and engage the group in activities that would not only allow it to gain a deeper understanding of different cultures, but to engage Chinese and international students at the same time.

The brainstorming process led me to ask help from my peers at HNC and, after asking for advice from several people, I finalized a list of topics and activities which encompassed the wide range of the diversity at the HNC. The first meeting focused on the showing of the movie Moonlight which won an Oscar for best picture earlier this year. The first discussion, albeit included a small group of students at HNC, touched upon many themes and issues relevant the movie’s intersectional exposition of both the Black and LGBTQIA+ community in America. One of the more inspiring moments of this discussion was the courage demonstrated by students, both Chinese and international, who shared personal and unique stories as a way of relating to the themes and issues explored by the award-winning movie.

Following the heartening and uplifting discussion brought about by Moonlight, the second Multicultural Interest Group meeting “Chinese Oral History” was held in the mode of a forum. For this meeting, I invited Professor Hua and Professor Liu who currently teach at the HNC to talk about their experiences in China as individuals. The perspectives brought by these two Nanjing natives were enlightening and very informational. Professor Hua, who lived nearby where HNC stands today, talked about some of his memories while living on the Nanjing University campus such as the pig farm predating the HNC’s existence among other periods of time such as the Cultural Revolution and the opening of China in the 1980s. Meanwhile, Professor Liu shared his memories in four categories which included the different changes in 食衣住行 (or food, clothing, housing, and transportation). Professor Liu shared some of his fondest memories related to these categories such as the arrival of the fast food industry to Nanjing and the first time he ate his first burger at KFC and drank soda as a child. While both scholars provided unique perspectives through their oral histories, they nonetheless hoped for a continuously peaceful China in the future. One of the most exciting parts of this discussion was the number of students who attended, the stories shared by the Chinese students about their family histories, and the thought provoking questions that were asked to the professors.

Recently, the Multicultural Interest Group met this past Tuesday, April 11 to discuss the topic “Racial/Ethnic Minorities in the US” and view a documentary titled “Race Relations in America.” This meeting was attended by many students and HNC’s diversity allowed for Asian, Latino, and Black Americans to discuss their unique experiences in the US as representatives of their racial/ethnic groups. Some of the topics touched upon were racism, diasporas, living in China as an ethnic/racial minority from the US, stereotypes, the Chinese perspective on race relations in the US, the definition of race, etc. Although this meeting was supposed to last one hour and a half, the long discussions of different topics/issues added a whole hour to the meeting!

Without a doubt the Multicultural Interest Group started out very strong this semester. The platform shared by both Chinese and international classmates/faculty has created a more inclusive environment for those interested in learning more about the goldmine of diversity at HNC. The interest group will continue its mission of creating mutual understanding and greater tolerance with the upcoming planned events which include: a potluck dinner, a discussion on LGBTQIA+ issues/topics, Afro-beats dance session, and more to come. All in all, this group has not only allowed me to showcase the America that, for some us, is not necessarily just white. At the same time, the Multicultural Interest Group has allowed me and other HNC students to further understand other cultures and learn from others’ stories, experiences, and perspectives, allowing us to embrace the differences that make each of us unique.

Written by Christian Flores, MAIS 2018

Thursday, April 6, 2017

HNC Alumni Profile: Matt Ferchen

Matt Ferchen, HNC Certificate 2001, reflects back on his time at the HNC and his experience working as a Professor of International Relations at Tsinghua University.  

Tell us about your current role.
I was the first foreign professor to join the International Relations faculty at Tsinghua and am still the only foreign professor there. I am also a resident scholar at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, where I run the China and the Developing World Program. My own research focuses on governance of China's urban informal economy, debates about the "China model" of development, and relations between China and Latin America.

How did your experience at the HNC prepare you for this work?
Something that I think a lot about in my own teaching and research is that, when I was at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, there was an emphasis on US-China relations and that's still important. But in the past 15 years, China's role in the world has expanded dramatically. I think for a program like the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, but also others including my own program at Tsinghua, this expansion from a primary focus on US-China relations needs to continue, and I think this has been recognized. This requires that faculty, students, and administrators all think about the complex world that China increasingly influences and is influenced by.

What was your most memorable moment when you were at the HNC?

I had a lot of interesting discussions with my Chinese roommate at HNC...I remember that he came back from class one day and said...."Today we learned about different theoretical perspectives in international relations: realism, liberalism, Marxism and constructivism." So then we had a really interesting discussion about how these different perspectives could be used to understand some current event, and he said "But, Matt, which one of them is accurate? Which one is correct?" My roommate's search for a correct answer was, I think, a sign of a cultural difference between the Chinese and American students. This can still be a challenge for me in some of my teaching today, as I often have both Chinese and American students in my class at the same time.

Do you have any advice for current or future students at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?

The Hopkins-Nanjing Center provides a natural environment for American students to interact with their Chinese classmates and teachers, and to understand Chinese perspectives--whether it's history, relations between the US and China, or domestic challenges in China. It's a mix of students learning from each other and their teachers, on substantive topics. And you're learning from them in their native language...It's difficult to reproduce that kind of interaction, even in the many other programs proliferating around China. This is something that the Hopkins-Nanjing Center does in a way that is still unique after all these years and it's really important for both Chinese and international students.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Internships and Summer Jobs at the HNC

Finding the right job, and the right direction for a career path, is a serious consideration for students and can often be a somewhat stress-inducing topic. Luckily, though studying and classes are a priority at the HNC, there are also extensive opportunities to get real-world experience and prepare for entering the job market.

One of the busiest offices at the HNC is Career Services, led by the multi-talented Robbie Shields. Robbie, Student Career Counselor, provides students with guidance from organizing resumes, composing cover letters, to preparing for interviews. It was through a visit to Career Services last semester that I first learned of the internship I will be doing this summer, a research position with the Congressional Executive Committee on China in Washington, D.C.

HNC and SAIS students visit Amazon in China on last year's Beijing Career Trek held each spring.
Not only are there opportunities for summer internships, but many HNC students also take on part-time intern positions during the school year. Many of my classmates also stay busy interning businesses right here in Nanjing. On days she doesn’t have class, my friend Ruonan interns for a company in Chervon, a company with headquarters in the city. She was introduced to Chervon during a company visit organized by HNC Career Services. Another recent company visit was done by Apple, with representatives conducting interviews on campus for summer internship positions and openings in their China headquarters.

Holidays are a great time to do an internship. In addition to summer break we also have a long winter holiday during Chinese New Year, a time when many Chinese businesses are understaffed due to employees returning home to visit family. During his winter holiday, my classmate John worked for an investment management company in Shenzhen, writing reports, in Chinese, on future market prospects for products in China.

One of the many useful pieces of advice that I’ve received from Robbie, Student Career Counselor, is to cast a wide net when going on a job search, and apply to many jobs in your area of interest. With the amount of job opportunities and internships made accessible to HNC students, the most important decision is usually what kinds of positions to focus your energy on pursuing and applying to. Interning is a great way to get real-life experience that can make you more hirable in the future, while exploring different fields that you’re interested in.

Written by Amanda Bogan, MAIS '18

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Interview with MAIS Student Christian Flores

Christian Flores is a first year HNC Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS) student from Queens, New York. Christian desires to work in the Foreign Service and obtain a PhD. He is involved in HNC’s Book Club and Hit Workout group on campus. He also started the bilingual Multicultural Interest Group, which explores the student diversity of HNC. Previous events have included Chinese oral histories, led by two Chinese professors, and a discussion on the movie Moonlight. Read below for Christian’s journey to HNC, advice on the MAIS thesis process and advice on preparing for studying at the HNC.

How has your background influenced your study at the HNC?
I was born in Ecuador and immigrated to the United States at a very young age. I grew up in a bilingual household where we used both Spanish and English mainly because my father spoke limited English. My parents encouraged me to pursue programs in school that were bilingual, especially Spanish programs. This encouragement eventually led me to study Chinese in high school and then partake in the Chinese Flagship Program during undergrad. The Flagship program is a U.S. government sponsored language program that aims to make students fluent in Chinese after four years. When I started studying Chinese, I saw a lot of cultural similarities between Ecuador and China. Emphasis on family and children taking care of their parents as they get older were aspects of Chinese culture that I could relate to the Ecuadorian part of my culture. This lens on viewing China still impacts me today.

Why did you choose the HNC?
Throughout my undergraduate experiences in China, I gained a passion for Chinese language and society. When I graduated from college, I began to think of programs that would meet these interests. During Flagship, HNC representatives often came to talk to students about the graduate programs they offered. Since HNC combined the skills and knowledge I needed for my career pursuit, I applied for the program. Meanwhile, I started working in the private sector as a translation project manager. I was a liaison between clients and translators, which meant that I checked English to Chinese and Spanish translations to make sure they were impeccable before they were sent back to clients. This kept up my interest in Chinese while I waited to hear back from HNC.

However, when I received my HNC acceptance, I didn’t make my decision until I received the Boren Fellowship. The Boren Fellowship is a U.S. government program that sponsors American students to study critical languages. After completing a Masters program, they require minimal years of service in the U.S. State Department. The combo package of HNC and the Boren Fellowship was enough to satisfy my career-oriented outlook. Both are helping me achieve my goals of becoming a Foreign Service Officer and obtaining a PhD.

HNC Students partake in Chinese Oral Histories led by Chinese professors during the Multicultural Interest Group earlier this week. Christian calls it a platform that showcases and celebrates the diversity within HNC through both Chinese and English.
How did you pick your MAIS thesis topic?  
I decided to base my thesis topics off of something I really liked. As an undergraduate, I studied International Political Economy (IPE), which is a very interesting realm within international relations. For the Boren fellowship, I wrote about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) which is an international organization established by China in 2013. It’s new and the U.S. is unsure about the prospects of the organization in Asia. Since I took an IPE course during my first semester at HNC, my interest in the AIIB increased. After speaking with my advisor, I decided to write a thesis on the future of the AIIB by looking at the circumstances for success or failure. I will mostly focus on comparative research on China’s past experiences with foreign direct investment. This summer I have to do a lot of reading!

How did you choose your MA thesis advisor?
During the first semester, HNC encouraged us to begin thinking about choosing an advisor that taught in our target language. So I decided to explore and take a lot of courses. During my first semester, I took 6 classes, 3 courses in Chinese and 3 courses in English. The English courses were very writing intensive and interactive while the Chinese courses had two types. Traditional Chinese classes typically include the professor lecturing for an hour and a half in front of the classroom. He may or may not ask questions about the readings in class but requires students to understand the information. The other style for Chinese classrooms at HNC is more liberal with a lot more reading-based discussion and intensive sessions.

Fortunately, I took an IPE course instructed in Chinese and tried my best to do well and stay engaged in the coursework. At the end of the semester, the professor took our class out to dinner. After I discussed with him about IPE and the AIIB during dinner, I asked him to be my advisor right then and there.

What’s your advice for prospective HNC students?

Advice for Choosing an Advisor
The key begins with building a relationship. Start as early as possible and get to know the professor a little bit more. Go to office hours and talk to them to see if both of your research interests match up. Stop by other professor’s office hours to ask for advice and talk about interests as well. You could choose an advisor from a class you didn’t take. If you have an interest in your concentration, which you choose in your first semester, make sure you take courses in your concentration during that period.

Advice for Chinese Language Preparation
  • Take a language intensive course in the summer before HNC. It’s a productive way to spend your summer as opposed to doing an internship. You’ll have a lot of opportunity to take internships when you come to China. A language program helps you refresh vocabulary, learn new grammar and immerse yourself in Chinese culture again because it does take time to adjust. When you don’t use a language for a long time, there’s a gap in acclimating to the language environment. 
  • Talk to your current Chinese professors to get resources to help you study Chinese in the summer.
  •  Read Chinese newspapers. Go into Chinese databases for Chinese academic papers and try to read on topics that you’re interested in. These help you become familiar with grammar structure and common words. Start getting used to that level of reading in Chinese because it takes time.  
  • Refresh! Wherever your Chinese level is, it doesn’t hurt to refresh on what you already know.
All the best!

Written by Tarela Osuobeni, HNC Certificate ‘17 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

HNC Events: Personal Finance Lecture and a Conversation with Economics Professor Paul Armstrong-Taylor

There are many events at the HNC intended to help prepare students for the realities of post-graduation life. Career Services events, counseling, workshops, and company visits are all designed to help students make a smooth transition when it comes time to leave the HNC. I attended one of these events this past week, a yearly lecture about managing personal finances given by Professor Armstrong-Taylor.

Many of the economics classes here at the Center are taught by Professor Armstrong-Taylor, including this semester’s introductory course “U.S.-China Comparative Economies”, which I am currently enrolled in. Known fondly as “P.A.T.” by most students, Professor Armstrong-Taylor brings energy and passion to economics and I am finding my first introduction to “the dismal science” to be anything but.

Tuesday’s Personal Finance lecture was packed with both students and faculty, eager to improve on their financial know-how. It covered a wide range of practical topics, such as managing debt, savings, and investments. Professor Armstrong-Taylor began by talking about debt, an issue of concern for most students today. A useful way of looking at paying off debt, as he explained, is as a form of “saving” that should be prioritized over all other savings, and in order of highest to lowest rates. One encouraging aspect of the discussion was a statistic indicating that graduates with a higher degree earn an annual income that is on average $20,000 greater than those without. In other words, education itself is a kind of investment, and one with sizeable returns.

Also covered in the lecture was a few basic rules of savings and investment, such as the importance of diversifying and rebalancing investments, avoiding over-trading, and minimizing fees and taxes related in inefficient, outdated modes of investing.  After the lecture had ended, Professor Armstrong-Taylor took the time to answer a few of my lingering questions.

In your lecture you underscored the importance of investing early to maximize returns from compounding interest. Roughly speaking, how much funds should be kept in liquid assets?

It is generally recommended to have enough to cover around three to six months of expenses, which also depends on how secure your income is. In terms of how much cash to hold, how many stocks to hold, and how many bonds to hold, it’s all just guidelines really and may vary depending on the particular person and how comfortable they are with risk. The determination of how many liquid assets to hold involves a trade-off, because liquid assets such as cash tend to earn low returns, so the more you have the lower your average investment return. On the other hand, the risk of having too few liquid assets is that if you have an emergency expenditure, you would be forced to sell illiquid assets and may not get a good price (i.e. a fire sale).

You also highlighted the advantages of new automated methods of investment such as ETFs and index funds, particularly over stock portfolio managers and hedge-fund managers that come with higher fees because you’re hiring someone to handle your investments for you. If these new methods are so effective, why do people still rely on more traditional, less cost-efficient methods of investment?

That’s a good question, and a lot of people think it doesn’t make sense, but actually it’s been changing quite recently. A lot of money is leaving these active-investment managers and going into passive investments, namely index funds and ETFs. Also, these new forms of investments have really only developed over the past five or ten years, and it takes time for things to transition over.

Is there a common mistake that you see students making in terms of mishandling their finances? Do you have any recommendations for how to avoid this mistake?

I think one thing is to get accustomed to saving and living within your means. There is a two-fold benefit to this. First of all, I talked about compounding returns so the earlier you save the bigger the benefits. Additionally, if you get used to living within a budget it also lowers your costs throughout your life. There’s a tendency for people’s expenditures to expand to meet their incomes, so it doesn’t matter how much money they have, they always feel like they need more. Probably most peoples’ problem is that they haven’t saved enough, so making a habit of paying down your debt and saving early is essentially the most important thing you can do. Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t spend any money, because with something like education you’re going to get a return on that. It’s important to just be conscious of what you’re spending your money on. A lot of people when they’re older look back at the happiest times of their life, and it’s often when they were a student. When you’re a student, you don’t really have any money. When you’re older, you have more money but it doesn’t necessarily make you any happier. I think people often spend money because they think it’s going to make a big difference in their life and often it doesn’t. The earlier that you realize that buying stuff doesn’t actually have a big long-term effect on your happiness then it sort of frees you from that consumer treadmill.

Thank you, Professor Armstrong-Taylor, for your time and guidance!

Written by Amanda Bogan, HNC Certificate '17  

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Interning in DC

After completing a year of study in Nanjing, HNC Certificate/Johns Hopkins SAIS MA student Clarise Brown, started her studies at SAIS in Washington, DC. During her first semester at SAIS, Clarise had the opportunity to put her studies into practice at her internship with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Sub-Committee on Asia & Pacific. 

In September of last year, North Korea launched yet another missile, violating not only the rules of international law I had chosen to dedicate my career to, but also every warning the U.S. had issued. How would the U.S. respond? Over the last year at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, I had pored over dozens of articles in both Chinese and English about the “North Korea Problem.” After I began my Legislative Affairs internship at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Sub-Committee on Asia & Pacific, however, I was no longer merely reading the articles. I was apart of the story.  

There is a certain electric feeling on the Hill when Congress is in session, a buzz that accompanies the bustling of Congressmen heading to hearings and staffers on their way to briefings. I felt it for the first time as I prepared the Hearing Binder for the Committee Chairman, including several potential questions I had researched and contributed. Building off of the conceptual understanding I had gained in classes at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, I constructed my research framework and crafted potential questions for the Congressman chairing the Sub-committee based on the very issues I had studied in Shi Bin Laoshi’s Contemporary International Politics class the semester before.  During the hearing, I took notes and listened as experts testified, many of who had written the articles I had been assigned as a student at both the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and SAIS.

Speaking of experts, over the next 3 months, I attended more than half a dozen more congressional hearings, staff briefings and meetings with key stakeholders. Each meeting gave me the opportunity to apply the lessons I’d learned in lectures in a professional setting, providing context for current affairs and geopolitics that helped provide a framework for me to understand and write effective summaries for the Sub-committee members and relevant staffers. Moreover, I also had the chance to connect with other SAIS alum on the Hill. Some were staffers, and others were expert witnesses. All of them were excellent examples of taking lessons from the classroom and applying it in meeting rooms, shaping policies that reflect and respond to geopolitical trends and events.

Despite my best efforts, we were unfortunately not quite able to solve the North Korea problem during my three month Legislative Affairs internship on the Sub-committee. I, however, count it as a success that I not only received my first (of what I hope to be many) government ID badge, I was also able to enhance the foundation gained at the HNC and SAIS with practical skills, including attending and writing summaries regarding formal briefings, meeting with key stakeholders expanding my D.C. network. Moreover, it was a pleasure to introduce a fellow SAIS alum to the office and connect him with an internship for the spring. The internship may not have been as House of Cards-esque as one would have hoped, lacking as it was a realistic Frank and Claire Underwood, but for a brief three months, I not only watched U.S.-Asia affairs unfold firsthand. I also felt more prepared to pursue a career contributing to the U.S.’s relationship with the increasingly complex and crucial region.

Written by Clarise Brown
HNC Certificate/Johns Hopkins SAIS MA 2017 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Chinese New Year Break Adventures

At the HNC, our semester break typically starts in mid January. This year, we had a 5-week break, which allowed for a lot of rest and adventure. The end of the semester was filled with writing papers, studying for exams, preparing for presentations and making travel plans. Some planned group and solo trips to Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia and Europe. Others planned to go back home to America, the U.K. and South Korea. Some students chose to stay in the Mainland to celebrate Chinese New Year with friends and family. A few students were lucky to land internships in Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Winter Break with HNC Chinese and Non-Chinese students! John visited the Harbin International Snow Sculpture Art Expo in Sun Island Harbin and stood at the top of Victoria Peak overlooking Hong Kong (Left). Rui Yang went fishing in Maldives, visited the coast of Galle, Sri Lanka and traveled to universal studios in Singapore with her parents (Right).
After my final exams, I traveled to Suzhou to visit my Chinese host family from the Chinese language immersion program that I participated in during last summer. While staying with them, we visited the Suzhou museum and Yangcheng Lake. It was great exploring the scenic sights of Suzhou with 阿姨,奶奶,叔叔 and 妹妹 again. On the morning of my flight, I took the train and subway to Shanghai Pudong and flew to England. I arrived in Cambridge, England the next evening and found surroundings that were completely different from the tall buildings, large roads and multitudes of people in Nanjing. Although I went through a couple days of “reverse” culture shock, I found comfort in listening to the numerous Chinese tourists on the streets of Cambridge. I was worried I would lose some of the language gain in a non-Chinese speaking environment so every week I spoke Chinese to at least one native speaker and watched Chinese TV-shows.

I also searched for post-graduate opportunities and found think tank internships, service programs and foreign affairs related jobs. Throughout my stay in the England, I took part in interviews via Skype and email for a few positions. While exploring London and Manchester, I couldn’t help but compare and contrast the Chinese and American cultural influence on the country. It showed me that the world is connected more than I think and taking opportunities to see it is worth the time and savings. 

Classes have recently started and I have yet to hear everyone’s amazing adventures! Some students are still dealing with jet lag, while others have adjusted quickly. The transition back to life at the HNC has been enjoyable as we’ve been happy to see those  we met and bonded with last semester. We’re all slipping back into our Chinese/English target language, trying out new courses, preparing for summer opportunities and thinking about what the new semester holds.

Winter Break with HNC Chinese and Non-Chinese students! Caroline visited Hong Kong with Eli, celebrated her Grandma’s birthday in the US and went Kayaking in Florida (Top left). Tao Ran invited his roommate Levi for Chunjie celebration in his hometown (Top right). I traveled around London (Bottom Left). Nathan and Robert visited Japan and Thailand (Bottom Right).
Written by Tarela Osuobeni, HNC Certificate ‘17

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Exploring Nanjing: A Visit to the Jiangsu Art Museum 江苏省美术馆

It can sometimes be challenging to find the time to explore and get out into the city of Nanjing while busy with school activities and studying for classes. That’s why I took advantage of the last week of our long Chinese New Year holiday to dedicate some time exploring new parts of the city. I’d heard great things about the Jiangsu Art Museum from both teachers and classmates so I hopped on the subway with a friend and we made our way over.

 The Jiangsu Art Museum is located in the heart of the city, only three subway stops away from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and right next the enormous and also well worth-visiting Nanjing Library. The Nanjing Library is closer in size to a shopping mall and its impressive modern architecture makes it impossible to miss. Arriving at the Jiangsu Art Museum, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that entrance is free to everyone.

The museum is a vast, multi-story building but only a select number of galleries are open at a particular time. I recommend asking which floors and galleries are open ahead of time so you know where to go and what to see. A schedule of different artists and openings is also available on the museum’s website.

I’ve personally never had a very discerning eye for fine art, so my main goal in visiting was to get some exposure to modern Chinese artists and explore one of Nanjing’s famous museums. Fortunately for me, the main gallery that was open that day featured renowned Chinese calligraphists from the late 20th century. Since moving to Nanjing I started taking classes in 笔画, which is basically Chinese hand-writing, a step below calligraphy in terms of sophistication but, as my 老师 tells me, 笔画is a necessary foundation to learning to write with a brush. The gallery exhibit was a great opportunity to see works of some of China’s most renowned calligraphists and gain a deeper appreciation for the skill and finesse that goes into 书法.
While making our way through the gallery, we paused at many of the couplets, trying to think of viable English translations.  Since many of the pieces were written in highly stylized script, or using classical Chinese (文言文), this presented some new challenges not found in most readings assigned in class. Though classroom experience at the HNC has been an invaluable part of my education here in China, I highly recommend the many diverse learning opportunities offered by life in Nanjing, a city with a vibrant culture and countless places to explore.


Written by Amanda Bogan, HNC Certificate '17 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Alumni Profile: Julia Lovell, Acclaimed Translator and Author

I was given the wonderful opportunity to have a conversation with Hopkins-Nanjing Center alumnus and award winning author, translator, and Professor of modern Chinese history at the University of London, Julia Lovell. Professor Lovell was a certificate student at HNC from 1997-98 and has since published numerous acclaimed historical writings, including The Opium War: Dreams, Drugs, and the Making of Modern China, The Great Wall: China Against the World, and The Politics of Cultural Capital: China’s Quest for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Prior to our interview, Professor Lovell had been traveling on academic leave to conduct research on Maoism in Nepal and India.

Can you briefly introduce the research you’ve been doing on the propagation of Maoism outside of China? You described your recent work as tracking the “transnational history of Maoism”, what does that imply?
Transnational history, as I see it, is not just tracking the global travels of certain ideas; it’s exploring how these travels change the original ideas. Moreover, the global reception of these ideas can also change the way they are perceived or implemented in their territory of origin. In the case of global or transnational Maoism, I’m looking at how the theory and practice of Mao’s revolution was translated (and mistranslated) into other languages and cultures, and how the international vogue for Maoism (amongst certain constituencies) from the 1940s to the present day changed the way Mao and other Chinese people viewed Chinese communism.

I’m curious about how you first became interested in historical writing and translation? Did you know you wanted to be a writer when you first came to the HNC?
I studied at the center for one year from 1997-98; during that time they only offered the one-year certificate program. The way that I saw my time there was as a preparatory year before beginning full-scale academic graduate research in Chinese studies. I knew that I wanted to go into academic research but I also knew that I needed to “up my game” linguistically and also in terms of engaging with Chinese-language readings in their historical context. As you’ve probably experienced, the curriculum at the Center is a kind of “fast-track” towards using Chinese, not just as a mode of communication but also as a tool for academic analysis.

Aside from the language-training aspect, how else did your time as an HNC student help you center the focus of your future academic work?
While at the Center, I was also given the time to read widely. Not only was the library at the center really great but I also had the chance to explore book shops, to talk with experts at the center and at Nanjing University to get reading suggestions, and just to get more of a background in contemporary Chinese literature. So at that time I didn’t have an exact topic or specific titles in mind that I wanted to translate or research, but I probably did know that was what I wanted to do. My year at the center gave me an ideal springboard to the next phase of my career.

After you graduated from the center what was your next step in your path to becoming a published author and translator?
I remember how David [Davies, alumni and current American Co-director of the HNC] during our time at the Center had once mentioned Feng Ji-cai and his work writing about the memory of the Cultural Revolution. That seeded some kind of idea in my head and I ended up actually writing my M.Phil., my master’s dissertation on Feng Ji-cai and his 报告文学 “Reportage Literature”, so that forms a nice academic link between my time at the Center and my next step.

Are there any other academic connections or highlights that stand out in your mind when thinking back to your time studying at the HNC?
One academic highlight was definitely being taught by a professor from Nanjing University, Professor Gao Hua. While I was at the Center he taught two papers, one each semester, on 20th century and contemporary Chinese cultural issues. Those papers were absolutely fascinating and invaluable to me in terms of content and analysis, but also I did an independent study with Gao Hua in which I started to investigate a topic which I ended writing on for my PhD, which was the quest of Chinese writers for the Nobel Prize in literature. It was really that professor who enabled me to start exploring and testing some of the ideas that I would later develop in my PhD. The opportunity to have Gao Hua as my first supervisor in my research into Chinese literary history was an extraordinary privilege.

I can certainly relate to appreciating the amount of guidance and patience that has been provided by my professors here at the HNC…
Exactly, and Gao Hua also had extraordinary patience because I was working through ideas and materials much more slowly than his Chinese students at Nanjing University, so he was a terrific mentor to have at that stage because he was incredibly helpful in guiding me to think more seriously and practically about primary but also secondary sources.

Due to recent technological developments in this field, I’ve sometimes been met with cynicism when talking about studying a foreign language and translation as a potential career. Why do you think foreign language study is still important?
When you are speaking directly to professional contacts – and this has been particularly important to me, as I’ve always done a lot of interview work for my research – you can’t use Google Translate; you either have the language or you don’t. We live in an information age, in which communications are vastly improved compared to the time that I was at the Center. And yet, what’s going on in world politics today shows us that miscommunications, misunderstandings, misperceptions occur as easily as they ever did. The ability to communicate directly with individuals from very different linguistic and cultural backgrounds remains as important as it has ever been.

What are some obstacles you’ve faced related to your work as a researcher and translator?
Learning foreign languages is crucial to being able to communicate directly and immediately, and I felt this myself very strongly when I was doing research in India and Nepal. Although India is supposedly one of the easiest places in Asia for an English speaker to get around, even in that context I felt quite hampered by not knowing any Hindi. When I was in Nepal I had to rely on an excellent translator, but given that I’m used to working directly without the mediation of a translator when I’m in China I felt the difference because when you’re talking to someone directly its easier to understand the nuances of what someone is saying. And every work that I have translated has posed its particular challenges of recreating the original’s content, tone and style. Going back to your previous question, I believe that literary translation requires human mediation – however good Google Translate gets. Though I don’t understand exactly the nature of the technological advances translating software, I would be somewhat surprised to discover that these advances would be able to cope with the great stylistic and tonal demands that are made on the translator of a literary text.

Finally, do you have any advice to current or future students who are interested in pursuing a similar career path in translation or academia?

The way that I started was to read as much as I could and find individual works of literature that I felt passionate about. I often came to those works of literature through recommendations from friends and professors. In fact, the first Chinese novel that I translated into English was recommended to me by professor Gao Hua, who I mentioned earlier, and I first read it sitting in the Center library. Looking back to what I got out of my time at the Center, it was a fantastic time to develop and explore academic interests, and to meet new professors, classmates and friends around the city. I have very appreciative memories of my time at the Center.

Thank you again Julia for your time and the insightful conversation!

Written by Amanda Bogan, HNC Certificate '17

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Meet MAIS Student Brennan Leong

Meet Brennan Leong, a 2nd year student in the Master of Arts in International Studies Program.

Brennan is an International Economics concentrator who is currently writing a graduate thesis in Chinese on the empirical factors that influence the craft beer market in China. Partnering with the Kentucky company, Alltech, alongside a number of Chinese breweries, Brennan is assessing market entry for craft beers, both domestic and foreign.

A double-major in Chinese and Neurobiology from the University of Wisconsin, Brennan has previously worked in the health care industry as a children's behavior therapist and was enrolled in medical school. Ethnically half-Chinese, a longing to improve his language abilities and a compulsion to grow closer to a culture he was disconnected with in his childhood inspired Brennan to move to Chongqing to teach English. On a whim, a friend brought up the possibility of attending the Hopkins-Nanjing Center to further his academic study while simultaneously honing his Chinese language skills, and Brennan was sold.

During his time at the HNC, Brennan has taken classes on game theory, international law, trade theory and policy, and China's environmental development all in Chinese. As captain of the HNC basketball team, Brennan helped lead the team to its highest tournament finish in recent history. Brennan says he was most drawn to SAIS and the HNC for the ability to impact his career trajectory and help him find out “where he fits in as a piece of the puzzle” that is China's growth and US-China interaction. Having already interned with KPMG's US-China Strategic Corridor and interning with the Royal Bank of Canada this winter, Brennan hopes to utilize his research, language, and management skills to work for an international consulting firm.

Written by Logan Pauley, MAIS '17