Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Wordless Wednesday: Mid-Autumn Festival in Nanjing

This week’s “Wordless Wednesday” post features student blogger Brandy Darling’s experience with hanging out with her roommate and other friends from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC) during a major Chinese holiday. Brandy captured photos at a couple tourist destinations in Nanjing that are relatively close to HNC.

Many people visited Fuzi Miao, the Confucius Temple in Nanjing, to enjoy the weekend holiday.  

The Qinhuai River in Nanjing
Mural in the Taiping Rebellion Exhibition Hall

Written by Brandy Darling, HNC Certificate ‘20 + Johns Hopkins SAIS MA ‘21

Monday, October 14, 2019

First Impressions of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center

As I prepared to head to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC) this September, I thought back to some of the daily realities of my experiences as a student in China. This included the regular ritual of trekking to buy jugs of Nongfu Spring water, attempting to workout in crowded university gyms, and wet bathroom floors hours after my roommate or I showered. To be sure, these were minor inconveniences, but arriving at the HNC and realizing these issues were solved was a delightful surprise.

The HNC’s amenities are an undersold aspect of the program, and these have defined my daily routine. As an avid coffee drinker, I live by my French press for morning coffee. Using the HNC’s filtered drinking water and ice machine, I am able to enjoy homemade cold brew every morning.

Once I have poured my coffee, the courtyard and three rooftop terraces are excellent spots to relax and read before class. I have heard autumn in Nanjing is the best, so I will definitely be taking advantage of these amenities as long as possible. Once it gets closer to winter, the library is spacious and a comfortable spot to study.

The fifth-floor terrace is a peaceful spot to enjoy a book.

A personal goal of mine this year is to exercise regularly. From my previous experience in China, long walks to packed gyms make skipping exercise too easy. Fortunately, the HNC has its own small gym that has strength training necessities, along with yoga mats and other miscellaneous exercise items. It’s also great to breathe easy knowing the HNC’s air filtration system ensures I’m not harming my health while I exercise.

The HNC gym in the morning.

When a study break is in order, there are plenty of activities to take part in. Students use WeChat groups to organize activities in the HNC and around campus. The HNC has its own basketball court, ping pong and pool tables, and students often play console games in the gaming room.

I enjoy a nice shower after a long day. The western-style showers have dividers to block water from flooding the entire bathroom, so mopping up the water (or leaving it to dry) is not necessary. During my last study abroad in China, my roommate or I had clothes hang-drying in the room at any given time. The HNC’s dryer units make laundry much more bearable.

The amenities of the HNC were a pleasant surprise to me. These conveniences have allowed me to focus more time on studying and other, more enjoyable experiences while here in China.

Written by William Putzier, HNC Certificate ’20 + Johns Hopkins SAIS MA ‘21

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Meet the 2019-2020 Student Bloggers in Nanjing

Meet our new student bloggers in Nanjing! Brandy Darling, Will Putzier, and Amanda Walencewicz will be sharing their experiences studying and living at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC) throughout the academic year.

Brandy Darling, HNC Certificate ’20 + Johns Hopkins SAIS MA ’21

Hi! My name is Brandy Darling and I am a Certificate student at the HNC. I plan to pursue the Johns Hopkins SAIS MA after earning my HNC Certificate, concentrating in International Economics and International Political Economy. This past May, I graduated from Connecticut College with a BA in Economics and East Asian studies, and a Certificate in International Studies and the Liberal Arts.

I began studying Chinese in high school eight years ago; I learned about the HNC during my junior year of high school when I visited China the first time. That summer, I studied Chinese in Shanghai, met American professionals in China and visited different cities such as Nanjing and Hangzhou. After the summer before my senior year of high school, I realized two things: one, that I wanted to be a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State; and two, that I would receive my graduate degree from Johns Hopkins University.

This semester, my favorite class is Injustices, Discrimination, and Group Identity which includes both Chinese and international students. In my free time, I love to try new restaurants near campus, attend guest lectures, and make Chinese friends. The Chinese students on campus are very nice and are willing to show you different ways to enjoy your time in China. I look forward to working for admissions this year and being a helping hand to students interested in the HNC. I also love to blog, so I hope you enjoy!

Will Putzier, HNC Certificate ’20 + Johns Hopkins SAIS MA ’21

Hi All! My name is Will Putzier, and I am a Certificate student at the HNC. I am originally from Salina, Kansas, and received undergraduate degrees in Finance and East Asian Languages and Cultures from the University of Kansas in 2016. I began studying Chinese in college and have previously studied in Beijing and Tianjin.

Prior to the HNC Certificate program, I worked as a consultant in New York City. After working for a few years, I decided to pursue a career in policy. I chose the HNC because of the opportunity to learn about Chinese policy in the classroom, while immersing myself in Chinese society outside of the classroom. I am excited to learn from my Chinese professors and engage with Chinese society during an interesting period in US-China relations. This semester I am taking four courses: Chinese Government and Politics, Social Issues of China’s Modernization, Contemporary Chinese Foreign Policy, and Financial Crises.

Besides classes, I plan to be involved in several extracurricular activities and opportunities in and around the HNC. These include weekly volunteer teaching at a local elementary school, informal yoga sessions on the terrace, and exploring restaurants and coffee shops around campus.

Through this blog I hope I can provide useful insights as you consider the HNC and navigate the application process.

Amanda Walencewicz, HNC Certificate ’20

Hi! My name is Amanda Walencewicz, and I’m a Certificate student here at the HNC. I’m originally from Detroit, where I began studying Chinese in high school. I graduated from Tufts University in 2017 with majors in Chinese and International Literary and Visual Studies. I studied abroad at Tufts’ programs in Hangzhou and Hong Kong, and wrote my thesis on Chinese and French new wave cinema.

I first heard about the HNC from a coworker at the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, where I worked after graduating from Tufts. I’m planning to attend a PhD program back in the U.S. next fall, so HNC was a perfect fit to improve my Chinese skills and get reacquainted with China, since the last time I was here was 2015. I’ve already noticed my Chinese improving from the constant practice I get every day, between readings for class, listening to professors, and speaking to my roommate.

This semester I am taking three classes in Chinese (China’s Development and Environment, Chinese Government and Politics, and Contemporary Chinese Film, Society, and Culture) and one in English (International Humanitarian Law). My previous studies of China have always been from a humanities perspective, not social sciences, so I am especially eager to learn more about the political system and environmental issues in China.

I’m excited to contribute to the blog and assist with HNC admissions this year!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Meet Cady Deck: Student Blogger in DC

Cady was at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center last year and is now at Johns Hopkins SAIS to complete her Master of Arts (MA) with a concentration in China Studies.
Weekend trip to Huangshan

Hello everyone!

My name is Cady Deck and I’m a returning blogger for the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC) this year. I completed my HNC certificate last year and am now completing my MA at Johns Hopkins SAIS. I graduated from The George Washington University (GW) in 2018, where I double majored in international affairs and political science and minored in Chinese. I’m excited to be back in DC this year to complete my MA! As a China Studies concentrator, I can graduate this May instead of next December if I give myself a slightly heavier workload each semester. I am currently enrolled in five classes, which keeps me busy but not too busy. 

Last year I made many great friends, both Chinese and international, and engaged in a variety of activities, such as volunteer teaching, competing in the annual dragon boat festival, basketball, soccer, and running around the city exploring (and getting lost!). I had the opportunity to participate in unique experiences in and out of the classroom, such as collaborating with my Chinese peers on field research trips during the fall and spring semesters.

A few of the friends I made at the HNC

At the HNC I gained a better understanding of Chinese topics, society, and culture from living in China and learning about different perspectives from my Chinese professors. I also improved my Chinese reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. In DC I hope to build on my HNC experiences and strengthen my analytical skills. I’m looking forward to attending many China-related events at Johns Hopkins SAIS and around the city and expanding my knowledge of economics. Throughout the year, I plan to prepare myself for a job related to US-China relations after graduation, and of course join as many sports leagues in DC as possible.

Roommate trip to the Capitol and making dumplings from scratch
I currently live with six friends, both Chinese and American, who were all at the HNC last year and are continuing their studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Our “HNC House” has already hosted a dumpling party and we hope to hold several more events over the course of the semester. One great aspect of coming to Johns Hopkins SAIS from the HNC is that you already know people, which eases the transition process, especially for those who are in DC for the first time.

I look forward to sharing my experiences with you about my time at Johns Hopkins SAIS as an HNC Certificate + SAIS MA student!

Written by Cady Deck, HNC Certificate '19, + SAIS MA '20

Monday, September 16, 2019

10 Tips for Applying to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center

As application season gets underway, the Hopkins-Nanjing Center admissions team has compiled our top tips to keep in mind as you start your application for Fall 2020 enrollment. We hope that these tips will help guide you through the application process. 

Tip #1: Review all admissions requirements - GRE/GMAT scores are now optional for all Hopkins-Nanjing Center Programs!
  • The GRE/GMAT is no longer required to apply to any of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center programs. If you are applying to the Certificate or the Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS), we recommend that you only submit your GRE/GMAT scores if it adds to your application. As a reference, the average range GRE scores is 155-164 Verbal and 150-159 Quantitative. 
  • If you are applying to the Certificate + MA program that combines time in Nanjing and Washington, you may want to consider submitting your GRE/GMAT scores if you have no previous economics background as the Johns Hopkins SAIS MA admissions committee will be reviewing your economics and quantitative  background.
Tip #2: Consider taking the Chinese proficiency (STAMP) exam early
  • You can take the Chinese proficiency exam any time before our February 1 admissions deadline, but we generally recommend taking the test when you first begin your application. Keep in mind that you can only take the test once every three months. 
  • After you take the exam, the admissions office will notify you of your results within two business days. We will provide you with a breakdown of your score and let you know which programs would be the best fit for you. If you score lower than our recommended scores, we will also let you know if we advise you to continue your Chinese language studies throughout the year and over the summer.
Tip #3: Write a personal statement that clearly addresses your individual academic and career goals and connects them to studying at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. It’s not called a “personal” statement for nothing!
  • Don’t waste this opportunity to tell admissions officers about your interests and career goals by rehashing your resume. Even if you don’t necessarily have a five- year plan, we are looking to see that you have thought out how you see the Hopkins-Nanjing Center as an essential piece of your future plans. In the past, we had one applicant write about lessons learned from playing ping pong with a Chinese classmate. Another applicant wrote about her experience at a Chinese rural hospital. We encourage you to get creative! 
  • Be sure to write your essay entirely in English, as everyone reviewing your application may not have Chinese proficiency. Chinese characters also often do not display correctly on our application system. If there’s a Chinese phrase that you want to reference, write in pinyin and include the English translation. 
  • You can also use the personal statement as an opportunity to address anything in your application that you might be concerned about. For example, if you scored lower than our recommended score on the Chinese proficiency test, let the admissions committee know about your plans to improve your Chinese. If you received lower grades during one semester, consider letting the committee know the reasons why and how you improved.
Tip #4: Do your research and pay attention to the small details
  • Admissions officers like to see that you have taken the time to become familiar with the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and can articulate how you see yourself and your career goals fitting into our specific programs when writing your statement of purpose. Visiting our website or looking through the Hopkins-Nanjing Center blog can give you background on our programs and life in Nanjing. 
  • When writing your essays, be sure to use the correct titles and names for professors, “Hopkins-Nanjing Center,” and “Johns Hopkins SAIS.” While using the incorrect title won’t be the deciding factor in your application, it will reflect your attention to detail to the admissions committee. It’s better to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework and researched the institution ahead of time.
Tip #5: There are more funding opportunities than you think, and external scholarship deadlines may fall before the program application deadline.
Tip #6: Consider completing an admissions interview
  • The admissions team offers optional interviews, conducted in English, as part of the application process. Completing an interview is not required, but it is a good opportunity to let the admissions committee learn who you are beyond your test scores, transcript, and resume. Schedule an in-person or Skype interview by emailing We recommend that you schedule interviews well in advance of the admissions deadline. 
  • If you aren’t able to complete an interview, don’t worry! The interviews are optional and it won’t negatively impact your application if you don’t opt for an interview. If you have a non-traditional background (for example you’ve never studied Chinese formally or were pursuing a different study/career track), an interview can be a great way to provide additional context to why you are the right fit for the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.
Tip #7: Ask someone who knows you well and can speak to your strengths for a letter of recommendation.
  • You are required to submit two letters of recommendation for your application. A good letter of recommendation should come from a professor, adviser, or work supervisor who knows you well and can speak to your specific strengths. It’s better to pick someone that has worked closely with you over someone that has an impressive title. Please note that letters of recommendation are required to be submitted in English. 
  • Be sure to ask your recommender for your letter well in advance of the application deadline. Since many graduate programs share similar deadlines, chances are that you will not be the only student asking your professor for a recommendation.
Tip #8:  Submit a polished resume.
  • Limit your resume to one page and include skills and experiences which are relevant to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. If you have additional experience you want the admissions committee to know, you can include it on the “Employment” section of the online application. 
  • The look and feel of a resume is important. It can make a difference to standardize the formatting and spacing on your resume. 
Tip #9:  If you want to know your admissions decision and financial aid package by the end of December, apply for early notification.
  • If you submit all of your application materials by November 1, you will receive your admissions decision and scholarship information by the end of December. This does not mean you need to commit at that time – you have until April to confirm your enrollment.  
  • If November 1 doesn’t work for you, you can apply by our general admission deadline of February 1. If you apply for general admission, you will receive your admissions decision and scholarship information in March.
Tip #10: Proofread, proofread, proofread!
  • The last thing you want is for an admissions officer to have a negative impression on an otherwise great application because of a grammar mistake. It’s always great to have a second pair of eyes (or third or fourth!) on your application. Ask a friend, professor, or colleague to look over your application. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Student Profile: Randall Telfer

Name: Randall Telfer

Program:  HNC Certificate + Johns Hopkins SAIS MA

Hometown: Avon, CT

Undergraduate Institution and Major: Hamilton College, Chinese Language and World Politics

Tell us about your background and how you became interested in China.
My interest in China came from the early years of my training in martial arts. When I was about six years old, my mother wanted to learn how to defend herself and took me along to martial arts classes. I remember the instructor incorporating East Asian philosophical concepts into his teaching, which seemed to resonate in my young mind. Years later as a teenager, I became infatuated with Jackie Chan and his movies and daydreamed about becoming a part of his stunt team, endearingly referred to as the 成家班. I figured that, as a foreigner, being able to speak Chinese might improve my already slim chances of that happening. But once I actually started learning Chinese, I developed a passion for the language itself that surpassed my far-flung dreams of Hollywood fame. After absorbing as much language as I could from the films themselves, I began combing through the foreign language section of my local bookstore, and then finally had the opportunity to study with a Chinese teacher at a local university. My martial arts training and Chinese lessons each weekend held me over until I began studying Chinese language and world politics at Hamilton College.

What encouraged you to apply to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?
I had actually known about and entertained the idea of applying to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center for many years before I finally made the plunge. On a few occasions at our “Chinese table” dinners held by our Chinese department at Hamilton, I remember meeting former Hopkins-Nanjing Center students who came to discuss its programs. Knowing that I wanted to gain some work experience first, I worked in Wuhan as an education consultant for just shy of two years, and as an editor at Cheng & Tsui Company in Boston for three years. While I was very fortunate to be in a bilingual professional environment at both of those jobs, I was eager to put my world politics major to good use. Becoming increasingly keen to deepen my understanding of international politics while simultaneously boosting my Chinese skills, I remembered the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. At that point, I knew several classmates from Hamilton who had studied there, and at the end of my tenure working in Wuhan, I paid them a visit in Nanjing. Professor Cornelius Kubler, who I had known for years and was the American co-director at the time, was incredibly kind and welcoming. After joining my fellow Hamiltonian to listen in on his class on Ethnic Minorities and Chinese Society with Professor Hua Tao, I finally decided to apply.

How was your experience adjusting to the Chinese coursework? Do you have any tips for future students?
Although I already felt relatively comfortable using Chinese all the time at my previous two jobs, the sheer volume of scholarly articles to read in Chinese and keeping on schedule was definitely challenging. My advice would be to stay ahead of the game early on to make plenty of time to do the readings thoroughly and strategically. As a former editor, I had to make a conscious effort to get rid of my 职业病, or “occupational disease” of reading everything carefully line-by-line from start to finish. In graduate school time is limited and strategic skimming is important, especially when sifting through pages upon pages of Chinese articles. In addition, try to absorb as much Chinese as you can before arriving at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. If you’re still reviewing the basics and trying to catch up upon arrival, you might miss out on subtle ways to make your speaking more eloquent and writing more sophisticated. Also, come with an open mind and actively seek out opportunities to have heart-to-heart conversations with your Chinese classmates. There’s a tendency for people to engage in controversial debates with their minds already made up before the conversation even starts. If you approach these dialogues with an open mind, they can be all the more enriching and eye-opening.

What has been one of your favorite classes this year?
Last semester, I took a course in English called Politics of Rural Development taught by Professor Adam Webb. The culmination of that course was a field trip to a rural village near Jingxian in Anhui province, where we interviewed villagers about our individual research topics. For my study, I was able to combine research I had done for a Chinese-taught class I was taking, China and the Environment, on interprovincial waste transfer, specifically from urban to rural areas. The field trip was a remarkable capstone to my studies over the fall semester. I was able to do something similar for the spring semester as well by applying research I had done for a presentation in Professor Hua Tao’s class during a field trip to a local mosque we visited for the course on Islamic Fundamentalism. I became fascinated with how scholars during the Ming and Qing dynasties used Confucian concepts to interpret the Quran and make Islamic teachings more accessible to their followers among the Hui minority group in China. 

If you are involved in any extracurricular activities or student groups, could you please tell us about that?
I joined the student dragon boat team this year for the once-in-a-lifetime bonding experience that I didn’t want to miss. I was somewhat “indoorsy” during the winter months and didn’t explore Nanjing as much, so it was a good way to get outside and bond with classmates through a physical activity. Another highlight is the self-defense group that Nathan Gwira (HNC Certificate ‘19) and I organized together. We progressed from “softer” styles, with me introducing basic Wing Chun techniques, to “harder” styles in which Nathan had been trained such as Muay Thai and kickboxing, then ended with an Okinawan blend of “soft” and “hard” martial arts techniques. This was another great way to bond through a physical activity, and just as with anything else at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, we learned a great deal from the exchange of different ideas and perspectives.

What’s your favorite place in Nanjing?
Although I’ve only been once or twice, I have enjoyed taking friends of mine visiting Nanjing to 中山陵 (Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum). Climbing up to the top on a crisp autumn day last semester offered a beautiful panoramic view of the city. I also enjoyed the Wall Walk around Nanjing’s old city wall at the beginning of the semester. Because it consists of and winds around several landmarks throughout the city, it was a great way to develop our “mental maps” of Nanjing, as former Co-Director David Davies put it, from the very start of our tenure at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.

Interviewed by Sam Olson, Master of Arts in International Studies ’20

Monday, August 26, 2019

Alumni Profile: Cecilia Joy-Pérez

Cecilia Joy-Pérez, Certificate ’16, uses her Chinese language skills and economics background in her role as an analyst in Washington, DC.

Tell us about your career.
After graduating from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, I moved to Washington, DC, to work in public policy. My first job ended up across the street from Johns Hopkins SAIS as a research assistant in demographics and political economy at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). At AEI, I contributed to the Chinese Global Investment Tracker (CGIT), the only database of Chinese construction and investment worldwide.

My individual research focuses on the Belt and Road Initiative. Talk about the commercial footprint of the Belt and Road Initiative is wildly often overhyped, without being based in clear data. Motivated to bring facts into the conversation, I used the CGIT to quantify the Belt and Road Initiative. 

Currently, I am working as an analyst at Pointe Bello, a research and advisory firm. My aim is to continue to follow the overseas activities of Chinese companies and understand China’s macroeconomic conditions to offer a fact-based take on China’s future.

How did your experience at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center prepare you for this career?
Much like my time at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, my career has consisted of reading Chinese, running regressions, and drinking coffee. At the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, I brought my Chinese to the level where I could use it to conduct independent research. Secondly, I honed my quantitative analysis skills by taking statistics and econometrics classes taught by Nanjing faculty. These hard skills were what helped me get my foot in the door.

Additionally, I met a group of like-minded individuals with a passion for improving the US-China relationship. Unsurprisingly, many of my peers have now become my colleagues. Surrounding myself with such driven China watchers is a great motivator. Nowadays, we often link up to discuss policy issues or simply to catch up. 

What drew you to apply to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?
I applied to join the crop of students that will lead the next generation of China watchers. I originally heard about the program through Professor Ma Zhao, a professor of East Asian Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where I was his student. Afterwards, I learned of the history of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and the integral role it played in U.S.-China relations. For decades it has trained leaders on both sides and encouraged academic and people-to-people exchanges. These attributes, combined with the rigor of a Chinese language graduate program, perfectly matched my goals to both improve my language skills and build up my China expertise.

How often do you use Chinese in your current position or other skills you gained while studying at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?

I use my Chinese language skills all the time, mostly for conducting research and occasionally to chat with friends. I also use my quantitative skills to conduct econometrics and financial analysis.  

What was your most memorable moment when you were studying in Nanjing?
The Hopkins-Nanjing Center outfitted a team for the Dragon Boat Festival competition in 2016. While I was not on the boat, I was on stage cheering the team on as part of the cheer squad. After a full-on collision with another boat and a couple of hard fought races, our team came in third place. That day, all of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center community, including the professors, were out there supporting our team and taking part in the Chinese holiday.

What advice would you give to future Hopkins-Nanjing Center students?
Consider taking an intensive summer course before starting at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (regardless of whether or not you need it), or at least be sure to keep up studies on your own over the summer. It can make your class participation a lot easier. Additionally, make sure you are regularly speaking Chinese with your Chinese friends and classmates.

Secondly, budget in time and money to travel in China and in the region. The Hopkins-Nanjing Center is a wonderful place, but there is so much going on outside of it. Go explore!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Student Profile: Benjamin Sinvany

Name: Benjamin Sinvany

Program: Master of Arts in International Studies ’20

Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

Undergraduate Institution and Major: Emory ’15, History Major

How did you become interested in China?
I started studying Chinese in middle school. In early high school I took a field trip to China with my class. We visited the Terra Cotta Warriors, silk factories, artisanal places, and did a lot of super touristy, but fun activities. One of my best memories is fighting over dumplings with my classmates. My Chinese teacher told me about the School Year Abroad China program, which gives high school students a chance to study abroad for a year. I spent nine months living with a host family and took 12 hours of Chinese class a week. I also did the Princeton in Beijing program and worked as a teaching assistant at a study abroad program after college.

Could you tell us about the article you had published recently?
I published an article in the Journal of Chinese Military History called “Notes on the Invention of the First Gun: Conflict and Innovation in the Song Warring States Period (960-1279).” As the title suggests, the article traces the origin of the gun. This article was developed from a long-term project researching the military history of the Song Warring States period. One part of my research was to travel to different museums around China to locate the earliest known gun.  

What encouraged you to apply to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and what have you enjoyed the most?
I am interested in how and why things happen (human development), including questions of power and marginalization. I remember thinking in 2008 that China was going to be the next big thing, and now it is increasingly important in terms of researching human development trends. After teaching in China, I wanted to stay in China and eventually apply to a PhD program in the U.S. I decided the best way to do this was to apply first to a graduate school that gave me the opportunity to spend two years in China. One of my favorite experiences at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center was the spring student research trip to Heilongjiang with the China on the Border class. On this trip, I had real conversations with Chinese classmates and heard from classmates who are quieter in class. This trip was also a great way to engage in intellectual conversations with students outside of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. I think a different level of intelligence comes out in these conversations that may not always come out in the classroom.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in?
On campus, I am involved in the philosophy student group. Every Sunday we have great, engaging conversations on a range of topics chosen by the students. I started going to a nearby skate park at the beginning of the year and made some friends there, so I continue to go back and skate frequently. I thought people at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center would also be interested, so I started a skate club here. We’ve had five or six sessions so far. I also attend a lot of the lectures that happen multiple times a week at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.

What is your favorite place in Nanjing?

It’s hard to choose. I really like Purple Mountain. One of my favorite places on Purple Mountain is Zixia Lake, which is nice for outdoor swimming, especially on a hot day. There are also so many parks and green spaces around Nanjing that are pretty. Actually, Nanjing University’s Gulou campus is also very pretty and conveniently close to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. Because it’s the older campus, it has a lot of old and historic buildings, and a lot of greenery. Probably my favorite thing to do in Nanjing is to skate around exploring new places. I get to explore and see a different side of China more intimately than just as a tourist who’s in Nanjing for a day or a week.

Interviewed by Cady Deck, Certificate ’19 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Meet the Hopkins-Nanjing Center 2019-2020 Student Leader Scholars

The Hopkins-Nanjing Center offers the Student Leader Scholarship to students who have held a leadership position in a China-related student organization on their campus or in their community, or have been selected as a delegate for a student-run conference on China. Meet the 2019-2020 Student Leader Scholars below.

Bochen Han

Hopkins-Nanjing Center Certificate + Johns Hopkins SAIS MA ‘21

Duke University-University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (UNC) China Leadership Summit Co-Director and Senior Advisor

Born into a tightly-knit extended family in the Chinese island province of Hainan, Bochen has always felt connected to China’s culture and people even after immigrating to Canada at age six. But what drew her academically to China was the concept of “soft power” that she discovered during her freshman year of college: a framework that seemingly explained China’s obstacles to global influence, and that appeared to offer a form of influence that was more benign, persuasive, and longer-lasting than hard power could secure.

As a sophomore at Duke University, she led a team of 20 students across two universities to organize the American South’s largest student-run conference on U.S.-China relations, the Duke-UNC China leadership Summit. The conference brought together over 100 students from 24 universities, 13 experts, and over $26,000 in fundraising. The following year, she mentored the conference’s new leadership while simultaneously serving as the president of the Duke East Asia Nexus, a student-led academic organization focused on exploring the political, economic, and cultural dynamics of East Asia. As president, she led the publication of an online blog, a bi-annual journal, and the execution of topical on-campus events. She explored her interest in China in various other ways throughout her college career, with consultancies and internships at The Diplomat Magazine, Freedom House, the Council on Foreign Relations, and memorably, a summer teaching English to migrant children in Beijing’s outskirts. But perhaps most formative for her was a cross-country trip through China. Wanting to see more of the country that she had committed to studying and understanding, she travelled through ten provinces, meeting people from all walks of life who challenged her most fundamental assumptions about China. It was this experience that cemented her commitment to furthering her understanding of how people relate to one another, with the goal of bridging the misunderstandings that hinder progress on controversial yet consequential issues.

Increasingly fascinated by the political dynamics of the Southeast Asian nations caught in the pull of China’s rising influence, and eager to explore the role of civil society in enacting change, she took a gap year from Duke University, splitting her time between the UN Human Rights Southeast Asia Regional Office in Bangkok, Thailand and a grassroots Myanmar human rights organization in a small migrant town on the Thailand-Myanmar border. While abroad, she realized that Myanmar’s transitional democracy provided opportunities for high-impact change that were less possible in other countries in the region. Hopping between different sectors—from the glossy halls of the United Nations to the humble offices of a grassroots organization—she also saw the value in understanding how different sectors approached the same problems. After graduation, driven to better understand the various actors in play and to figure out where she could make the most impact, she moved to Yangon, Myanmar. There, she studied Burmese, delved into the politics surrounding the country’s constitutional reform, observed its first-ever municipal elections with universal suffrage, and worked at a tech social enterprise tackling some of Myanmar’s most pressing issues in law, governance, and health. Yet the more she saw of Myanmar and experienced the limitations that came with being unable to access the culture through language, the more she realized that her deep grounding in the language and culture of China gave her unique opportunities to effect change. And so, her path led her to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center where she looks forward to building her bilingual skills, distilling how the interdisciplinary approaches in international relations can inform her future work, and discovering where her journey with China will take her next. 

Lucas Wille

Master of Arts in International Studies ‘20

Former President of Chinese Studies Club at Wake Forest University

Lucas Wille began his study of Chinese in kindergarten at Breck School in Minneapolis. Following his first trip to China led by his high school teacher, Margaret Wong, Lucas decided to dive into his Chinese language studies. While studying business enterprise management with a concentration in consulting and Chinese language and culture at Wake Forest University, Lucas took opportunities in the summers to return to China to study and intern in Shanghai. In the summer of 2017, Lucas met with a Hopkins-Nanjing Center alumnus, who praised the program for its unique strengths in target-language multidisciplinary coursework and preparing students for international careers. One year later, Lucas was preparing for the move to Nanjing!

During his junior and senior years at Wake Forest, Lucas helped to lead the Chinese Studies Club — a student organization with the mission of creating a space for dialogue on Sino-American relations and cultural appreciation on campus. Both years saw increased membership, events, and collaboration with other multicultural student groups on campus. During his second semester at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, Lucas took the lessons and experiences gained from this leadership opportunity to represent the student body as a class representative on the student committee (known as the “banwei”).

Lucas chose to study at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center to connect his interest in Chinese language, experience in consulting, and the education opportunities provided in the school’s Energy, Resources and Environment concentration area to better understand the environmental problems facing China and the world and to contribute to solving them. Lucas is currently spending his summer interning in Beijing at Blackpeak, an international investigative research and risk advisory firm.

Ben Scott

Master of Arts in International Studies ’21

Student Representative for Reed College, China Round Table, Student Conference on U.S. Affairs hosted by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point
Boren Fellowship for International Study

Ben first came to China in the summer of 2015 to visit Nanjing, the hometown of a high school friend with whom he had begun practicing Mandarin. Humbled by the warm welcome he received and fascinated by China's history, culture, and rapid development, Ben switched his major from biochemistry to international policy studies shortly after beginning his freshman year at Reed College. Ben's course of study centered around political science, economics, Mandarin, and Chinese history, culminating in a senior thesis that used open-source data to analyze trends in the government response to labor protests in mainland China from 2011-2017. During his year of living in the Chinese Language House, Ben enjoyed coordinating the catering for campus-wide Chinese cultural events, especially running a shaokao-style barbecue stand on the quad during the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations. Outside of China studies, Ben also served as president of the Reed College Investment Club, and led Reed College’s first-ever CFA Investment Research Challenge team (now an annual tradition).

In October of 2018, Ben was selected to represent Reed College on the China round table at the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs, hosted by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Working with West Point cadets and other undergraduate China scholars, Ben helped develop and present policy proposals to advance new dimensions of U.S.-China cooperation and mitigate the risk of conflict. Thanks to a favorable table assignment at dinner, he also had the opportunity to discuss the strategic underpinnings of America's China policy with former national security advisor Susan Rice, who was the conference's keynote speaker.

Since finishing his thesis and graduating from Reed College in January 2019, Ben has been working as a legal assistant and web content creator for a Seattle veterans' law firm. Ben did not apply to any graduate programs other than the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, seeing it as the best possible environment in which to continue pushing himself academically while taking his Mandarin to the next level. Eventually, Ben hopes to bring together economics, politics, and environmental studies in a Master's thesis on the governance of Chinese investment in developing countries, and to pursue a career in international development. Over the next two years in Nanjing, he also looks forward to improving as a martial artist and expanding his repertoire of Chinese dishes.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Hopkins-Nanjing Center Alumni Profile: Ashley Johnson

Ashley Johnson, HNC Certificate ’15 + Johns Hopkins SAIS MA ’16, is a Project Manager for Trade, Economic, and Energy Affairs at the National Bureau of Asian Research, a non-profit think tank focused on U.S. relations with Asia based in Washington, D.C.

Tell us about your current role.
I am currently Project Manager for Trade, Economic, and Energy Affairs at the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR). NBR is a nonpartisan, non-profit think tank that produces independent research on issues affecting U.S. relations with Asia. My team works on topics such as energy security, climate change adaptation and mitigation, technology innovation, sustainable development, and trade relations in the Asia-Pacific. In my role, I develop and maintain relations with technical experts and other stakeholders, assist in editing and publishing essays and reports, and organize events to disseminate NBR’s research and findings.

How did your experience at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and Johns Hopkins SAIS prepare you for this work?
Studying at both campuses provided a truly international experience, which was extremely helpful in developing my ability to work with people from an array of backgrounds and nationalities and adapt quickly to new situations and academic topics. At the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, you are immersed in a Chinese academic setting, learning about topics such as 20th-century international relations, Islamic fundamentalism, or environmental protection from a perspective and cultural approach often different than your own. In D.C., students come from all over the world (a bit more so than in Nanjing, although the Hopkins-Nanjing Center also has, of course, a multinational student body). In classes that focus on understanding international policy and development options, having students from Germany, Nigeria, Brazil, Thailand, and dozens of other places is crucial to a well-rounded and informed discussion and there is a lot to learn from those conversations. In any profession in the international relations field, it is important to have cultural sensitivity and the flexibility to work on projects with which you may not have an extensive background, as you never know when you will be asked to brief stakeholders from Asia or join a project on a technical matter with which you are unfamiliar.

What drew you to apply to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and Johns Hopkins SAIS?
As I was looking into graduate programs for international relations, my Chinese professor at Southwestern University, Carl Robertson, recommended I look into the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. Dr. Robertson is an alumnus and knew that I wanted to continue advancing my Chinese language ability. For someone who was interested in U.S. foreign policy and China’s role in the international order, there was no better option than the Certificate + MA and the opportunity to study at both the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and Johns Hopkins SAIS in D.C.

Do you use Chinese in your current position or other skills you gained while studying at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?
As my work covers the entire Asia-Pacific region, I actually do not work on China quite as much as expected. Given China’s prominence in the global order, China of course comes up in many of our conversations, and I am frequently able to draw from my courses at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and Johns Hopkins SAIS in D.C. However, I also work on Japan, South Korea, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Russia, among others, which stretches my ability to focus solely on China as much as I would maybe like. My Chinese is most handy when I’m trying to understand a new energy or environmental policy and I can go directly to the relevant ministry’s website to look at the text. It is very helpful to be able to confirm or clarify what is reported in the media in order to better understand the entire situation or implications of new policies.

What was your most memorable moment when you were studying in Nanjing?
There were many great opportunities at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and in Nanjing to meet a lot of different people and gain new experiences. For example, I enjoyed trying to teach the Thriller dance routine during a Halloween party at the elementary school at which many Hopkins-Nanjing Center students volunteered and I enjoyed joining a touch-rugby team and competing in tournaments. I think my favorite memory, however, was at the end-of-year graduation party. Students and faculty all gathered on the yangtai [rooftop deck], the  student band played music, and everyone was dancing or just hanging out. It was a great way to celebrate our accomplishments over the past year and to say goodbye to friends with whom you spent a lot of time.

What advice would you give to future Hopkins-Nanjing Center students?
Studying at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center provides you with a unique opportunity to learn from your professors and, in many ways more importantly, your classmates. Professors are enthusiastic to meet with you during office hours and outside of class to further discuss a topic or help you understand a particular reading. This was crucial in improving my reading comprehension and academic writing, as well as gaining a better understanding of many policy complexities. My conversations with my Chinese roommate and other friends were eye opening, and I learned a lot about what it was like growing up in a rapidly modernizing China, how our experiences differed, and how they were alike. My advice would be to meet and spend time with as many of your classmates as possible, engage with your professors, and try to get involved in something outside of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center as well. Your classes are of course important, but these personal interactions and new experiences can be the most instructive.