Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Moot Court at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center

Student blogger Hope Parker, MAIS ’20, describes the different opportunities to get involved with moot court, a law competition where students participate in international law court or arbitration simulations, at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.

At the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, many students join one of the moot court teams as an extracurricular activity. Moot court is an international law competition where students participate in preparing and arguing case simulations in front of judges. Each moot court competition has at least two major events during the year: the memorials deadline and the oral competition. Memorials are written arguments that must be submitted to the judges prior to the oral round. The memorials lay out legal arguments that become the basis for the oral round, which gives moot court members serving as oralists a chance to focus on their public speaking and oral arguments. During the oral rounds, teams compete against each other by making their arguments to judges who ask each oralist questions. Law schools frequently have moot court teams to help prepare students who are interested in litigation. Although the Hopkins-Nanjing Center is not a law school, it also gives students a chance to learn about international law through moot court and law coursework.

At the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, there are four separate teams that compete, each focusing on different types of law and corresponding to four different moot court competitions, Red Cross International Humanitarian Law Moot Court, Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot, Price Media Law Moot Court, and Jessup International Law Moot Court. Although team members do not need to have prior legal studies, it is helpful to have a foundation in international law by taking a class in the law concentration at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. As an international politics concentrator, I joined the Jessup team because learning more about international law will benefit my political studies. Joining a moot court team is a useful way to learn about law as a field you may be interested in pursuing after graduating or to complement your other interests.

Price Moot Court Team

International Humanitarian Law Moot Court (IHL): The IHL team’s competition is the earliest in the fall semester, meaning students have to begin preparing very soon after arriving in Nanjing. Team members may also take the International Humanitarian Law course at the same time to help prepare for the competition. This year the IHL team did quite well in the China round and advanced to the competition in Hong Kong, where they competed against teams from around the Asia-Pacific region.

Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot (Vis): Unlike the other three teams, where team members make oral arguments to judges, in competition against another team, the Vis team participates in arbitration, giving teams an opportunity to learn about international commercial law. This year’s problem focused on an international dispute between horse-breeding companies. The team went to Beijing in October to participate in the arbitration.

Price Media Law Moot Court Competition (Price): The Price Moot Court Competition focuses on human rights issues, with a particular concentration on freedom of expression. As people have increasingly used technology and online platforms for expression, joining the Price team can provide a way to learn about how the law governs these issues and how it may adapt to changing circumstances. The Price team also competed in Beijing during November.

Written by Hope Parker, Master of Arts in International Studies,’20

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

From Shanghai Lu to Massachusetts Ave

Hopkins-Nanjing Center Certificate + Johns Hopkins SAIS MA students reflect on their student life experiences in Nanjing and DC.

“In my experience, life in DC tends to be more fast-paced than in Nanjing. In DC, there are multiple events going on every day at Johns Hopkins SAIS, nearby think tanks, and other places; you sometimes have to pass up opportunities because there’s so much going on. Life at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center offered a bit more time to do things like take an evening walk around the city with friends. Getting to experience both cities is one of the best parts of being a student at both the HNC and Johns Hopkins SAIS.”  - Brian Hart, HNC Certificate ’18, Johns Hopkins SAIS MA ’19 

“We were just talking the other day about how much we actually miss Uncle Pizza (a pizza restaurant in Nanjing).... It was great seeing a whole cohort of familiar Hopkins-Nanjing Center faces when I arrived in DC for the first week of classes — it has been great getting to know the greater Johns Hopkins SAIS community while having a close-knit group of classmates from Nanjing.”- Gwendolyn Snider, HNC Certificate ’18, Johns Hopkins SAIS MA ’19 

“My favorite thing about Hopkins-Nanjing Center, aside from gathering on the yangtai [balcony] or courtyard with my friends, was walking out of the gates and having everything within a block’s distance, whether it was the delicious baozi shop, the Taiwanese chicken restaurant, or my favorite Baijia chaoshi [supermarket]. Mass Ave/Johns Hopkins SAIS life is also great, but in a different way. I like that the campus is more spread out and I run into my friends walking from Nitze to Rome or when grabbing lunch in the Galley Cafe.” – Kimya Nia, HNC Certificate ’18, Johns Hopkins SAIS Master of International Economics and Finance (MIEF) ’19

“Life at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center included dou-jiang [soy milk] and jian-bing [savory pancakes]. Life at Johns Hopkins SAIS includes coffee and more coffee.” – Stephanie Eyocko, HNC Certificate ’18, Johns Hopkins SAIS MA ’20 

“What I miss about the HNC is the ability to learn Chinese at every second (even when I really didn't want to!) and having a different perspective literally at my doorstep, or even on the bed across the room from me, courtesy of my roommate.”- Naomi Garcia, HNC Certificate ’17, Johns Hopkins SAIS MA ’19 

“At Johns Hopkins SAIS, policy debates, academic research seminars and conferences are happening all the time. I have increased my knowledge and gotten a better understanding of the process of policy decision by going to these events. But I always miss the Hopkins-Nanjing Center community. I miss the times we shared different viewpoints on the latest news during lunch time and group classes organized and taught by my classmates.” - Jiahui Wang, HNC Certificate ’17, Johns Hopkins SAIS MA ’20 

Written By Tarela Osuobeni Hopkins-Nanjing Center Certificate’ 17 SAIS MA’19

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Language Immersion at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center

Student blogger Tarela Osuobeni shares her experience adjusting to the bilingual community at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and her strategies for overcoming the learning curve.

Arriving in China to start my year at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, I first experienced the benefits of language immersion at the Shanghai airport. Having been in the U.S. for a month after being in Suzhou for the Critical Language Scholarship eight-week language immersion program, I was initially afraid that I had lost some of my language skills. However, the flow and familiarity of the words came back to me as I asked for directions and talked with my taxi drivers. I arrived at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center near midnight and found an HNC staff member waiting at the desk to hand me my room keys and check me into my room.

When I got to my room, I fumbled around for the information I needed to connect to the internet, trying not to wake up my roommate. I found the sheet that provided directions, but panicked when I realized that all the directions were in Chinese. I had never read anything technical in Chinese before. Using my Pleco dictionary app, I worked through translating the words, but to no avail. After about an hour of trial and error and built-up frustration, I fell asleep. I would worry about contacting family in the morning when someone could help me connect to the internet. This experience was one of many I had to struggle through to eventually adjust to a Chinese-immersed academic environment.

Students experience language immersion in different contexts throughout the duration of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center program. Although there is no language pledge, students experience Chinese immersion in the classroom, when they leave campus to explore Nanjing, and when speaking with classmates, faculty, and staff members on campus. The amount of immersion each student experiences depends on the effort they put into the different language immersion experiences. Language immersion at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center comes in three forms: friendship-related immersion, day-to-day life immersion, and class-related immersion. Experiencing frustration with my language skills in these immersive environments early on taught me how to ask for help in challenging language-related situations.

The amount of Chinese you speak in your social life depends on your core group of friends.

Three Types of Language Immersion at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center
During my time at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, language immersion through friendships looked different for each student. For international students, the amount of Chinese you spoke in your social life depended on your core group of friends. If most of your friends were Chinese, you would speak Chinese quite a bit compared to those who mostly spent time with other international students. With my roommate, choosing what language to speak became a somewhat challenging part of our initial interactions.  While international students aim to improve their Chinese while at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, Chinese students aim to improve their English. My roommate wanted to speak more English with me and I wanted to speak more Chinese with her. Over the course of spending time together, we came to a happy medium where we spoke half in English and half in Chinese depending on the subject.

My roommate was the first person I would often go to when I had issues related to navigating day-to- day life experiences in Chinese. When I needed to set up a bank account, order my first 外卖 (wai mai: takeout) and rent my first bike, my roommate guided me through the process because I asked for her help. After her assistance, I often felt empowered to complete the task on my own the next time and became better at navigating day—to—day life experiences.

True language immersion came in the classroom. Hopkins-Nanjing Center courses are not language classes. For international students, they are graduate courses taught in Chinese that center on topics related to international relations, Chinese studies, economics, law, and the environment. International students use their own Chinese vocabulary to understand the content of each course. Along with other classmates, I developed reading, writing, and research strategies that worked best for my learning style. Developing these strategies helped me improve my reading and comprehension ability over time.

Creating a word document dictionary helped me keep track of the new words I wanted to remember.

For the first time, I read Chinese articles more than 20 pages long. I was determined to read for understanding at a somewhat fast pace. At first, I was discouraged when it took me about an hour to read and comprehend the material on the first page of an article. Over the course of the semester, I accepted that the readings would be challenging and that time would be the only way to improve. I also started to notice that some articles or books were easier for me to read than others. At the beginning of my week, I would focus on finishing those readings first, to give myself some encouragement, and focus on the more difficult readings later in the week. One thing that helped me was I kept a word document where I tracked new words I wanted to remember. I regularly attended office hours and tutoring sessions to use the concepts I was learning in class to discuss ideas with my professors. Through diligence and determination, I overcame the learning curve. By the end of the semester, I was reading at a quicker pace, spending 10-15 minutes to read through a page.

Every student dealt with language immersion challenges in different ways. I found that my ability to stay diligent and ask for help when I needed it helped me benefit from the many opportunities for language immersion at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.

Written By Tarela Osuobeni Hopkins-Nanjing Center Certificate’ 17 SAIS MA’19

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Meet the Hopkins-Nanjing Center American Co-Director: Adam Webb

The Hopkins-Nanjing Center is pleased to welcome Adam Webb as the new American Co-Director. He has served on the faculty at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center as Resident Professor of Political Science for over 10 years. He holds a PhD in politics from Princeton University and has previously taught at Princeton and Harvard, and served as a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His research interests encompass political thought, globalization, and critiques of modernity, and his research has addressed topics including social movements, alternative development, and the rise of China.

How did you come to teach at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?
I first came to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center in 2008, after a few years of teaching at Harvard. I was originally expecting that I would stay a year or two as an opportunity to reconnect with China. I found the potential and unique environment very appealing, however, and have now been based here for over a decade.

Based on your perspective as a faculty member for over ten years, what sets the Hopkins-Nanjing Center apart from other institutions?
The bilingual character is obviously one of its unusual strengths, as well as the opportunity it gives for open discussion about many important issues involving today’s China and its relation with the rest of the world. Despite the vicissitudes of the last three decades, it remains a unique institution and represents the best of what happens when Chinese and international students and faculty can interact in a shared and dynamic space.

What current research are you working on? How has living and teaching at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center impacted your research?
Most of the last few years I was teaching mainly one semester each year, and away the rest of the time, so the perspective I gained from moving between China and other parts of the world was stimulating.  I suppose one way I differ from most previous American Co-Directors is that I have never considered myself a China specialist as such, even though my interests have included China.  I have done quite a lot of work on globalization and political theory, for example. My main project at the moment is finishing up my fourth book, on future global constitutional arrangements suited to preserving liberty and pluralism in a cosmopolitan world order.

What has been the most rewarding moment in your time at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center? The biggest challenge?
Some of the special fora we have had over the years on burning issues of the day have been so lively, with such wide ranges of viewpoint, that it makes one realize just how special the Hopkins-Nanjing Center is. As far as challenges, teaching social theory in both Chinese and English in a bilingual class undoubtedly stretches the mind the first time one does it, but it is an experience that I could not imagine having anywhere else.

One of the courses you’ve taught at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, Politics of Rural Development, has included an annual field trip to the Chinese countryside, and recently more Hopkins-Nanjing Center courses have included fieldwork. What benefits do students gain from going outside the classroom?
Even in a community of less than two hundred people, it can be quite easy to get into a bubble.  The trips off campus, especially when they involve mixed Chinese and international students, remind us all that there is a vast and complex Chinese society out there worth engaging firsthand.  Whether in villages or courtrooms or power plants or border areas, China is probably more accessible to international students now than it has been for a very long time. It has also been a great opportunity for many Chinese students. Chinese universities tend to put less emphasis on experiential learning, and with urbanization and prosperity, a surprising number of Chinese students have often felt quite distant from what happens on the ground in other areas and layers of society.

What’s your favorite place in Nanjing?
One of my regular habits in the city is going for hotpot about once a week. Outside the city, some of my most memorable experiences over the last ten years have been drives along country roads.

Do you have any advice you would like to share with incoming students?

Academically, I think that whatever one’s level of Chinese, the first few weeks often prove challenging when dealing with the volume of reading material, the accents and pace of some professors, and writing essays in another language. Nearly everyone tells me by November or December they have noticed huge progress, however. Socially, each cohort is different, but making a real effort to build circles of informal interaction across the two halves of the program goes a long way to setting the tone for the year.

What do you hope to accomplish as the American Co-Director? What are you looking forward to in your new role?
I have become very familiar with how the Hopkins-Nanjing Center works over the last few years, so while there are some adjustments, I think I have the advantage of being able to get up to speed quickly. We have been working within the model that originated when the Hopkins-Nanjing Center was founded in 1986, which gives us a solid foundation, and there is much that we do very well. At the same time, the world and our environment have changed. What it means to understand China and America and the relationship of both to the rest of the world is quite different now from three decades ago. China is much less isolated, and has a huge footprint in places like Africa, for example. Globalization is also breaking down many barriers, so interacting in a common space does not mean simply engaging in dialogue between fundamentally different people in their own compartmentalized societies. There is also an expanding and promising universe of students and scholars out there, both in China and around the world, who I am sure will have new reasons to want to come to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center as we move forward in our next decades. I look forward to engaging with them and engaging with diverse themes of excellence that the Hopkins-Nanjing Center is uniquely situated to cultivate as a point of contact between Anglophone and Sinophone academe. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Advice for submitting a strong Hopkins-Nanjing Center application

The admissions deadline recently passed for applicants applying to join the Hopkins-Nanjing Center this fall. For those of you who are considering applying in the future, the admissions team has compiled tips for ways you can strengthen your application over the coming year. 

Continue studying Chinese
Most importantly, continue working on your Chinese language skills! It’s great if you are able to enroll in Chinese classes or spend a semester abroad in an immersive language program. If that’s not possible for you, find ways to engage with the language on a regular basis, such as making a self-study plan, finding a language tutor, watching Chinese movies or TV shows, and reading Chinese news articles. 

You are welcome to take the Hopkins-Nanjing Center’s STAMP Chinese Proficiency Test at any time, which is required for admission to all programs. Your scores are valid for one year, and you can take the test once every three months. Taking the test early can help gauge your current level, give you a better idea of which program is the best fit for you, and determine if you need to focus on your reading or listening skills.     

Stay current on US-China relations and Sino-global relations
Regardless of your academic background, a great way to prepare your application and get ready for Hopkins-Nanjing Center coursework is to stay up to date on current topics in US-China relations and Sino-global relations. Hopkins-Nanjing Center students have a range of interests, and not everyone enters with a formal background in East Asian studies or international relations. In the past, applicants have included a range of topics in their essays, such as cyber security, environmental policy, gender equality, and China’s development initiatives in Africa and Latin America. You don’t need to be an expert in every area, but monitoring the issues that most interest you will help to write application essays that highlight your unique academic and career goals. 

Gain relevant experience
One great way to bolster your application is to have relevant work, internship, or volunteer experience that is related to China or your specific area of interest (such as politics, environmental studies, anthropology, law, etc.). There’s no one particular experience that we are looking for, but it’s great to see applicants who have professional experience or have sought out opportunities to get exposure to the field. If there are limited opportunities where you are located, consider doing a remote internship, volunteering for an organization that interests you, or getting involved with a student group or conference. There are many ways to gain relevant experience in the field.

Speak with an admissions representative
One of the best ways to learn about Hopkins-Nanjing Center programs is to speak directly with an admissions representative. The admissions team is always happy to talk with students one-on-one by phone, Skype, or in-person. It’s also a good opportunity to address any particular concerns that you might have about applying to the program. To connect with the admissions team, email  

Explore external scholarships and fellowships
While the Hopkins-Nanjing Center guarantees scholarship funding to all students who apply for financial aid, we also encourage students to research external scholarship and fellowship opportunities. Your undergraduate institution’s fellowship or financial aid office can serve as an important resource for learning more about funding opportunities and may provide services to alumni as well as current students. Common external fellowships that students have been successful in receiving include: Boren Fellowship Program, Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program, and the Thomas B. Pickering Fellowship Program. It helps to start looking into these opportunities early, as deadlines are often before the Hopkins-Nanjing Center February 1 admissions deadline. It may seem counterintuitive, but you can apply for these opportunities before you receive an admissions decision from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

From Nanjing to DC: Tips for the transition

Student blogger Tarela Osuobeni, Certificate ’17, MA ’19, gives some tips on transitioning between the Hopkins-Nanjing Center Certificate and Johns Hopkins SAIS MA program.

What is the biggest difference between studying at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and Johns Hopkins SAIS in DC?

Tip: The academic goals and environment of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and Johns Hopkins SAIS are different in some respects. Think about how you want each program to contribute to your career goals and professional development. 

The Hopkins-Nanjing Center Certificate and Johns Hopkins SAIS MA study experience are different in that they can help you enhance different skills. While both programs center on international relations, coursework in Nanjing inherently has a language and cultural immersion aspect to it. Hopkins-Nanjing Center courses will require you to think, read, and articulate yourself in Chinese. Through lectures, discussions, and debates, I was able to practice thinking and speaking about international relations, economics and law in a different cultural context.

When students begin the MA program in DC, they engage solely with English material within their concentration area, except if they are taking any foreign-language classes. (Certificate students are exempt from the SAIS MA language requirement due to their knowledge of Chinese, but some choose to study a third language in DC.)  Although you’re studying in a more familiar language, the MA program puts a strong emphasis on quantitative skills. All MA students are required to graduate with an international economics concentration. These courses may immediately feel like a challenge to some, but Johns Hopkins SAIS offers academic support from teaching assistants, professors and tutors (the Hopkins-Nanjing Center also offers quantitative-focused coursework). I came in with no economics background but I still find it doable to navigate the economics because of all the help I have sought out.

What is student life like in Nanjing versus in DC? 

Tip: Enjoy the cities of Nanjing and DC and prepare to prioritize your time. You will have many different academic, social and career opportunities available to you.

Nanjing and DC are similar in many ways. Both are big cities with many universities and opportunities to learn about China and the U.S. respectively. The differences in student life are specific to the community feel. The Hopkins-Nanjing Center has a smaller close-knit community. Most of the 150-170 students live in the student dormitory with roommates in a bilingual environment. You have access to a cafeteria, gym, common space, and classrooms all within the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. In DC, the Johns Hopkins SAIS community is more spread out because students live throughout the city. There are a plethora of on-campus events that happen each week: speaker series, mini courses, skills courses, student club meetings, etc. The city has many events to enjoy off campus so you’ll constantly have access to many opportunities.

How did you find housing in Nanjing versus DC?

Tip: Start researching early, think about price, and talk to people who are living in DC about housing options. 

In Nanjing, most students live on campus with a roommate of a different nationality. At Johns Hopkins SAIS, there are no designated living spaces for students. Students find their own housing within the city or in bordering states of Maryland and Virginia. Incoming students transitioning to DC typically use housing websites, or DC connections to find housing. I found appropriate housing through various DC online forums. During the summer, I researched DC neighborhoods and ranked them by affordability and proximity to the SAIS campus. Through understanding the costs, assessing these lists and talking with Hopkins-Nanjing Center alumni who lived in DC, I was able to find many housing options in the area.

Housing costs in DC (based on my experience in 2018):
Housing (Type)                                                                                Housing Cost Range
Less expensive and requires a roommate or more housemates      $950/month or lower
Average cost for a student (require a housemate/better location)    $950-$1200/month
High cost, may be within the city and closer to campus                    $1200/month and higher

How can you keep up your Chinese language studies in DC? 

Tip: If you want to keep up your Chinese, enroll in an advanced Chinese course each semester and explore other language options on and off campus!

When I started registering for classes at Johns Hopkins SAIS, I prioritized continuing my Chinese language studies. I wanted to build upon the language gains I had achieved at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and I knew that DC would have fewer Chinese language-immersive environments. I registered for the post-proficiency Chinese course at Johns Hopkins SAIS, Advanced Chinese Mid I, to not only resolve these concerns but also to prepare myself for a career where I could use Chinese. The class meets once a week for two hours, and we read and analyze U.S.-China-related news articles on political, social and international issues.  Class time is infused with discussions, debates and presentations. It almost feels like taking a class at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center!

In addition to advanced language courses, the Johns Hopkins SAIS language program offers a Chinese tutor and Chinese language table during the week!

What’s the most important thing to note when transitioning from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center to Johns Hopkins SAIS in DC? 

Tip: Know that each program is different and plan ahead (to the extent that you can) for each program.

Accepting that the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and the Johns Hopkins SAIS DC programs are different early on is going to be easier for your transition. Knowing what you want to get out of both programs will direct your coursework choices. You’ll be able to prioritize your academic, social and work life better. While studying in Nanjing you’ll want to consider which classes might apply to your desired MA concentration in DC. This could also influence whether you finish the MA portion of the program in 2 or 3 semesters.

Written by Tarela Osuobeni, Hopkins-Nanjing Center Certificate ’17, SAIS MA ‘18

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

How to Navigate Hopkins-Nanjing Center Coursework

Student Blogger Hope Parker, MAIS ’20, reflects on some useful skills for a successful semester at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.

As the fall semester at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center wraps up, Certificate and first-year MAIS students have developed some study tips, based on their experiences this semester. I have compiled my own and other students’ recommendations to help students who are preparing to come to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center in future years.

Class notes

Vocabulary Lists
Before coming to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, I heard it was helpful to create vocabulary lists before class. I have found it most useful to prepare a list of what seem to be the most important words from a particular day’s assigned readings. Especially at the beginning of the semester, it is useful to review the words before class, or to refer to them during class while discussing the topics. As the semester goes on, it is easier to remember new words, and there are fewer new words to study. Even though I find myself referring to my list less and less throughout the semester, it is a nice practice to have when preparing for class.

Learn to Skim
At the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, there is a lot of reading. Especially at the beginning, it is easy to get caught in a trap by reading every word, but there is not enough time to look up every word you do not know. Although we may know how to skim in our native languages, it is much harder to get the main idea of a paragraph in a foreign language. It is helpful to talk to other students to learn how to pull key ideas and words out of a reading so that you can continue to stay up-to-date with readings throughout the semester.

Start Early
The Hopkins-Nanjing Center has a steep learning curve, but the sooner you confront it, the sooner you adapt. Even though the beginning of the semester may have fewer assignments, spend time carefully preparing for them. The first month sets the foundation for the rest of the semester. If you engage with readings, in class discussions, and with professors as much as possible in September, it will be much easier to write your final papers during January.

 Chalkboard from an international politics class

Use the Resources
The Hopkins-Nanjing Center provides students with a lot of resources to improve our language skills. First, each week, professors are available during office hours to help students with readings that they may not understand. Second, the Hopkins-Nanjing Center also offers academic writing modules outside of class time to assist students with writing formal essays in their target language. Third, there is a writing center where students review and edit other students’ essays, ensuring that our grammar is correct and that we are using appropriate, formal Chinese. Finally, you can always ask other students for help. Fellow classmates are always happy to help if you do not understand a lecture or reading. Talking to other students can help in both practicing your target language and expanding on analytical class discussions.

With these skills, you’ll be able to start the school year a little more prepared, which will help you become even more involved in class at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.

Written by Hope Parker, Master of Arts in International Studies '20

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Fall Break Research Trip to Shangri-La

Student blogger Cady Deck, Certificate ’19, shares her experience participating in a research trip for the Hopkins-Nanjing Center course Chinese and American Thought: Bilingual Perspectives.

My group on top of Shika Snow Mountain in Shangri-La

Over fall break, I went to Yunnan Province to conduct research with classmates from the course Chinese and American Thought: Bilingual Perspectives. This was an opportunity that I didn’t even know existed before coming to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. There are other classes offered during the school year that include research trips, which I think is something that makes the Hopkins-Nanjing Center experience unique.

For a couple of weeks before the trip, we learned about the area in Yunnan known as Shangri-La and its characteristics, including religions, myths, and ethnic diversity. The class then split into three groups, focusing on either the myth of Shangri-La, Tibetan Buddhism in Shangri-La, or ethnic minorities in Shangri-La. Each international student was paired with a Chinese student and each pair determined their own subtopic based on one of the three broader subject areas. We worked together during the research trip to conduct interviews, compile notes, and decide where to go. After coming back to Nanjing, we worked with our partner and our group to give presentations to the community about our findings. We also wrote research papers detailing our research methods, preconceptions, findings, and conclusions.

In many ways, learning about Shangri-La firsthand was more valuable than learning about it in the classroom. We spent the week interviewing locals, shop owners, and tourists. In our small groups, we were given the freedom to decide where we wanted to go, what we wanted to do, and how we wanted to do it. Because we had a full day in Kunming and my group was researching ethnic minorities, we decided to go to the Yunnan Nationalities Museum. The museum was interesting and informative, but the best part was running into an entire group of Miaozu men and women who were also exploring the museum. We interviewed several of the women about their lives in Yunnan and discovered that they were in Kunming as part of a government program to learn the sewing techniques of other ethnic minorities.

Students with Miaozu men and women in front of Yunnan’s Nationalities Museum in Kunming
After Kunming, we flew to Shangri-La. When we arrived, we rested and adjusted to the altitude, which is over 10,000 feet above sea level, before going out to explore the area. One of the local places we went was Dukezong, Shangri-La’s ancient town. We interviewed some local shopkeepers about living and working in the area. One Yizu woman described to us how she continued to preserve her own culture while living in Shangri-La, which is 80% Tibetan Buddhist. Although it’s fairly touristy, there is a large temple, an entire area of housing, and a lot of different ethnic minorities, which reflects the diversity of Yunnan and Shangri-La itself.

One of the groups at a temple in Shangri-La
In addition to visiting the ancient town, the three groups went to many other places to do research and see some of the famous sites. Songzanlin Temple is the largest Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Yunnan Province and one of the most famous in China. My group interviewed several monks, the tour guide, and a couple older Naxizu women selling sour yak yogurt. One of the monks told us that although this temple is a major tourist destination, the tourist industry hasn’t really impacted the monks’ way of life.

Two groups at Songzanlin Temple in Shangri-La to learn about Tibetan Buddhism
Two groups went to the Bureau of Religious Affairs to see what information they could learn about the region related to religion and ethnic minorities. Another group went to Potatso National Park to interview tourists and analyze the myth of Shangri-La. They then compared their findings to James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon, which we read for class before the trip.

A group at Potatso National Park to interview tourists and locals about the myth of Shangri-La
To explore the area, several groups went to Shika Snow Mountain and Balagezong Canyon, which were both beautiful and educational. At the bottom of Shika Snow Mountain, my partner and I interviewed two Tibetan women who were living nearby and raising yak until the winter. At Balagezong Canyon we managed to get a private guide who drove us around and introduced the history of the region. In addition to taking us to all of the various scenic spots, he also shared with us his experiences growing up in the area and how development has changed it in the past few decades. For example, he used to go to school by horse and cart, but a rich former resident poured money into the area and built a lot of the roads, making the area more accessible to residents and visitors.

A fun trip to Balagezong Canyon
This trip was also a great opportunity to bond with all of my classmates, but especially my Chinese classmates, outside of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center bubble. Going to class together two times every week for two hours is one thing, but spending a week traveling with a group of people is a completely different experience. Since coming back from the trip, I’ve noticed that the class dynamics have changed in a positive way. People who were merely classmates before are now close friends and as a result, conversations in class flow much more smoothly. There are also other classes that include a research trip component, both weekend trips and entire week trips during the fall and spring breaks. I highly recommend taking one of these classes because it added so much to my experience here, both intellectually and personally.

Written by Cady Deck, Certificate ‘19

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Chinese and American Thought: Bilingual Perspectives

Student blogger Cady Deck, Certificate ’19, shares her experience taking an English and Chinese co-taught class offered this semester.

 Class field trip to Maoshan, a Daoist mountain near Nanjing

This semester I am taking Chinese and American Thought: Bilingual Perspectives, which is a new course that is co-taught in English and Chinese. It examines Chinese and Western thought, focusing specifically on religion, philosophy, and law. It is a fairly broad course with a lot of potential for discussion. We have taken several short field trips to places in or near Nanjing, which are related to topics we talk about in class. We also went on a week-long research trip to Shangri-La in Yunnan province over fall break. Aside from the field trip, one of the major benefits of this class is that half of the students in the class are Chinese and the other half are international students. Additionally, it is co-taught by an American professor and a Chinese professor. Both professors have extensive experience in both China and the US, which adds to the truly cross-cultural and bilingual experience of the class.

Every class at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center encourages students to analyze issues from both the US and Chinese perspectives. This class has deepened my understanding of many topics from the Chinese perspective, adding historical, cultural, and political context to issues that are often discussed in the US from a purely Western perspective. The class has been an excellent opportunity for international and Chinese students to discuss topics together in an academic setting. My other classes consist of either mostly international students or mostly Chinese students, but this class was designed for an even number of Chinese and international students, which can lead to more balanced discussions.

It is also by far my most interactive class. Every class, the professors set aside time for students to discuss topics with each other in smaller groups. International and Chinese students usually sit next to each other, which makes conversations much more valuable. Often, the professors will intentionally ask questions designed to draw out similarities and differences between international and Chinese perspectives. One example of this is when students were asked to write a list of characteristics that define a leader and then discuss the differences between the lists, identifying common similarities and differences between Chinese and international students’ opinions.

Another way this class maximizes interactions between Chinese and international students is by pairing an international student with a Chinese student for every paper and project. Some readings are in English, while others are in Chinese—taking advantage of the fact that everyone in the class speaks each other’s languages. Topics have included the political philosophies of Marx and Mao and the philosophies of Kant and Confucius. Since these readings are quite complex and difficult to understand, even in one’s own native language, we do many of the readings with our partners, or at least meet outside of class to ask and answer questions related to the readings. After writing our papers, we also write a response to our partners’ papers and analyze their opinions. We change partners after every project, which encourages us to interact closely with many of our classmates over the course of the semester.

Teamwork has been an extremely challenging but rewarding part of this class. In addition to the many papers and projects that involve partner work, we will put on a bilingual play at the end of the semester that examines the difficulties of cross-cultural dialogue. We are currently working together to prepare for the play, which includes directing, managing, and coaching each other on our respective roles. It is the final project of the semester and exemplifies the truly cross-cultural experience that the Hopkins-Nanjing Center offers.

Written by Cady Deck, Certificate ‘19

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Day in the Life of a Hopkins-Nanjing Center Student: Hope Parker

Student blogger Hope Parker, MAIS ’20, describes a typical day at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.

Now that I have been in Nanjing for a few months, I have settled into my classes and a weekly routine. Here is what a normal day looks like for me at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center:

6:30 a.m. Go for a run
I start the morning with a run on the Nanjing University track or by going to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center fitness center. As the weather has gotten colder, fewer people have been on the track. Luckily, this morning lots of people were out walking, running, and dancing.

Nanjing University’s track in the morning

8:00 a.m. International Political Economy (IPE)
On Wednesdays I have an early start with my IPE class. This week we have been finishing up topics on maritime issues and trade, and applying theories we studied at the beginning of the semester to events and policies. Today we focused on different states’ policies in the Arctic.

9:50 a.m. International Relations of East Asia
Our class focuses on Northeast Asian relations, particularly on the Korean Peninsula. In our last class we all presented on our final paper topics. Since several students are studying cooperation mechanisms in East Asia, our professor discussed fundamental features and barriers to cooperation in East Asia.

12:00 p.m. Lunch

Around noon I head to lunch at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center cafeteria. Lunch is probably one of the busiest times in the cafeteria because everyone goes to eat right after class. Professors and students catch up with one another and continue class discussions over lunch.

A study space in the Hopkins-Nanjing Center Library

12:30 p.m. Homework
This semester I only have morning classes, which means I usually start preparing for other classes after lunch each day. Today I have to go over my readings for tomorrow’s law class. We just started a unit on internet law and how cyberspace activities could be governed internationally. Once I finish, I start on readings for Friday morning’s International Political Economy class.

There are lots of places to study on campus. Sometimes I’ll study in my room, but there are also various spaces in the library for students to study. If I feel that I need an extra quiet space, I usually go to my study carrel. Master’s students can get a carrel to study in, which is a room that is shared by three students, each assigned their own individual desk. The carrels are available for students to study any time—day or night.

Professor Andrew Mertha giving a lecture on China’s relationship with Cambodia

7:00 p.m. Lecture
Each Wednesday afternoon from is blocked out for visiting lectures at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center—often professors from universities in China and abroad. Tonight we heard from the new China Studies director at Johns Hopkins SAIS, Professor Andrew Mertha, talk about his research on Chinese-Cambodian relations. Lots of students were excited to hear about China’s relationship with Cambodia from an expert in the field.

8:30 p.m. Moot Court

I am a member of the Jessup International Law Moot Court team. Our group usually meets at least once per week to discuss, research, and write, but I also try to do some work on the case each day. Often that means reading about other cases, then adding to my written arguments.

9:45 p.m. Wind Down
At the end of the day my roommate and I are usually both back in our room. Before we go to sleep, we talk about different things that we did that day, as well as what we’re doing later in the week.

Written by Hope Parker, MAIS ‘20