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

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Hopkins-Nanjing Center Master of Arts in International Studies Thesis Tutorial Course

Student blogger Hope Parker reflects on the required First-Year Interdisciplinary MA Tutorial Course. 

Every first-year Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS) student at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center is required to take the interdisciplinary MA Tutorial Course during their first year. Before starting the course, I assumed it would be a research methods class in preparation for writing our theses. As it turns out, although master’s students do take a separate class that includes research methods later on in their studies, the tutorial is meant to help students start thinking about a variety of questions that we may encounter while researching and writing our theses. Given that every master’s student is required to take the course, there are Chinese and international students in each section, and the course is co-taught by an American and a Chinese faculty member. The professors take turns leading the course in English and Chinese, based on English and Chinese readings. Chinese and international students have discussions using their target languages.

As an interdisciplinary course, the tutorial covers topics on a variety of social sciences, frequently focusing on different theories’ applicability in China, the United States, and the rest of the world. The structure prompts an examination of these theories against students’ existing understandings of an issue within a particular cultural context. Explaining how I understand social science theories based on my own cultural background in Chinese has been more challenging than I anticipated, but has made me aware of how closely language and culture are related. At the beginning of the course, I would bring up ideas that are inherently based on my American education and background. However, raising those ideas in Chinese to people who do not have the same background made me realize that what I said may not have meant the same thing for my classmates as it did for me.

Taking the tutorial course requires me to think about ideas and explain them in a more systematic fashion, reflecting not just on my perspective, but why I have that perspective. I then do the same when listening to my classmates, attempting to make my ideas as clear as possible and understand others’ perspectives as well as I can. These class discussions will help my thesis by giving it more nuanced perspectives, not just in terms of varying social science theories, but also based on their applicability to different situations. More generally, I find the class to be a good listening and discussion exercise.

The Hopkins-Nanjing Center’s cross-cultural setting provides a unique forum for examining arguments in a methodical way. In the tutorial course and at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, having fellow classmates ask me a question about my perspective has prompted me to reflect on what experiences and lessons I experienced that may be common within the United States, but not elsewhere. As an international student at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, not only have I learned a lot about China and Chinese society, but I have also been encouraged to think more deeply about my own background.

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Tips for writing your statement of purpose and additional essays

It's hard to overstate the importance of the essay section on your application to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. The essay(s) not only demonstrates your writing skills, but it also allows the admissions committee to get to know you as more than just test scores, transcripts, and resume.

Hopkins-Nanjing Center Statement of Purpose
The statement of purpose is arguably the most important essay and is required for all applicants to Hopkins-Nanjing Center programs (Certificate, Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS), and the HNC Certificate + Johns Hopkins SAIS MA). All applicants are required to answer the following prompt in 600-800 words:

Tell us why you want to study at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and how studying at the HNC would contribute to your academic and professional goals.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you write your statement of purpose.

1) Answer the prompt. It may seem obvious, but some applicants submit essays that don’t fully answer the statement of purpose prompt. Review your essay and make sure that you are clearly answering all parts of the prompt. It’s okay if you don’t have a five-year career plan! The admissions committee is looking to see that you have thought out why you want to study at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and how you see the program as an essential piece of your future plans.

2) Offer clarifications. The statement of purpose is an opportunity to address any irregularities or other points of clarification on your application - whether it’s lower grades during your freshman year, a gap year you took after high school, if you are planning to improve your Chinese over the summer, or anything else that the admissions committee should be aware of when reviewing your application. Applicants can be hesitant to bring attention to these areas, but it’s better to address any issues upfront and provide the admissions committee with more information when reviewing your application.

3) Be specific.  Applicants with the best essays give concrete examples of what motivated them to continue studying China and Chinese and why they want to study in Nanjing. The Hopkins-Nanjing Center is a unique program, so we are interested in learning specifically why you are applying and how it will benefit your future career goals. Vague generalizations will not help you stand apart from other applicants. Don’t just tell us why you want to attend graduate school, but instead tailor your essay to highlight why you want to attend the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.

4) Be memorable.  The essay should not just restate information already provided in your resume but rather should provide additional information to give the admissions committee a fuller picture of your motivations for studying at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. For example, one past applicant wrote about lessons he learned from his friendship with a Chinese classmate. Another explained her interest in public health through her interactions volunteering at a clinic. Other applicants highlight how their work or internship experiences exposed them to a certain issue that they want to learn more about at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. Not everything is learned in the classroom!

5) Avoid clichés. For example, one of the most common clichés we encounter every year involves applicants writing that they hope to become a "bridge" between China and the US. It may be true, and it's a noble cause, but this statement doesn’t let the admissions committee know specifically why you want to study at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. Get specific and write from your own experiences.

6) Be concise. The word count for this essay is 600-800 words. However, don’t feel like you need to meet the maximum requirement if it doesn’t add anything new to your essay. If you can answer the prompt completely in 600 words, you can stop there. It’s better to be concise rather than repeating similar ideas or phrases to increase the word count.

Concentration Essay for MAIS applicants
In addition to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center statement of purpose, MAIS applicants are required to write a concentration essay. For this essay, we ask that you choose one of the five concentrations offered in Nanjing: international economics, international politics, comparative and international law, Chinese studies, or energy, resources, and environment. You then are prompted to write about your potential thesis topic. Don't worry, though! You will not be locked into this topic, so it is completely fine if you change your topic, or even your concentration area, after you are in Nanjing. This is more an opportunity for the admissions committee to see that you have a particular area of interest related to China, and that you have put thought into a potential research topic.

You will notice that we ask you to write about only one area of interest for your thesis topic. While it may be tempting to discuss multiple ideas and show you have a variety of interests, you should stick to only one topic. Discussing a multitude of different research ideas can show a lack of focus to the admissions committee, so it’s better to use this essay to demonstrate your analytic skills and go into depth into one particular area of interest. 

Additional Essays for HNC Certificate + Johns Hopkins SAIS MA applicants
Last but not least, Certificate + MA applicants are required to submit three essays total as applicants are applying to two different programs within one application:

•    Hopkins-Nanjing Center statement of purpose
•    Johns Hopkins SAIS MA statement of purpose
•    Johns Hopkins SAIS MA analytical essay

We often receive questions about the amount of overlap between the two statement of purpose essays. While the essays may seem similar, both essays have distinct prompts and should be geared to either why you want to study at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center or why you want to study at Johns Hopkins SAIS. You should assume that both admissions committees of each program have access to all essays. You can include any relevant information in each, even if it does mean a bit of overlap, but be sure you are writing two distinct essays. Click the following link to hear tips from the DC admissions team on how to write the MA statement of purpose.

The analytical essay requires you to discuss an issue of national or international importance.  While the analytical essay should be related to international relations or economics, it doesn’t need to be related to China if that’s not your intended concentration area at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Click the following link to hear tips from the DC admissions team on how to write the MA analytical essay.

We look forward to reading your essays!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Volunteer Teaching in Nanjing

Student blogger Cady Deck, Certificate ’19, shares her experience volunteer teaching at a local elementary school in Nanjing.

This semester, I am one of four international students volunteering as an English teacher at Xijie Elementary School. I talked with Paul Armstrong-Taylor, an economics professor at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and our volunteer teaching faculty advisor, to learn about the school and how the volunteer teaching program began. The program started in 2010 when he and a first-year master’s student, “realized that many students were interested in volunteering, but because they were only at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center for one or two years it was often hard to connect with opportunities.” They reached out to a major Chinese non-profit based in Nanjing, who put them in contact with a local elementary school. Although they began teaching at that elementary school, the school that students volunteer at has changed several times over the years.

We teach a class of about 30 students on Friday afternoons, which presents a unique challenge. As a former third grader, I sympathize with their desire to start the weekend, but as a teacher, their excitement is my biggest challenge. The four of us are tasked with teaching them new material, reviewing what they have already learned, and maintaining control of the class, all in the span of 40 minutes. As a result, not only are we developing our teaching skills, but we’re also gaining classroom management skills. At the beginning of the semester, I saw a volunteer teaching WeChat QR code posted on the Hopkins-Nanjing Center bulletin board and immediately scanned it to sign up. For me, volunteering at this school is a fun way to interact with the local community and do something productive with my free time on Fridays.

Volunteer teaching is a very rewarding experience, even though we only teach for 40 minutes every time. We meet before each class to come up with new lesson plans. The first time we went, we weren’t sure what level the students were at, so we came up with activities based on the first few lessons in their textbook, which consisted of very basic greetings, such as “hello” and “good morning.” After teaching them for a few minutes, we quickly realized they were at a much more advanced level. We needed to give them a bigger challenge, so we taught them more complex sentence structures and had them introduce themselves to each other and to us.

Because the students are so far ahead of the lessons in the textbook, we come up with our own topics every week. For example, last time we taught them about different flavors and food. We incorporate as many interactive elements as possible so they can practice speaking with and listening to native English speakers. By doing this, we correct their mistakes, and they hear how certain words should be pronounced. However, correcting pronunciation isn’t a one-way street. An unintentional benefit of this opportunity is that the students aren’t afraid to let us know when our tones are wrong or when they don’t understand our Chinese.

The Hopkins-Nanjing Center emphasizes the importance of cross-cultural dialogue, and this is a great way to engage with people of different ages and backgrounds. Professor Armstrong-Taylor summed up the overall experience perfectly by saying that “we not only get the psychological benefits of helping others, but also an opportunity to get out of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center bubble and see a part of Nanjing and Chinese society that we would not otherwise have access to.”

Written by Cady Deck, Hopkins-Nanjing Center Certificate ’19

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Day in the Life of a Hopkins-Nanjing Center Student: Sam Olson

Student blogger Sam Olson describes a typical day at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. 
6:30-7:20am: Workout with my roommate 
I start off the day with a workout with my roommate, Adam Zhang, to get myself going and mentally prepared for class. The Hopkins-Nanjing Center has its own gym with an excellent variety of weights and exercise machines. In addition, students that apply for Nanjing University student cards can use the gym at Nanjing University, and there are private gyms nearby.

 The Hopkins-Nanjing Center gym

7:20-7:40am: Breakfast 
After working out, I head upstairs to eat breakfast at the cafeteria. The cafeteria offers good food at fairly affordable prices. Beyond the on-campus options, there are multiple restaurants on the main Nanjing University Gulou campus, as well as coffee shops that sell coffee, pastries, and small breakfast sandwiches at low cost.

8:00am: Review readings for my international politics class and catch up on homework
Next, I head to the library to review some readings that we will discuss in our international politics class and go over the PowerPoint slides for today’s class. The library is a very quiet, comfortable environment to do homework and offers an outstanding selection of books and other research materials.

9:50-11:20am: International politics class

In class, we discuss traditional and non-traditional security concerns from realist and non-realist perspectives.

A typical lunch at the 中美中心食堂

11:20 -11:40am: Lunch

12:20-1:40pm: Chinese Constitution class
In my Chinese Constitution class, one of my favorite classes this semester, we continued our discussion of the Chinese political system. One of the reasons I like this class so much is that it serves as a fascinating basis for comparing Western and non-Western legal cultures and values, which adds further dimension to the cross-cultural education we receive at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.

2:00-5:00pm: Homework, read papers for MA Tutorial course, and begin outlines for papers
After Chinese Constitution is over, I do some readings for my MA Interdisciplinary Tutorial course, as well as for my class on social issues of China’s modernization, and work on some outlines for upcoming papers due in other classes.

5:00-6:00pm Research internships
I use the hour before dinner to research internships and put together application materials for positions next summer. The Hopkins-Nanjing Center provides students with a great career services office that offers extensive guidance and support for students.

6:00pm: Dinner 
6:30-8:30pm: Do additional readings for classes 
8:30-9:30pm: Relax and play pool in student lounge
After a long day of classes and homework, I unwind by playing some pool in the student recreation room with my roommate and a few other classmates. The recreation room offers students a variety of activities for students, such as gaming consoles, a music room, and a place to practice Chinese calligraphy.

9:30-10:45pm: Make reading notes and call home
I end the day by making some reading notes for tomorrow’s classes, calling my family in the U.S., and then going to bed.

11:00pm: Sleep
And that wraps up a typical day in the life of a student! Whatever you need to do during your day, be it doing homework or pursuing a good work-life balance by working out or relaxing, the Hopkins-Nanjing Center provides an excellent living environment in which to do so.

Written by Samuel Olson, Master of Arts in International Studies ’20

Monday, November 19, 2018

China-Africa mini-course at the Hopkins Nanjing Center

Student blogger Hope Parker reflects on her experience participating in the China-Africa mini-course held at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center in October. The mini-course was a bilingual course taught by Professor Joshua Eisenman from University of Texas at Austin and Professor Wang Duanyong from Shanghai International Studies University.

Before I arrived at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, I was curious about the different ways that international and Chinese students interact with each other. Bilingual events at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center are one way that students engage with each and take advantage of the unique fact that students have language skills in both Chinese and English. At the end of October, for the first time, the Hopkins-Nanjing Center offered a truly bilingual mini-course with course time split between the two languages. During the year, the Hopkins-Nanjing Center hosts professors from other universities, or from professional experts in the field, to not just give a lecture, but to teach an intensive course over the weekend.

Students gathered on the first day of the course

The most recent mini-course was focused on China-Africa relations, a topic of increasing importance. It was a great opportunity to have Professor Joshua Eisenman from University of Texas at Austin and Professor Wang Duanyong from Shanghai International Studies University share their research and perspectives on Sino-African relations.

Given that I had heard about Chinese investment in African countries before, but had never actually formally studied the issue, the three-day mini-course was a great opportunity to hear differing perspectives about it from an American political scientist and from a Chinese economist. The mini-course was open to all students, regardless of having prior knowledge about China-Africa relations. The lectures prompted fruitful discussions between Chinese and international students.

On Friday, we began the course with a history of China-Africa relations and an overview of current relations in order to prepare us to learn about economic, political, and cultural issues. During our class on Saturday, we analyzed statements from the Chinese government about China’s aid to African countries. In our discussions we considered Chinese motivations, responses from African governments, and overall, what we thought the strategic goals of the interactions might be. We even discussed definitions and specific terms used in dialogue among different governments. As relatively few scholars are researching this relationship, it was very useful to hear about research on the topic in comparison with what is reported in the media.

Professor Eisenman lectures on China’s political history with African states

On Sunday afternoon, our “reward,” as Professor Eisenman described it, was a crisis simulation that, “was ripped from the headlines.” We spent about three and a half hours doing a crisis simulation based on an event involving Chinese miners in Ghana. Each student was assigned a role as part of a government, a private citizen of China, Ghana, or Nigeria, or as part of the press. While many students acted as members of governments, attempting to resolve and negotiate the issue, I was given the role of a journalist. Even after a long weekend, everyone was dedicated to playing out their role, making the simulation fast-paced with constant changes. Although I had less information than most participants and many of the students portraying government officials were uninterested in talking to the media outlets, I was in a very interactive role, getting to hear about how a variety of students were approaching the issue based on their role and based on their own viewpoints.

At the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, students are frequently encouraged to engage with each other and not spend all of their time focusing just on coursework. This mini-course was academic, but it encouraged students to engage with new material and each other. In this way, the course fulfilled the goal of incorporating ideas based on a variety of student backgrounds in order to study important international issues.

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Hopkins-Nanjing Center Student Band

Student blogger Sam Olson, Master of Arts in International Studies ’20, introduces the student band and discusses how it adds to the student experience and the Hopkins-Nanjing Center’s mission.

 Band playing at the Mid -Autumn Festival barbeque
Outside of the classroom, the Hopkins-Nanjing Center hosts a variety of student groups that enrich student life, such as basketball, the dragon boat team, and moot court. Although maybe not as well-known as some of the other groups, one activity in particular that enhances the student experience and reinforces the Hopkins-Nanjing Center’s cross-cultural environment is the student band.

To get a better picture of the student band, I talked with Sam Smith (MAIS ’19, Energy, Resources and the Environment) who has been a member of the band for the since last year. Sam said that at its core, the band is a way for Chinese and international students with a shared passion in music to come together to relax, build camaraderie, and have fun. Although some students bring their own instruments, the Hopkins-Nanjing Center provides some equipment as well, including a drum set, bass and electric guitars, keyboards, and microphones. Throughout the year, the band plays at student events, such as the Mid-Autumn Festival barbeque, Halloween Party, New Year’s Party, and end-of-year spring barbeque. In addition to events at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, the band sometimes volunteers to play at local clubs in Nanjing. Once, Sam said the band even got an invitation to play in Shanghai!

Aside from providing entertainment for the community and around Nanjing, the band also facilitates cross-cultural interaction in several ways. For instance, the band strives to have a strong representation of Chinese and international students and provides groups the opportunity to play in front of crowds and teach each other how to play a variety of instruments. The band also integrates this into the music they play. “We want our sound to be as unique as the Hopkins-Nanjing Center,” Sam emphasized in our talk. One avenue that he is exploring to further this goal is by incorporating more Chinese instruments into performances, as well as experimenting with using traditional Chinese instruments to play popular Western songs, and vice versa.

Overall, the band is an important avenue for cross-cultural engagement outside of the classroom. I encourage all students to join a student group or activity during their time in Nanjing. It not only provides a break from studying, but also is an unparalleled opportunity to engage with the Hopkins-Nanjing Center’s bilingual, multicultural community. One of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center’s strengths is that its unique environment takes what would be an ordinary group at any other institution and transforms it into an opportunity for cross-cultural learning and enrichment.

Written by Samuel Olson, Master of Arts in International Studies ’20

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Comparing the Master of Arts in International Studies and the HNC Certificate + Johns Hopkins SAIS MA

We hear from many students that they are debating between applying for the Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS) or the HNC Certificate + Johns Hopkins SAIS MA. Both will prepare you for the next steps in your career, but there are significant differences in the study experience. Below, we have outlined the strengths of both options and we hope that this helps guide you in determining which program is the best fit for you.

Master of Arts in International Studies
The MAIS program is a great option for students who want to bring their Chinese language skills to an advanced professional level, develop strong research skills, and go into depth in one particular research area. Students spend two years at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, and this program is the only master’s degree accredited in both China and the United States.

Coursework and thesis component
Students declare a concentration from one of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center’s areas of study (Chinese studies; international politics, comparative and international law; energy, resources and the environment; and international economics). At the end of the program, students research, write, and defend a 15,000 minimum character thesis in Chinese that relates to their concentration area. Former students have written their theses on a variety of topics –from Chinese soft power in Africa to women’s rights in China. While writing a master’s thesis in Chinese may sound daunting, there is a lot of support at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center to guide you through that process. Part of the coursework includes classes designed to prepare you for the thesis process. Additionally, one of the unique benefits of the program is that you get the opportunity to work one-on-one with a Chinese faculty thesis advisor, who will help guide your research. For more information about the MAIS thesis writing process, please click here to hear from a current student.

Chinese proficiency 
The MAIS program requires a higher level of Chinese proficiency than the Certificate program. The recommended score on the Chinese proficiency test is 1300 for the MAIS program, compared to 1200 for the Certificate program. In addition to completing the thesis component, you are also required to take at least 9 courses taught in Chinese over the course of the two-year program.

Employment Outcomes
Completing the MAIS program and the thesis component provides you with concrete proof of your advanced Chinese ability and research skills. Not only can you write and articulate complex issues in international relations and China studies, you can demonstrate to prospective employers that you can also do it in Chinese. One common misconception about the MAIS program is that it only prepares you for a career in China. MAIS alumni aren’t limited to staying in China, and there are a number of alumni who have gone on to work for the US Department of State or other government agencies. In our employment outcomes, there is a lot of overlap between all programs for the different sectors represented. The bottom line is that completing one program over another isn’t going to limit your career path.

HNC Certificate + Johns Hopkins SAIS MA
The Certificate + MA provides students with the opportunity to complete the one-year Certificate program in Nanjing and then complete the Johns Hopkins SAIS MA in two to three semesters in Washington, DC (students interested in continuing their studies at the Johns Hopkins SAIS campus in Bologna should contact before applying). This allows students to gain professional Chinese language skills while gaining a strong background in international economics and quantitative reasoning. 

Certificate coursework and Chinese proficiency
Students begin their studies in the one-year Certificate program. The Certificate offers flexible course selection that allows students to improve their Chinese and deepen their knowledge of international relations and Sino-global relations. Students must complete at least six courses taught in Chinese. Most students take three courses taught in Chinese and one course taught in English each semester. All applicants are required to take the Chinese proficiency test as part of their application, with a minimum recommended score of 1200.

MA Coursework and capstone component 
After completing the Certificate program in Nanjing, students begin the Johns Hopkins SAIS MA program and pursue one concentration out of the 19 concentration areas, which are divided into either an international policy area (for example, American foreign policy; conflict management; energy, resources and environment, etc.) or a regional area (China studies, Latin American studies, etc.) available at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Please click here to view a complete list of concentrations. As part of their concentration, students complete what is called a capstone at the end of the MA program. Capstones vary by concentration and can take the form of an oral exam, a written exam, a practicum, or a research project.

Once students begin the Johns Hopkins SAIS MA program, the coursework is taught in English. You can continue your language studies by taking language courses in Chinese or a new language, but you will have met the Johns Hopkins SAIS foreign language proficiency requirement by completing the Certificate program.

International economics foundation
In addition to the concentration in a policy area or regional area, students also complete a concentration in international economics. This requires all students to complete four core economics courses and a quantitative reasoning course to ensure that all students graduate with a strong economics foundation. Applicants must fulfill prerequisite courses in introduction to microeconomics and macroeconomics prior to matriculating to the DC campus. This means that you can fulfill these requirements while you are at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, or over the summer, by enrolling in an online course offered by Johns Hopkins SAIS, or by taking these courses in Nanjing or from any other accredited institution. While many applicants have some prior economics background, there are also students who come to Johns Hopkins SAIS to gain an economics background as they recognize that it is essential to understanding issues of international relations.

Employment Outcomes
With the combination of a background in Chinese language and economics, the Certificate + MA prepares students to enter the global workforce. Additionally, most students are able to gain professional experience by interning while they are in Washington, DC. As mentioned above, there is a lot of overlap between all programs for the different sectors represented in our employment outcomes. However, many alumni of the Certificate + MA end up working for the government, think tanks, or the private sector after spending time in Washington and gaining a background in international economics.