Thursday, November 29, 2012

Writing a Thesis in Chinese: A Chat with HNC MAIS Alumni

The Hopkins-Nanjing Center’s Masters of Arts in International Studies (MAIS) degree is the only master’s degree jointly issued and accredited by both a Chinese and an American institution. Our program is unique, but one thing that truly sets it apart is the culminating master’s thesis written in each student’s target language. The prospect of writing and defending a thesis in Chinese is daunting for most applicants, so we talked to a few MAIS alumni about the challenges and successes they encountered along the way, as well as what advice they have for students considering the HNC MAIS program.

What was your thesis topic?
• "Bei Dao and China's Misty Poets (1976-1980). China's Misty Poets were a group of young and energetic writers who came into the public light after Mao's death in 1976. They found each other in Beijing after the Cultural Revolution and exchanged works in private.” - Hannah Lincoln, MAIS ‘12

• “An investigation into whether or not events occurring early in the Cultural Revolution could be interpreted as the collapse of Chinese totalitarianism…looking specifically at the impacts of newspaper seizures by the Red Guard in early 1967” – Max Massa, MAIS ‘11

• “The effect of differing Chinese and American investment laws and strategies on the balance of power in Southeast Asia, using Cambodia as a case study” – Dana Lutenegger, MAIS ‘11

What challenges did you face during the process of researching and writing a thesis in Chinese?
• “Beyond being unanswerable in terms of language qualification, it pushes you to develop a good understanding of two different academic traditions. Most students, myself included, will be working with materials written by both western and Chinese scholars, and learning how to interpret both sets of writing and then synthesize them into a single work is challenging.” – Max

• “My biggest challenge was choosing a direction because there are so many interesting things about my topic, and it was difficult to pick a specific and narrow direction. As a result, I was often led toward other interesting aspects about these poets and their era.” – Hannah

What do you see as the value of completing a Chinese-language thesis?
• “Having a large research project written in Chinese is a testimony to my work over the past five years (since I started studying Chinese and China). It is a solid representation of this, and I am glad to have a solid document to reference in the future as proof of it.” – Hannah

• “I wanted to gain a really deep understanding of China and Chinese academia, and I feel that staying for two years and writing a thesis in Chinese has helped me to do that.” – Dana

Do you have any advice to share with students interested in pursuing the HNC MAIS.?
• “Variety will spice your academic experience here more than anything else. My thesis involved two fields of study in which I had no prior experience when I came to the Center, but being bold in class selection led me to a topic that I think is rich and exciting. Take advantage of the diversity of offerings, weave reading from one class into another, and make time to chat with your professors as they will know much, much more than is presented in class.” – Max

• “Think about what you are really interested in, what is feasible and what resources the HNC has. Pick a topic that a teacher can advise you on and that has research already available. Then your job is just to take the extant research to the next level. This tends to be more successful than trying to conjure an obscure topic out of the blue.” – Hannah

• “Begin thinking about what area you might want to do research in. Don't worry too much, though. There is a learning curve for everyone, and you will figure out everything as you go along.” -- Dana

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Alumna Profile: HNC and Law School

Are you considering law school but also speak Chinese and want to improve your understanding of the Chinese and international legal systems?  The Hopkins-Nanjing Center certificate program is a one-year program that offers flexibility in course selection and is the perfect transition to law school for students interested in both China and a career in law.  International certificate students are required to take at least three courses per semester in Chinese though many choose to take or audit additional coursework in English or Chinese.  International Law courses taught in Chinese at the Center this year include Chinese Criminal Law, Chinese Economic and Commercial Law, Environmental Law, and many others.  Additional law courses are being taught in English including International Humanitarian Law, International Dispute Resolution, and Trial Advocacy. 

Now in Washington, D.C., third year GWU law student Lisa Lin (HNC '09) has been able to put her skills to work outside of the classroom both at an internship at the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and as an Editor to Stanford Law School's China Guiding Cases Project. Read on to see how the HNC prepared her for law school:

Lisa Lin, HNC Certificate '09

San Francisco, CA

Undergraduate school and majors
UC Davis: History, Political Science, and Japanese

Current Study
3rd year law student at George Washington University Law School

How did the HNC prepare you for law school?
The diverse law curriculum offered by HNC helped me develop a solid foundation for pursuing a legal career in Chinese and international law.  The law courses that were taught by distinguished Chinese and American professors at HNC also sharpened my legal analytical skills in preparation for law school.

For those interested in law, another option is the Masters of Arts in International Studies (MAIS) with a concentration in Comparative and International Law which includes writing and defending a thesis in Chinese.  Check back later this week for a blog post on the experience of writing a thesis in Chinese!