Thursday, November 1, 2012

Election Time!

Current HNC MAIS student Natalie Sammarco on the election mania that has swept from the U.S. to China:

"The most memorable part for me was going to the post office to send in my absentee ballot: (in Chinese)
'What’s the fastest way to get this to America?' I asked.
' that a ballot?!' the young woman peered at me from across the desk.
'Yes, do I fill this out?'
'Yes, just like that....' her eyes were still on me as I wrote out the address for my local Board of Elections. I raised my head to meet her excited eyes, 'So ...... who did you vote for?'

What’s better than American election time in a school geared toward international studies?! Almost nothing.
What’s better than Chinese election time occurring at the same time as the American election in a school geared for international studies?
Certainly. Nothing.

2008 Election party at HNC

This time in the year comes but once every 20 years. That’s right. It’s only every 20 years that the US election coincides with the Chinese election. Albeit, it’s a bit more of a coin-flip on the American side, due to the fact that most of our Chinese classmates, themselves, admit that Xi Jinping will probably be elected as the next president of China. It is, no doubt, still exciting.

The cool part about being here for elections is the discussion that goes on in the classrooms. Just the other day, after finishing class 5 minutes early, one of the Chinese professors asked us about the US election system, how it’s structured, what does 'electoral college' mean? How does this mean we have representative democracy? Everyone was excited to talk about it. The best part was that there were no political lines, it was just explaining the system, becoming a discussion on whether it is a good system. We stayed a long time to talk about it.

HNC is awesome like this. You can have as much discussion about hard issues as you want, as long as you’re understanding to the other person’s perspective and criticism. Our professor asked hard questions of us about the US system, and instead of becoming defensive, it took thought to answer his questions in a clear and precise way that got our ideas across. It took critical thinking, precisely formed ideas, and the use of Chinese to be communicative: it’s actually what being here is all about.

Watching the debates is also a special experience. Seeing Chinese classmates interested in watching a debate on our TV at the Center is cool because... they don’t have political debates here. If you’re wondering what they think about people who are actually allowed to (respectfully) yell at one another about laws and politics, all you have to do is ask. I expect emotions will be even more heightened next week.

We’re getting ready for our Election Party next Wednesday morning (due to the time change) and we have a couple guests from the Shanghai Consulate coming to celebrate with us! Never a dull moment here in Nanjing!"