Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spring Break: North Korea, Part 1

It has been a busy few weeks for students at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center!  MAIS student Natalie Sammarco has been working to prepare her thesis plan but had time to send a brief update on her spring break adventure in North Korea.  Stay tuned for a specific piece on her experiences in North Korea coming soon!

"The last two weeks have been quite exciting for me! Two weeks ago, I was fairly stressed out by a couple assignments due for my thesis and last week was spring break! As an ‘out of sequence’ student (meaning I switched from the Certificate to the Master’s program, therefore will graduate in 5 semesters instead of 4), I have to do planning for my thesis this term in preparation for writing it during the autumn term. Needless to say, this is exciting but really doesn’t help with the stress and workload!

After I turned in the general plan for my thesis, I could concentrate on what I was really looking forward to all term: Spring Break. Many students travel during this time both in and out of the China. A few friends explored portions of Yunnan and western China, while another group went to Chengdu to see the pandas and taste some local spicy cuisine. Chengdu food will really give your tastebuds a roller coaster ride -- and mostly in the good way :-) Other friends went to see friends and family in Taiwan.

Of those students who traveled outside China, Cambodia was a very popular destination. 8 students traveled there to catch fun in the sun on the beach and explore local culture. From photos, I can tell they had a great time going to yoga retreats, attending cooking classes, getting pampered at spas and generally enjoying a new culture. I went to Cambodia in November and can attest, it’s a very beautiful place with very friendly people. 

My own adventures during spring break took me, 5 other students, and an HNC professor to North Korea. Yes, there might have been a better time to go (i.e. a time that wouldn’t make my mom so worried :-), but we organized the trip before the recent increased tensions between North Korea and the UN, US, and South Korea. We spent 8 days, 7 nights learning about the country on a trip that was planned through a professional tour company in Beijing with many years experience in traveling to North Korea. I can confidently say everyone who came back had a much deeper understanding of the region, culture, and people! Some people even want to go back for another trip!

Even though we just came off break, there is no rest for the weary travelers of HNC. The spring term has picked up again.  There is much work to be done in the way of writing theses (for the 2nd year MA students), planning and writing draft chapters (for out of sequence students like myself), and finishing up the year in a strong way for other 1st year MA and Certificate students. It’s a bit incredulous to think that we only have 8 more weeks of school left in the year. It’s pretty cool to see where we’ve been thus far. Now, back to the grindstone!"