Friday, May 3, 2013

Dragonboating on Mochou Hu

HNC Admissions Coordinator and Certificate '11 alumna Margaux Fimbres writes about her experience on the dragon boat team:

In addition to their academic pursuits at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, students also volunteer with the Migrant Schools Learning Initiative, debate on the Jessup Moot Court Team, perfect their brush strokes in calligraphy classes, and my personal favorite, slice through water on the dragon boat team. As the Hopkins-Nanjing Center dragon boat team gears up for the annual race in Nanjing, I started to reminisce about my experience on the HNC dragon boat team in 2011. That first practice was not our finest, as most of us had never rowed before, much less taken instruction from a middle-aged, chain-smoking, Nanjing-hua-speaking coach. We had woken up at 5:00am, were splashed with murky Mochou Hu water, and then were left with extremely sore muscles. But we always came back for the next practice.

Stanley Seiden, a fellow dragon boat-er, remembers, "At the beginning, we didn't think we could make it all the way around the lake and every 15 minutes or so, we would wonder when we were done with practice, but by the end we could actually see how much we improved." Stanley also liked being able to get out into the city and really embrace a part of Chinese society, which is something that most foreigners in China do not have the opportunity to experience. Asked if he had any other memories about dragon boat, he mentioned developing weird, lopsided muscles (because you row on one side of the boat) and the very short shorts.

Our team captains were great at getting people to wake up for practices (calling cell phones and knocking on doors if needed) and organizing team-building exercises. A large portion of dragon boat members also trained for the Great Wall Half-Marathon in June and we would often run back to the Center from Mochou Hu (sometimes stopping by McDonald's for breakfast on the way). Other team members practiced "power yoga" in the Center's workout room to improve flexibility.

One of my favorite aspects of dragon boat was that it brought together Chinese students and international students, and one very athletic Center professor. We bonded the way all sports teams do and we pushed each other to work harder so that we could have a shot at beating the Sheraton team, who seems to win 1st place every year. During the dragon boat race, all the Center students and faculty came out to cheer us on. We even had a surprise visit from Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley! In the end, we placed 3rd, which was the highest any HNC dragon boat team had placed in the history of the Center.

Though difficult at times,
dragon boat was thoroughly fun and really connected me to my classmates. If any HNC prospective or incoming students are reading this, I would encourage you to try it out!