Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"No rest going into the summer holidays!"

SAIS students in DC may have graduated last week, but HNC students are still hard at work in Nanjing.  HNC MAIS student Natalie Sammarco sends an update as she heads into the final few weeks of the semester:

"It’s been a very long road so far this year and the weather in Nanjing is warming up. It’s an average of about 85 degrees F most days and will only get hotter as June approaches. That’s pretty average around here. It makes us all glad that the Center has central air. 

As an out of sequence student, meaning I previously completed the Certificate program and am now pursuing the MAIS in 3 semesters, this semester has been pretty busy. Taking a full course load + thesis work is proving to be a big challenge. Technically, what I’m going through now is what every MAIS student’s 3rd semester will be like. I wrote an overall plan for my thesis earlier in the semester and then, this past week, turned in my first draft chapter. I also had to give a presentation to professors and peers on the structure of my research and methodology. Whoa. That’s a lot. I feel as though I’m in a good place right now with my thesis, though. My topic is unique in that it touches on what could be considered an ‘iffy’ subject if approached in the wrong way. This makes me very thankful that the Center has academic freedom and will let the MA theses be conducted on nearly any topic. 

The rest of my friends are gearing up for the last month of classes, as I will be once I get an afternoon to breathe after all the work I’ve done in the past week (Whew! There’s a $5 foot massage in my future -- there’s a great place in Nanxiucun, I’ll show you when you get here). In the next couple weeks, we’ll be going into exam period/final paper mode. It can’t hurt to talk about what’s actually required for our classes since the workload is probably what makes people worry the most about going to graduate school in Chinese. 

Most classes require presentations at some point during the semester (between 5 and 20 minutes long, in Chinese) and papers. Economics classes are different in that many of them require tests. Regarding the papers, topics are basically opened up to whatever the student wants to write on given that it’s related to the class. Papers can be anywhere between 1200-6000 characters, depending on the teacher.

If I could give advice on how to be successful at HNC, it would be this: start your papers early. One can definitely tell who has started working on their papers earlier rather than later as finals week approaches. This is my same advice for the MAIS students when thinking about their thesis topics. It’s better to think of what you’d like to study early, fleshing out new ideas and getting many opinions on what you’d like to study, instead of waiting until the last minute and being boxed in when there’s a time crunch. 

There’s not much time left in the semester. Four weeks. It seems as if the year has flown by since everyone is so busy. The city has changed quite a bit, as well. In preparation for the Asia Youth Games (Aug 2013) and the Youth Olympic Games (YOG, 2014), Nanjing is cleaning up its streets and building new facilities every day. Nanjing is also continuing to build its extensive web of subways, which will hopefully be open in time for the YOG. That’s the part I’m most looking forward to; they are building a subway stop right outside the Center gates and it will be much more convenient!"