Monday, October 21, 2013

Buckling Down: Advice from a Second Year MAIS Student

Because HNC MAIS student Natalie Sammarco attended the Certificate program in 2009-2010 before applying for the MAIS in 2012, she was able to transfer some of her Certificate coursework in order to complete the MAIS in three semesters instead of four.  Therefore, she is now in her final semester at the HNC.  Read her advice to new students as they embark on their first graduate-level paper in Chinese:

"Now that everyone is back from the National Day holiday, we’ve had time to get to know one another and focus on work. I planned my schedule so that I take no classes this semester so I can focus fully on my thesis. My other classmates, though, are taking between 3 and 5 classes and are very busy with readings and projects. It’s about 1/3 of the way through the semester and professors are assigning the first round of papers. As someone who has already spent two full academic years at the HNC, I can recognize the panic in the eyes of the new students who have to write their first graduate-level paper in Chinese.

Don’t fear, though! This is just the beginning and everyone is just getting used to the schedule and demands of the program. Some of the students have asked the 2nd year MAIS students how to approach these new demands and, whenever I am asked about how to approach an essay, I always say: Write a small outline beforehand (in English or Chinese but I prefer English), and always have a native Chinese speaker proof your essay before you turn it in. The reasoning for planning out your essays a little bit (mind you, this does not mean writing the essay in English first and then translating it...ain’t nobody got time for that!) is that you have your line of logic squared away before you approach writing in the target language. Writing a small outline in your native language is key so that you don't lose your place and get confused. Sadly, yes, this piece of advice comes from experience: y’know, that time I didn’t plan it out in English and I’m fairly certain I went on a tangent about puppies...

The second piece of advice is for one’s personal improvement and understanding of the language. There will always be parts of the Chinese language that a native Chinese speaker can say better than a 2nd language learner. In a paper, the professors truly appreciate when you have taken the effort (i.e. cared enough) to have someone proofread your ideas to make sure everything fits together, logically and grammatically. When you put in the extra effort, professors definitely notice!
I know that my fellow students are going to do a great job and, since this is the first time they have to do this, they will be less nervous about it when the next round of essays comes up in a few weeks. The weather has finally cooled off a little bit and the summer heat is no longer with us. I love this since I’ve spent so much time in New England. Nanjing is very pretty in the fall, since it’s one of the more green cities in China. I can’t wait to hike PurpleMountain see all the fall foliage. In my opinion, it’s the closest thing one can get to leaf-peeping in China."