Friday, September 26, 2014

HNC’s Behind the Music: The Story of MENergy

HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student Tyler Makepeace is now pursuing the MA portion of his program in DC, but memories of his time in HNC's band live on:
Tyler, on guitar
On one of the first few days of orientation last year at HNC, two students gave a presentation about a talent show that was going to be held for the Mid-Autumn festival and they were looking for acts. Hengxue, my roommate, was very enthusiastic about forcibly drafting me into the show, though significantly less so when I said I would sign up on the condition that he signed up as well. I had taught myself guitar during high school, but had never been serious enough about it to have ever attempted to be a part of a band. The two coordinators put up a sign up sheet, which remained perfectly blank for the first day until Patrick Baine signed up as a drummer looking for other band members. Later that day, I met up with Patrick and Joe Plantamura, a bass player who had studied music in college, and by the end of the night we had gone from Patrick to over 6 members, Kevin Bond on lead guitar, Joe on bass, Josh Kim on vocals, and myself as rhythm guitar/vocals. We signed up for the talent show to do 像梦一样自由 and When I Come Around by Green Day.
After the HNC Opening Ceremony, we gathered in the cafeteria for a fancy buffet style dinner, where Kevin, Joe and I happened to be sitting at the same table along with Robbie Shields, the HNC's Career Counselor. Robbie proved himself invaluable after hearing that the three of us would be performing on Wednesday. Immediately, he said “Your band name is MENergy. The first album is 'MENergy', second album 'When The Heart Hurtz', the third album 'Live from the Three Gorges Dam', which is a charity album. After that, internal divisions will force a split in the band, breaking into a band of 2 and a band of 3, however many years later you reunite in a global concert, one band at the Three Gorges Dam, another at the Hoover Dam, linked by video feed”. So that’s how we got the name MENergy. 
After performing two songs on the 2nd floor balcony during the Mid-Autumn Festival, we decided to actually put in some time practicing before our next performance, the Halloween Party. We traveled around Nanjing to several different music stores in order to stock up on equipment and practice in sound rooms. For a costume, Joe bought a set of Xi You Ji outfits with the help of his roommate and the online marketplace Taobao. During the Halloween party, students and guests from outside the Center all dressed up in their costumes to celebrate the holiday, and after a contest deciding the best costume, it was time for us to perform. This occasion we managed to put together a set list of 8 songs, and performed on stage in the Center’s multipurpose auditorium.
MENergy at the Spring BBQ
After Halloween, MENergy went on a brief hiatus, mainly due to the upcoming finals, and then for the Spring Festival break. As the weather began to clear up in the middle of the spring semester, MENergy made its own contribution to the Center’s band room by investing in a full drum kit, in order to make practices easier. We all set time aside to practice for an 11 song set list for the long-anticipated HNC Spring BBQ, and in the meantime were invited to also play for the Australia-China Youth Association, which also held a BBQ in the Center.
However, we were most excited to finally do a show outside of the Center, organized by Li Xuemeng as part of her involvement in Nanjing University’s student activities. Originally, this last hurrah for the band was to be held in the middle of a water fountain located in the heart of Nanjing University’s Gulou campus, however, a rainstorm almost proved fatal to the concert. At the last moment, Xuemeng and the rest of us decided to move our venue into a nearby building, and so with the help of several student organizers from Nanjing University were able to move all of our equipment and set up in the building. Our friends and fans from the HNC, as well as a sizeable number of Nanjing University students cramped into the small space, and we were able to put on the best show of the year. As Kevin Bond was the only MAIS student in our band, he will be actively recruiting new band members for this coming year, and I implore prospective students to continue this new tradition for the Center.
Nanjing University even wrote a brief article about our final performance!

Friday, September 19, 2014

My Favorite Class at the HNC

As a Certificate student at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, I had to take at least three courses per semester in Chinese. Out of all the courses I took while at the Center, one of my favorites would have to be Contemporary Chinese Foreign Policy with Professor Cai Jiahe. Not only was it my favorite course, but it was also the first course I ever sat in on at the Center. 

Lauren in Shanghai
I’ll never forget that first day of the semester. Bright and early at 8:00am and feeling…well, pretty intimidated to be honest with you. I had never taken a graduate level course in Chinese before, and I didn’t really know what to expect. I remember talking with the students sitting next to me, and quickly realizing that I wasn’t the only one who was a bit nervous. That first class was definitely difficult, but not impossible, and after that first day the class just got better and better.

One of the reasons I loved this course so much was that the content was different from anything I had studied before. During my undergraduate studies, the majority of courses concerning Chinese foreign policy dealt with Sino-US relations. However, this course at the Center included a much wider range of China’s foreign policies with countries like Japan, Russia, North Korea, and various nations throughout Africa. Combining historical frameworks with current events, this class taught me how pertinent issues in China’s foreign policy began, how they may have changed over time, and their impact in present day international relations.

Sharing the classroom with both Chinese and international students was an aspect of the Center which I thoroughly enjoyed, but definitely more so in this class. For example, it was fascinating to hear what my Chinese classmates thought about land dispute issues developing in the South China Sea. Another one of my classmates was from Italy, and wrote one of her papers on Chinese business practices with Italian companies. This was a topic my professors had never discussed before, and hearing about it firsthand from my classmate was very educational. Learning about these different perspectives from my classmates enhanced the overall experience of each and every class.

The coursework for Contemporary Chinese Foreign Policy not only expanded my knowledge on the topic of China’s foreign relations, but also had a significant impact on my Chinese language skills. The readings alone helped me to acquire a more advanced level of vocabulary that I don’t think I ever would have the opportunity to learn anywhere else. After giving a 10 minute presentation in Chinese concerning China’s soft power initiatives in Africa, I found I had much more confidence in my speaking abilities, which were also influenced by weekly small group discussions. Lastly, multiple small essays, concluding with a final research paper covering the topic of my choice, advanced my written skills far beyond the summaries of my winter vacation which I was used to writing in undergrad. Although this class was during my first semester, I used both the vocabulary and knowledge gained from it in almost every other class I enrolled in at the Center. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How I First Heard About the Hopkins-Nanjing Center

All of us who work for the Hopkins-Nanjing Center feel passionate about the mission of the HNC and the importance of the skills our students learn.  However you may not know that five of the eleven American staff members who work for the HNC in either Nanjing or Washington are actually alumni of the Center, representing both the Certificate and MAIS programs and graduating between 1988 and 2013.  A number of the Chinese faculty and staff are also alumni of the HNC.  Katie Brooks (HNC ’09) is one such graduate.  Now in her role as Assistant Director and Admissions Officer in the HNC Washington Support Office, she reflects on the first time she heard about the Hopkins-Nanjing Center:
Katie and a classmate at HNC's 25th Anniversary
I can still remember exactly where I was sitting the first time I heard about the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.  It was 2004 and I was in my freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Thanks to a few years of high school in Singapore, I had placed out of the beginner level and was in second year Chinese.  While flipping through a list of vocabulary words in preparation for a quiz that fateful day, a stranger walked into our Chinese classroom.  Zhou Laoshi quieted us down and said we would be hearing about an opportunity to further our Chinese after graduating from UNC.  The visitor briefly explained the history of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, outlined the program, and mentioned that HNC students were able to write academic papers in Chinese.

My internal response?  This lady is crazy!

I could not believe that my Chinese would ever be at the level needed to attend the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.  I was just trying to get through that day’s vocabulary quiz.

The brochure I received that day was soon in the trash, but luckily thoughts of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center lurked in the back of my mind over the next few years, even junior year when I completely dropped my Chinese classes due to scheduling conflicts.  Then during senior year, another stranger walked into my Classical Chinese class.  It was a Hopkins-Nanjing Center presentation again, but this time I was ready to hear it.  Although still nervous about my Chinese ability, I decided to apply and the rest is history.

I think the moral of the story is to have confidence in your Chinese language skills, but at the same time remember that nobody is truly prepared for the HNC.  I went into it thinking that all my classmates would have better Chinese than me and that taking graduate-level courses in Chinese would be easy for them.  In reality, everyone is in the same boat trying to master the steep learning curve that is the HNC.  It took a lot of hard work but we were able to do it, and so can you.

Now I’m that crazy lady who walks into your Chinese classrooms and tells you about the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.  I’ll forgive you if you throw my brochure away as a freshman or sophomore, but I hope all of the amazing opportunities available at the HNC will continue to lurk in your mind as you consider post-graduation plans.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

New Fellowship Opportunities at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center

The Hopkins-Nanjing Center has historically awarded financial aid to 100% of admitted students who submit the financial aid application by the deadline.  This year we are excited to announce several new fellowship opportunities for students applying to attend the HNC in fall 2015.  Thanks to the generosity of the HNC alumni and donor community, and in honor of the HNC’s approaching 30th anniversary, starting in fall 2015 we will be able to guarantee a Future Leader Fellowship to each incoming MAIS student in the amount of $10,000 per year*.  Future Leader Fellows will also be eligible for additional HNC fellowship funding over this guaranteed $10,000 based on need, merit, and availability. 

In addition, other new HNC fellowship opportunities in 2015-2016 will include two full-tuition Dean’s Fellowships: one for a MAIS student and one for a Certificate student.  In order to be eligible for this award, applicants must demonstrate academic excellence, outstanding leadership ability, and service to their communities.  The Dean's Fellowship is a one-year award, so MAIS students must reapply for consideration for second year funding.

To qualify for any HNC fellowships, including the Future Leader Fellowship and Dean’s Fellowship, applicants must submit the HNC Financial Aid Application by February 1.  This short two-page form can be found in the downloadable forms section of the online application.  Those wishing to be considered for the Dean’s Fellowship must also submit a supplemental essay answering the following prompt in 500 words or less:

Describe any service activity in which you have actively participated in your community and how this experience has helped prepare you to be an ambassador to the students at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.

Completed HNC Financial Aid Applications and Dean’s Fellowship essays can be submitted to 

Haven’t started your application for admission yet?  Start one today by clicking here!  

*This financial aid package will be matched in the student's second year in the MAIS program in fall 2016 as long as he or she meets the minimum GPA requirements set by the SAIS Office of Financial Aid.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Meet Tyler, HNC Admissions Student Worker

HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student Tyler Makepeace has joined the HNC Office of International Admissions as a student worker.  Along with two Nanjing-based students, over the next year he'll be providing a glimpse into the student experience at HNC on this blog.  Read on to learn more about Tyler:
     My name is Tyler Makepeace, and I am a 2014 HNC Certificate graduate as well as a current SAIS MA student double-concentrating in China Studies and International Finance. This year, I am excited to be working with the HNC admissions office, and will be participating in online chats with prospective students, as well as updating the HNC blog with some helpful information about the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and my own personal experiences at the Center.

     My own interest in China began in the summer of 2008, in the buildup to the Beijing Olympics. The STARTALK Program, a government funded program that offers free month-long classes in critical languages like Mandarin, had just set up a satellite at my high school; I jumped at the opportunity to learn more about the country that was poised to take the world stage in August. After STARTALK, I was eager to continue with my Mandarin classes, but also to experience China first-hand. At Colgate University I double-majored in International Relations and Chinese, and in the summer of 2012 had the opportunity to intern with a Taipei-based tool manufacturer. However, during my senior year at Colgate I felt that I did not have the requisite experience in China to get the job of my choice.

      I first found out about SAIS and the Hopkins-Nanjing Center from Lauren Szymanski, an HNC admissions coordinator who visited Colgate during my senior year. Like many prospective students, I found the HNC’s program, which allowed me to continue my study of International Affairs, while at the same time honing my Mandarin skills with native speakers in China, to be something that no other graduate program could offer. In the end I decided to apply for the HNC Certificate/SAIS Master’s program, which would allow me to spend a year at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, and later to return to Washington, DC to finish my MA at the SAIS DC campus.
     While at the HNC I was able to deepen my study of International Affairs with Mandarin classes like Contemporary Chinese Foreign Policy and Chinese Rural Politics. However, I was also able to broaden my studies with English electives like Cyberlaw, and even able to get a leg up on my study of Finance in DC with a Corporate Finance class taught by the one and only Paul Armstrong-Taylor (PAT). However, unlike many graduate programs, classes at the HNC are only a portion of the academic experience.  My roommate, a graduate student of International Law from Xiamen University, helped me gain an interest in International Law through our discussions on his experiences as part of the HNC International Moot Court team, and also helped me solve some bad habits in my speech and writing.

     I also had the opportunity to get involved in a number of extracurricular activities during my time in Nanjing. I, along with Nicole Fritzy, revamped the Center’s coffee shop, and worked alongside with an amazing team of International and Chinese students to deliver a much needed caffeine boost to the student population. I was also involved with the Student Alumni Activities Interest Group (SAAIG), which coordinated with Career Services to help host alumni, along with designing HNC-themed apparel for students. During my second semester at the Center I also signed up to be a part of the HNC’s Dragon boat team, which represented the Center at the Dragon Boat race held on Duanwujie. 

     Perhaps my greatest contribution to the Center was my involvement in the Hopkins-Nanjing Center’s rock band, MENERGY, as rhythm guitarist/vocalist. MENERGY was formed within the first month of school, and we were able to practice in the Center’s own music room in order to rock the campus (naming rights for MENERGY rightfully belong to our very own Career Services director, Robbie Shields, who incidentally now owns most of our copyrights). Throughout the academic year, MENERGY was a central part of all the Center’s most popular events, including the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Halloween Party, and the Spring BBQ. Kevin Bond, guitarist and 2nd year MAIS student, will be scouting the incoming class for members of his new band, The Band Formerly Known As MENERGY.

     I look forward to talking with many of you during this year’s online chats, and hope these blog posts give a sense of the wide diversity of experiences available at the Center.