Tuesday, October 28, 2014

US Consul General in Shanghai, Hanscom Smith, Visits the HNC

HNC MAIS student Emily Shea reports on some of the recent career-related activities that have taken place at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center:

Hello again!

If there’s one thing that’s always being talked about among Center students, it’s post-graduation plans. Recently at the Center we had two career-related presentations, the first was a visit from the US Consul General of Shanghai, and the other was our introduction to the Career Services Center on campus. 

The Consul General and other consulate staff that came to the Center began by telling us
about the consulate’s purpose and mission and ways that the consulate can help us with while we’re living abroad, such as passport services and travel safety information. After the presentations, there was a Q&A session. The questions centered on careers in the Foreign Service and reflected just how many students at the HNC are interested in this field. Many students, including myself, have at one time or are currently looking into the Foreign Service as an opportunity to explore the world and get paid doing it! Because there is so much interest in the Foreign
Service, having the Consulate General and his staff come to us and candidly answer student concerns was an incredible asset to us. Students’ questions ranged from the Foreign Service lifestyle and having a family, to the Foreign Service examination and career flexibility after being accepted. I was able to further clarify my decision that the Foreign Service, while exciting, is probably not for me, and I’m looking forward to similar presentations in different fields as I think about my career options.

The second information session we had was on Career Services at the HNC. We got to meet our career counselor, Robbie Shields, and hear his general advice on how to use the Center’s resources and prepare for our next steps after we leave here. Robbie’s words could not have found a more attentive audience. While we have a wide variety of backgrounds at the center, from people like me who graduated last June to people with 5+ years of work experience, everyone is eager to get the most out of the Center in terms of having an advantage in our future careers. Robbie gave very useful advice, such as integrating your career interests with your studies, starting to invest in your career development early on, and working on identifying your interests, strengths, and areas for improvement. He also discussed online skills courses and “career treks,” small group trips to Beijing and Shanghai corporations, that the Center offers.

The next week, I also met one on one with Robbie to get more targeted advice for someone in my position, having no job experience outside of tutoring Chinese and with a limited understanding of what I hope to do. He gave me suggestions on more concrete steps towards achieving what is most important for me right now: clarifying my interests and abilities, and getting a better idea of what I might enjoy doing.

Overall, these events have gotten mine and other students’ wheels spinning when it comes to career development, and as Robbie advised us, the earlier the better! I am already appreciative of the combination of support and opportunities provided at the Center. It has been a great start to the career-focused contemplation, research, discussion, and decision-making that will be an ongoing process for the next two years.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

HNC Admissions Office Hours

HNC Admissions is traveling the country to visit your universities and Chinese classes!  Today Tuesday, October 21 and tomorrow Wednesday, October 22 the HNC Office of International Admissions will not be open to office visits because our admissions representatives will all be on the road recruiting.  However, you can always reach an admissions representative by email.  Alternatively, if you would like to schedule a visit to our DC-based admissions office at another time, or to visit the Hopkins-Nanjing Center itself, please email nanjing@jhu.edu to set up an appointment.  We look forward to meeting you in DC, Nanjing, or at your university!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Halloween at the HNC

With the changing of the seasons, HNC's four person student committee is likely already hard at work planning this year's Halloween festivities.  For today's Throwback Thursday post, we look back at Halloween at HNC from 1986 to today.

Halloween 1986: Since the HNC's earliest days, Chinese and international students have come together to celebrate Halloween.

Halloween 2004: HNC faculty and staff often join in on the fun.  Here former Co-Director Robert Daly and his family celebrate Halloween at the HNC.

Halloween 2013: The tradition continues.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Meet Tom: HNC Student Blogger

We've already introduced readers to our new student bloggers Tyler and Emily.  Last but not least is HNC MAIS student Thomas Holt.  Read on to learn more about his background studying Chinese and why he decided to attend the Hopkins-Nanjing Center:


Hey everyone, my name is Thomas Holt, and I’m a first year MAIS student with a concentration in International Politics. 我的中文名字是侯天慕.  I graduated this year from Penn State with a BA in Chinese and a minor in History. I’m thrilled to be working with the HNC Washington Support Office, and I look forward to communicating with anyone who has an interest in the HNC through online chats, along with documenting my first year at the HNC through the blog here. I also invite anyone who has questions about the HNC to email me at tholt5@jhu.edu!

My interest in China began shortly after I began my freshmen year of undergrad. I had a vague desire to be fluent in a foreign language by the time I graduated from undergrad, along with a desire to study abroad. Being drawn to the idea of studying in a place so widely different from the US like mainland China, and knowing that Chinese would be a very useful language to learn, I signed up for a beginner Chinese class on a whim. While I was already drawn to China, I did not expect to enjoy the language as much as I did. By the end of my freshmen year, I had decided to major in Chinese and had already decided to study abroad in Shanghai that summer.

I studied abroad at East China Normal University during the summer of 2011 with the CIEE Accelerated Chinese Language program. The program was very intense, with a year of Chinese studied over the course of two months. While the program was very stressful, I’m grateful for how much my Chinese improved during that time. I enjoyed myself so much in China, and made such good Chinese friends, that when I boarded my flight back to the US I knew that I wanted to return to China as soon as possible.

I got my chance to return to China again when I received a PIRE grant that was provided by the National Science Foundation and the Penn State Center for Language Science. During undergrad I was a research assistant at the Brain, Language, and Computation Lab at Penn State, where I conducted linguistics research on Chinese-English bilinguals and Chinese language learners. The PIRE grant allowed me to conduct my own research project on the ability of Chinese-language learners to acquire the lexical tones of Chinese at Beijing Normal University. I spent two months at Beijing Normal University conducting research and even though I wasn’t attending formal language classes, my Chinese still improved.

While my Chinese had improved greatly as a result of my study abroad experiences, by this point it was still only an intermediate level. Realizing that I would never reach an advanced level of Chinese by staying in the US, I decided to study abroad for the entirety of my senior year. For the fall 2014 semester, I studied at the IES Abroad Beijing Center in the Language Intensive program. During this program, I had five hours of Chinese class per day and lived with a Chinese host family. I also took a course on Modern Chinese History, which taught me how to look at Chinese history and nationalism from the perspective of a Chinese, rather than as a 老外. While I greatly enjoyed my time in Beijing, I also realized I needed to gain greater knowledge in a specific area of Chinese international relations, which is why I chose to study abroad in Kunming during the spring of 2014 with the IES Kunming Regional Development in China and Southeast Asia program.

For my study abroad program in Kunming, in addition to continuing my Chinese language study, I studied the history of Southeast Asia and how China's rise is affecting regional stability, trade and the environment of Southeast Asia. I also took a course on the history of ethnic groups and nation-building in China and Southeast Asia. I also interned at the China Kunming Opening-Asia Transportation Logistics Research Institute, where I assisted in research on regional trade and transportation facilitation policy between China, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Throughout the semester,  I had the opportunity to meet with numerous scholars and officials involved in the issues of economic development and environmental protection throughout the region, ending with a two-week trip to Vietnam and Cambodia where I saw first-hand how China's growing clout and regional development has affected the economy and environment of these two nations.

I first heard about the HNC during my junior year of undergrad, when I attended an information session about the center. By this point, I already had a desire to attend graduate school in China so that I could become truly fluent in Chinese. However, the HNC at that point was just one of many options I was considering. I didn’t firmly decide to apply for the Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS) program until Angela Chang, the American Academic Coordinator at the HNC, came to the IES Beijing center to recruit in the fall of 2013. The idea of being able to take courses in a wide variety of topics in Chinese, along with writing a thesis in Chinese, really appealed to me because I knew that was what would enable me to finally become fluent in Chinese. The center further appealed to me due to the wide range of academic freedom it possessed in comparison to Chinese universities, along with the prestige John Hopkin’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) carries in the field of international relations. I became convinced that earning my master’s at the HNC was what I wanted to do, and I would not have considered any other graduate program. With that, I took the STAMP test in December, and submitted my application in January. When I learned in March that I was accepted into the MAIS program, I was elated and couldn’t wait to arrive at the HNC.

I’ve been in Nanjing for about a month, and so far I’m really enjoying my time here. While I was initially nervous about all of my classes being in Chinese, I’m pleased to say I’ve been able to adjust quickly. It also helps that everyone here is in the same boat. I’ve already become friends with several of my classmates, and it’s been great meeting so many students here with fascinating backgrounds. I can confidently say I made the right choice in coming to the HNC.

I look forward to blogging about my experience over the coming year, and talking with any students who have questions about the HNC!


Friday, October 10, 2014

Letters of Recommendation: Do's and Don'ts

With the application deadline a few months away, it's a good idea to start considering who you will ask to write recommendation letters on your behalf.  Letters of recommendation are an important component of the HNC application so don't underestimate the potential of a recommendation letter to positively (or negatively) affect your application.  Below are some recommendation letter tips:
  • Two recommendations are required but a maximum of three may be submitted. 
  • No more than one recommendation should be written by a Chinese language instructor.  Applicants often mistakenly believe that the admissions committee prefers recommendations from Chinese language teachers, but the STAMP Chinese Proficiency Test already provides an indicator of your Chinese language level.  Instead, the admissions committee would prefer to read a letter that addresses another aspect of your academic or professional career. 
  • Recommenders that are well-known in their field are impressive, but not if they don't know you well and can only speak to your accomplishments in vague terms.  It's best to ask professors, advisers, and work supervisors who are very familiar with your academic and professional work. 
  • The HNC admissions committee will accept letters of recommendation only via our online application system or in hard copy directly from the recommender. Recommendations submitted via email or fax will not be accepted. You will submit their contact information as part of the online application.  An email is then automatically generated and sent to the recommender with instructions and a link to the online recommendation form.  If your recommender prefers not to submit the letter online, we are also happy to accept hard copies mailed to our admissions office: Hopkins-Nanjing Center Office of International Admissions, Room 406, 1740 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC 20036.
As always, please feel free to contact us if you or your recommenders have any questions at all about the application process!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Meet Emily: HNC Student Blogger

Meet Emily Shea, our new student worker based in Nanjing!  Emily is a first year MAIS student.  Read on to learn more about Emily and her first few weeks at HNC:

Hello blog readers!

Emily and HNC classmates
Nice to meet you, my name is Emily Shea. I’m originally from beautiful Gig Harbor, Washington. I graduated from the University of Washington, majoring in Chinese language, this June 2014. I enjoy running and reading and am an accomplished doodler. I have studied Chinese for about six years, beginning in high school. This is my fourth trip to China and will be by far my longest. I am a first year in the Masters of Advanced International Studies program here at HNC, only about three weeks in to this two-year adventure!

It’s been a whirlwind first month getting started here. We are currently halfway through our Chinese National Week break, and I finally have a spare moment to blog. Classes will start up again this Wednesday, so most students that aren’t on a day trip to Shanghai or spending an afternoon seeing the sights of Nanjing are busy studying. It hasn’t taken long for many people to find their favorite study corner or coffee shop, mine being the fifth floor study lounge – huge windows and peace and quiet!

In this post, I’d like to rewind a bit and tell you about our first week here at the Center. Orientation week was September 15-19. Every day was a blur of multiple orientation meetings in the auditorium going over all the important information: library resources, fire safety, choosing classes, health insurance, thesis basics for the master’s students, and much more. We also heard from all the professors who briefly introduced themselves and their courses.

My first highlight of the week was surprisingly enough the mandatory health inspection! Chinese health clinics are very different from the US, so it is always a learning experience to visit one. Privacy is not nearly as much of a concern in China, as such doors are left wide open. Frequent blood draws are also standard here. This health inspection, part of the residence permit application process required for master’s students, was my first time having my blood drawn. I was lucky to have new friends around to help me be brave and talk me through it, as a result I barely felt a thing!

The second exciting thing that happened to me during orientation was getting elected to class committee. Each semester, the student body elects four students as representatives to HNC’s Co-Directors and as the main event planners. There is one female Chinese committee member, one male Chinese, one female international, and one male international. I’m thrilled to have been chosen and already really enjoying being involved. Class committee’s first event was the finale of orientation week.
Following the Opening Ceremony, in which the Co-Directors both spoke, welcoming and encouraging the incoming class, everyone enjoyed a large buffet dinner in the cafeteria. After dinner, the class committee organized and hosted talent show with students performing songs, martial arts, dancing, and playing guitar and violin. We ended the night in the lobby with ice cream and music.

It’s incredible to me that orientation week was such a short time ago, between the newness of life in the Center and the busyness of starting classes, it feels like so much time has passed already. I very much look forward to writing future posts, after three weeks here there is already so much to share!

祝好!(Best Wishes!)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Chinese National Day Camping Adventure

HNC students are currently on a one-week break for China's National Day.  Many are spending this time traveling or exploring their new home of Nanjing.  HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student Tyler Makepeace reflects on the camping trip he and several of his Chinese and international classmates took during the National Day holiday in 2013:

This week last year, China celebrated its National Day (specifically on Oct 1), and so the HNC students had the week off. I had planned to travel to Hangzhou, one of the prettiest cities in China, for guoqing jie, but Constantine, a student from Chongqing, noted that if we were actually able to find train tickets and a hostel in Hangzhou within three days of guoqing jie it would be akin to winning the lottery. So we settled on camping in Laoshan National Park, on the far western side of Nanjing. As for camping supplies, Constantine had found a man online who could give us tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads to rent for the trip.

Tuesday morning, the day before we were to go camping, Constantine, Laurel, Shuiyue, and I traveled to the outskirts of Nanjing to check out the camping supplies. In my head I envisioned an outdoor supplies store like back in the US, but that was naive. The directions that Constantine was given led us to a set of residential apartment complexes. This “camping emporium” turned out to be this guy’s living room, with camping supplies filling the entire room, but the supplies themselves were of decent quality and super cheap, so after testing out a tent we returned to the metro, stopping on our way to see the Xianlin campus of Nanjing University (the HNC is situated in the Gulou campus).

The four of us became the key camping unit, and before the day was done we had recruited eight other HNC students to come along with us, about half international and half Chinese. That night we planned out the rather complicated trip to Laoshan (two metro transfers and two bus transfers). Early next morning, Constantine, Laurel, Shuiyue, Joey, and I headed back to Xianlin to pick up the camp supplies while the rest of the group picked up food. After a small taxi fiasco, we met up with the rest of our group, and had a quick group lunch at McDonalds before setting off on the first bus. After taking the wrong bus in the wrong direction, the HNC campers finally made it to the bus depot, where we took another bus to Laoshan.

After a lengthy bus ride, we finally arrived at Laoshan National Park. After some snacks, we decided to put our gear in a roundabout on a switchback halfway up the mountain. We hung out in the woods for a little while until the sun went down, and then proceeded to set up camp on the cement roundabout. We had a strange dinner of Chinese dried meats, PB&J sandwiches, and baijiu. From our roundabout we had a great view of the city in the distance, made even better when fireworks started going off somewhere in the distance.

Eventually we started telling ghost stories and classic campfire stories, and after a night stroll around the park, went into our tents for the night.

The next day we made it down the mountain, took a few group photos, and then proceeded out of the park. After squishing ourselves into the bus to the depot, we made our way into taxis and back to the city center.

This was not the only trip I managed to make during my time at the HNC. For fall break I spent a week in Xiamen to enjoy the beach, during Spring Festival did a marathon trip around Korea, Vietnam, and Cambodia, and during Spring Break took a weeklong stay in Yangshuo. The academic calendar of the HNC affords many opportunities to trips within and outside of China, but be sure to plan out your trip ahead of time!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Step 1 in the HNC Application Process

It's October 1 which means HNC students are on break for China's National Day, but that also means it's a good time for prospective students to start their applications!  The first step in the application process is Chinese proficiency testing.  All applicants to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center are required to take Avant Assessment's STAMP Chinese Proficiency Test.  The STAMP is the most convenient way to ensure that you will be prepared to study at the HNC.

To help you do your best on the STAMP, we’ve answered a few commonly asked questions about the exam below:

  • The STAMP is entirely multiple choice, and focuses mainly on listening and reading comprehension. There is no oral component.
  • There are no formal study guides for the exam, but when you request the STAMP from our office, we’ll send you a link to a practice test to give you a better idea of the structure of the test.
  • You can take the STAMP online with a proctor.  There's no need to go to a testing center.  Professors, work supervisors, university administrators, or tutors are all suitable choices to proctor a STAMP test.   
  • Do you attend a university that requires the STAMP as part of its curriculum?  Contact nanjing@jhu.edu for more information on how to transfer that score to your application.

All STAMP tests must be completed by deadline of the program to which you are applying, but we find that many graduating seniors find it more convenient to submit the test request form during the fall semester, before going on winter break. Good luck!