Thursday, November 20, 2014

Alumni Weekend in Nanjing

The weekend of November 7-9, the Hopkins-Nanjing Center hosted its annual Alumni Weekend.  Chinese and international alumni return to the HNC to reconnect with former classmates, but current students were also able to join in the fun.  Current MAIS students Emily Shea and Tom Holt send a report:


Every November, the HNC invites alumni back and puts on a variety of different events for them during our ‘Alumni Weekend.’ Current students get plenty of opportunities to participate, meet with the alumni, and learn about career development. This year, Professor Webb and Professor Hua Tao held a conference called, “The 21st Century New Silk Road,” in which they discussed the economic, geopolitical, environmental and religious impact of increased globalization and connectedness between China, US, and the Middle East.

On Friday, there were sports related activities to sign up for, like soccer, basketball, and even a Zumba class. Friday night’s happy hour was packed with students and alumni. As a class committee member, I enjoyed getting to meet past center students, including someone who used to be on class committee, while bartending. 

On Saturday, there were two panels for current students to attend, one called “First Job, First Challenge” and the other, which I went to, was “Working in China.” There were four alumni at the “Working in China” panel, all currently working in Shanghai. They spoke about their own experiences and answered student questions about the pros and cons of choosing to work in China and the different expectations one should have going into a Chinese workplace. What I took away was that advantages to working in China can include getting to do exciting and engaging work, and greater possibilities for advancement than one might find in the US. More than one of the alumni from the panel work in risk management, so I learned a bit about that field, as well. 

Finally, Saturday night was the alumni reception in the East building lobby. My favorite part of the weekend was this night: eating, drinking, and getting to mingle with everyone. During the reception, I had the chance to talk with both recent graduates and others who graduated several years ago. It was very interesting to get an idea of what kinds of careers students can look forward to after graduating from the HNC, as well as to hear stories about what the HNC used to be like, for example before the new classroom building and library were built, and before there was a campus cat!

One activity that has become an annual tradition at the HNC is alumni and students walking along the Nanjing City Wall (南京城墙). The City Wall was first built during the Ming Dynasty and was one of the largest city walls ever built in China. In contrast to other Chinese cities which tore down their city walls, Nanjing’s City Wall still stands to this day. And after the Wall Walk last Saturday, I’m glad to live in a city that has preserved such a beautiful piece of its history. 

A large group of HNC students and alumni arrived at the wall on a foggy Saturday afternoon. The fog was not thick enough to obscure the view from the wall though, and the beginning of thecity wall provided a beautiful view of another major sight in Nanjing, Purple Mountain (紫金山).

The wall provided more gorgeous views of the Nanjing cityscape, and one thing I was struck by was how serene it was. I had been to the Xi’an city wall on two previous occasions, and that city wall was much more commercialized and touristy than the Nanjing city wall. As we walked along the wall, I got to talk to a lot of alumni with fascinating backgrounds, and I got to know my classmates better. All in all, the Nanjing City Wall was a great way to spend an afternoon, and we only saw a small part of it. Hiking the whole wall apparently takes a day, and I hope to give that a shot someday.