Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What is it like to take classes at the HNC?

Curious about what classes are like at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?  HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student Nanfei Yan reports on her experiences:

Hello All,

If we were to sample incoming international students each year for their deepest HNC fear, the answer may well be a unanimous “taking classes in Chinese?!” The coursework at the HNC is both exciting and daunting at the same time. Let’s use this post to tackle some frequently asked questions in order to dispel the mystery.

As a preface, the first few weeks at the HNC will be very different from the rest of the year. Why? Because no matter how good your Chinese is, reading over a hundred pages of academic Chinese a week will be difficult. However, most students develop their academic reading vocabulary base after a couple of weeks. It’s normal for anyone to temporarily panic at the learning curve, but it’s all a part of the HNC experience.

1. What is the typical workload of a class?

Classes meet twice a week, with between 10 to 20 pages of reading assigned per session. It’s important to focus on the concepts and trends in each reading, instead of the details. Professors tend to hold class discussions on the key points. In addition, each class will typically have both a midterm and a final exam. The exam can be in the form of a take-home exam and/or a research paper (~3000 characters). Most classes also include presentations scattered throughout the semester.

Sample Grading Spread:

Participation & Reading 20%
Presentation – 20%
Midterm – 30%
Final – 30%

The typical student takes between 3 to 5 classes, and puts in at least 3 hours per class, per week.

2. Isn’t it hard to do assignments in Chinese? 

The HNC library's collection of Chinese and English newspapers

There are several support mechanisms in place for students. A dedicated Writing Center is available for students to take their work to for editing. The Chinese-International student rooming arrangement also makes roommates a valuable teaching resource. Lastly, the professors are all easily-accessible for questions during (and outside of) office hours.

3. What about the classes taught in English?

In addition to the 3 Chinese courses that international students are required to take, most students will also opt to take at least one English course. While some courses cover familiar topics (US Constitution, US History, etc.), this is a great chance for students to take this opportunity and learn something outside of their concentration. For example, there are courses in international law, corporate finance, and philosophy.

The most important thing to remember is: no matter how you’re feeling during your time at the HNC, there are definitely other students who are going through the same thing, camaraderie is one of the keys to success. Impromptu piano jam sessions or trips to the local French bakery with study buddies is what fueled my problem sets and research papers!