Thursday, September 10, 2015

From Nanjing to DC: HNC Certificate/SAIS MA Students Start their First Semester in DC

Our student blogger, Nanfei, is now joining us in the Hopkins-Nanjing Center DC Office.  Read about her experience transitioning to DC as a HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student.  

HNC Certificate/SAIS MA students enjoy brunch together in DC 

Hi All,

As many of you may know, the HNC Certificate/SAIS MA program involves spending our first year in China at the HNC, and then continuing our studies in the Washington D.C. campus the following year. Understandably, we’re concerned with making a smooth transition: graduating on time, finding a place to live, and finding our fit in the SAIS DC community. Since my fellow classmates and I are all navigating these issues at the moment, I’m here to give you a snapshot of how things are going.

First off, the academics! The HNC Certificate/SAIS MA program ensures that students coming from the HNC are given one semester of advanced standing upon their arrival in DC. This essentially allows the MA to be completed in three semesters as opposed to four. In addition, relevant HNC courses can be approved for credit transfer, making it possible to complete the MA in just two semesters.  The three-semester MA option allows students to have more flexibility in course selection, opening up room for possible double concentrations. SAIS also offers a variety of minors. While course planning can be strenuous at times, academic advising is always available, and the HNC staff has made it their priority to continuously refine the procedure.

Second, finding a home! I have to confess that, having grown up in Northern Virginia, I did not share in my classmates’ apartment-hunting adventures. However, after just a few weeks of commuting on the Orange Line, I strongly recommend students to live in the city. Being an HNC student actually helped many people in locating both roommates and apartments. A large percentage of my class has continued living together after leaving Nanjing. As for apartment-hunting itself, there was a running stream of SAIS-targeted apartment openings on social media. SAIS is located conveniently near Dupont Circle, accessible via metro, bus, and bicycle.

Lastly, the community! While it was comforting to come to DC knowing that there would be some familiar faces, we definitely had to think about how to get involved in the SAIS DC community.  A popular one is summer Pre-Term. Some 40% of SAIS students take the required Microeconomics and/or Macroeconomics course over the summer. This not only allows them to open their schedule up for more advanced economics classes, but also kick-starts their initiation into the SAIS DC campus. It was obvious to me during orientation; Pre-Term students felt more comfortable and engaging. 

Unfortunately, students with summer internships may not be able to take the time away to participate in Pre-Term. I attended a two-day leadership retreat called SAISLeads along with two other Certificate/MA students, which took place immediately prior to orientation. Since this event is attended by students from all three SAIS campuses, it was a great way to connect with people outside of our usual courses. The catering was delicious, the activities were stimulating, and the group size was perfect for meeting new people. 

There are expected hurdles to cross, and luckily a group of peers to cross it with. It’s reassuring to have a friend during economics, when the professor starts talking about calculus. We can also share a smile when professors mention an aspect of Chinese society we’ve both experienced. So here’s to a semester filled with both!



Written by Nanfei Yan
Photo by Han May Chan