Friday, November 27, 2015

Building China into Your Career: Experts’ Perspectives from the Classroom to the Workplace

On Thursday, December 3rd, the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and Project Pengyou are hosting a panel event in Beijing on how to build China into your career across a variety of sectors. If you are currently in Beijing, see below for more details on how to attend. We hope to see you there!

Building China into Your Career:
Expersts' Perspectives from the Classroom to the Workplace 

Event Details
Project Pengyou and the HNC are co-hosting a panel event on how to build China in your career into a variety of sectors.  The discussion will offer insights into getting started, the role of language skills, and strategies to shape a meaningful career, featuring prominent HNC alumni from the business, policy and nonprofit sectors. Special keynote speaker Anthony Kuhn, Beijing Correspondent for National Public Radio, will join the discussion and share his personal journey, from his first trip to China in the ’80s as a student to his career as a journalist, covering Asia for the past two decades.

Mr. Kuhn and the panelists–including Ashleigh Au, Special Assistant to CEO, SOHO China and Secretary, SOHO China Scholarships; Jim Heller, Acting Political Minister-Counselor, U.S. Embassy in Beijing; Abe Sorock, Founder, ATLAS China–will share their on-the-ground experiences in China and also give the audience a chance to take part in the dialogue. Robbie Shields, Student Career Counselor at HNC, will moderate the event. There will be a wine and networking reception following the discussion

Time:  Thursday, December 3, 2015 7:00-9:30pm
Location: Golden Bridges/Project Pengyou Courtyard, No. 65 Xiaojingchang Hutong, Guloudong Ave, Beijing
RSVP: by Dec. 1 (Please include your name and affiliation)  

Keynote Speaker:
Anthony Kuhn 
Beijing Correspondent, National Public Radio 
Anthony Kuhn has worked as a foreign correspondent for NPR since 2004. He has been based in Beijing since 2013, and previously, from 2005 to 2010. He has also been based in London (2004-2005) and Jakarta (2010-2013) for NPR. Previously, he worked for the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Los Angeles Times, and other media in Beijing. He graduated from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center in 1992, and received his BA from Washington University in St.Louis. He first visited Japan in 1964, and Beijing in 1982. He feels lucky to be researching and informing listeners/readers about topics that intrigued him as a student at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. He has interviewed his former teachers and returned to the center to speak to students about his work.

Ashleigh Au
Special Assistant to CEO, SOHO China and Secretary, SOHO China Scholarships
Ashleigh Au is a Public Relations and Communications Professional with over 10 years of China experience. She has worked with SOHO China, the largest prime office property developer in Beijing and Shanghai, for the past six years. She is now Special Assistant to the CEO, one of Chinaʼs foremost entrepreneurs, and Secretary, SOHO China Scholarships, where she oversees a US$100 million initiative to endow financial aid scholarships for Chinese students at top international universities. Ashleigh earned a Graduate Certificate in Chinese and American Studies from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center in 2008 and a BA with distinction in East Asian and Latin American Studies from the University of Toronto.

Jim Heller
Acting Political Minister-Counselor, U.S. Embassy in Beijing 
Jim Heller is a Foreign Service Officer currently serving as the Acting Political Minister-Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Prior to this assignment, he was the Political Section External Unit Chief at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. He has also served in Kyiv, in Beijing (1999-2002), and with Regional Reconstruction Team Erbil in Iraq. In Washington, Jim has served as a Senior Watch Officer in the State Department’s 24/7 Operations Center, as the Korea Desk’s ROK Unit Chief, as a desk officer in the European Bureau’s Office of Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus Affairs, and as an economic officer in the Economic Bureau’s Office of Multilateral Trade Affairs. Jim has a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Michigan and is a Hopkins-Nanjing Center graduate.

Abraham Sorock 
Founder and CEO, ATLAS China
Abraham Sorock founded Atlas China in 2012 help companies hire and manage Mandarin speaking international talent. The firm has provided consulting and staffing services for Western and Chinese clients, ranging from Fortune 500s and industry leaders like Merck and Haworth to highly specialized and growing technical companies. Abraham is a Mandarin speaker educated at the Hopkins- Nanjing Center and University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a committee chair for AmCham China and previously led the Beijing branch of the Jewish cultural Moishe House.


Robert "Robbie" Shields 
Student Career Counselor, Johns Hopkins University - Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies
Robbie Shields is the Student Career Counselor at the Johns Hopkins University – Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies (HNC). He works to help HNC students and alumni identify and achieve their career goals, while also managing employer relations in the Asia Pacific region for the HNC and SAIS. Prior to joining the HNC in 2012, he worked at the University of Floridaʼs Warrington College of Business Administration as an Advisor and Career Counselor. In addition to his work in education, Robbie has served as a clerk at the Federal Public Defenderʼs Office in Las Vegas, and the Alexandria Public Defenderʼs Office in Alexandria, Virginia. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Tennessee and a Juris Doctor from the University of Florida.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The First HNC Open House for Prospective Students

Earlier this month, the HNC hosted the first Open House for prospective students. Read on to learn more about the event from the HNC American Academic Coordinator, John Urban.

Hi guys, John Urban here. I am the American Academic Coordinator at the HNC, and I am based in Nanjing, China. One of my responsibilities is recruitment of international students in greater China. This part of my job has me traveling to language programs in Beijing, Hangzhou, Harbin, Shanghai,
and other cities in China visiting language programs and presenting to students studying Chinese. 

When I am on the road, I am always sure to show lots of pictures of the HNC facilities and students doing activities, as well as shots that try to capture the unique HNC atmosphere. So, when we decided to hold our first-ever prospective students open house before the semester started, I knew that it had potential to be a great success. Thankfully, I believe it was! Prospective students came from all over China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guizhou province, Guangdong province, and Nanjing.

While we had held open houses in the past for admitted students typically in the spring, this was the first time we had held an event for students who were merely interested in applying to HNC. The event was held on a Sunday and Monday. On Sunday, students heard opening remarks from the
American Co-Director Dr. Neil Kubler, and a presentation by career services counselor Robbie Shields. After touring the HNC facilities, students had dinner with program coordinator, Zach Valenta, and me at a nearby restaurant. The night was followed up by a happy hour of milk and cookies with current HNC students, Dr. Kubler, and four of the resident international faculty. The informal setting also allowed prospective students to get an inside, unfiltered idea of what HNC student experience is really like. Afterward, prospective students were invited to sit in on the Philosophy Interest Group’s weekly Sunday evening discussion with current HNC students and resident faculty. Students found it to be thought-provoking, and certainly didn’t mind the free wine that the professors kindly provided.

On Monday, students had breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria, and had the opportunity to observe two classes – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Students had the option of observing Social Issues of China’s Modernization or China’s Development and Environment at 9:50 AM and either
Contemporary International Politics or Chinese Economic and Commercial Law at 1:00 PM. The day concluded by a final Q&A session with me. As this session took place in the student lounge, students were able to once again mingle with current students who were there.

Given how successful this event was, we plan to hold it again next fall! If you missed the event but would like to visit the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, please send me an email: jurban [at]

Written by John Urban,  American Academic Coordinator

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Coursework at the HNC: Is my Chinese good enough?

Hi All,

Throughout the year, we receive many questions from prospective students. In today’s post, I’d like to address a frequently asked question: “Is my Chinese good enough?”

Let’s start by setting the premise: academic Chinese is different from colloquial Chinese. The vocabulary used in HNC classes includes words that even regular Chinese people are unfamiliar with (e.g. classes on Islamic Fundamentalism, Comparative US-China Foreign Investment Law). In other words, the level of a student’s language skill isn’t solely judged by their vocabulary base. Coursework at the HNC requires students to adapt and expand their vocabulary at a rapid pace. Thus, the admissions committee is looking for an ability to overcome a steep learning curve.

Now that we’ve set the premise, let’s move on to exactly what Chinese classroom instruction entails. 

Listening Comprehension: Unless at the request of the class, professors will not lecture at a pace lower than they would to Chinese students. This Microeconomics Lecture on Youtube reflects the ballpark level of HNC’s Chinese lectures. It’s normal, if not expected, that students are initially unable to understand the entire lecture. Students are encouraged to study the lecture slides to supplement and strengthen their understanding of lectures.

Reading Comprehension: A quick search on Google Scholar turns up a journal article by Professor Li Lifeng (affiliated with Nanjing University and the HNC). This article is a good example of the level of reading being assigned in classes. If you find this piece to be a piece of cake, great! However, it is not abnormal for a student to spend 30 minutes per page during their first week of classes. Once the vocabulary for each course has been established, the pace of reading increases dramatically (5~10 minutes/page). 

Oral Participation: Students are typically asked to contribute through class discussions and presentations. Professors will focus on what students are trying to convey, not on the language they use to convey it. For example:

Option 1: “…让中国和日本的关系越来越不好” = “… letting the relationship between China and Japan get worse and worse”


Option 2: “…使中日关系进一步恶化” = “… causing Sino-Japan relations to further deteriorate”

Both sentences deliver the same message. Professors will focus on what the student cites as the cause for deteriorating relations, not whether the state of deterioration is eloquently articulated. 

Writing Ability: Just as the emphasis in oral participation is on comprehension, not delivery, written assignments are also evaluated primarily by content. That being said, students are expected to deliver papers free of typos and grammatical errors. Resources such as a student-run writing center are available to aid in the writing process. In the beginning of the semester, a 1000-character essay will appear tough. By the end of the year, students will find themselves having to cut thousands of characters to fit their final papers within the 3000-character limits.

If this post has not alleviated anyone’s language-related anxiety, feel free to email us at, and we are happy to answer your questions!


Written by Nanfei Yan, HNC Certificate/SAIS MA Student

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Life in a Bilingual Community

When students study abroad, it’s usually with the goal of immersing themselves in a target foreign language environment. At the Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies, however, it is truly a bilingual community. Classes are conducted either in Chinese or English, and student life includes various initiatives that mirror the bilingual academic environment.
The Public Speaking Club has two components: daily and biweekly. Buttons worn by members daily indicate the language in which to speak in for the day. When other students see the button, they are encouraged to converse with the wearer in that language. There are also biweekly meetings held to practice public speaking in the form of short speeches. The speeches are given in the target language, and the rest of the club provides feedback following the speech.

 The Movie Club has a mission of introducing the US and China in the form of a weekly film. While students cover specific topics such as history, culture, and politics in class, movies provide an immersive experience to see all three come to life. Where else would you see James Bond and 孙悟空 (Sun Wukong, the Monkey King) sharing a stage?

Chinese and International students also work together to run a weekday coffee counter in the student lounge. Not only does this shop provide the bargain cup of joe in town, it’s also a way for students and faculty to interact with each other outside the classroom environment. There’s even an incentive for repeat customers in the form of a loyalty stamp card.

For many study abroad programs that consist exclusively of international students, the environment may morph into a Chinese in class, English for everything else setup (unless the program enforces a Chinese-only requirement). For the HNC, however, there’s roughly an equal number of Chinese and International faculty, staff, and student body. This unique composition is what makes the HNC bilingual community sustainable. A quick look around the Center will show that everything from bulletin board memos to laundry machine directions are presented in both Chinese and English. In addition to the clubs mentioned above, an equal ratio of Chinese and English can also be heard at informal gatherings such as study groups, dinner outings, and ping pong matches. 

Why is a bilingual community important? Students not only gain an understanding for their target culture, but are able to educate each other on the similarities and differences between the two cultures. A bilingual experience teaches students valuable skills in intercultural communication, skills that will be essential in their future careers in academia, business, government, and more.

Written by Nanfei Yan, HNC Certificate/SAIS MA Student