Friday, April 1, 2016

Chinese New Year Break: Interview with HNC Student Lauren Barney

Hi Everyone!

Today’s post will feature an interview with Lauren Barney about her spring break travels. Every year in between Fall and Spring Semesters at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, we have a two month long break for Chinese New Year. During this time some students will find short-term internships, while others will instead visit home or travel.

Lauren is a HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student currently studying at the HNC. This semester she is also serving as a representative on the student body’s Class Committee!

Chelsea: Hi Lauren! Thanks for meeting with me today. I was wondering if you could share with everyone where you went and what you did over the HNC’s long spring break for Chinese New Year (Chun Jie)?

Lauren: Over break I went many places. I went to Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Beijing, and then Hong Kong before coming back to the HNC.

First, I joined eight other SAIS students from Washington, D.C. for the Frontiers in Energy, Science and Technology trip in Bangladesh where we studied the effects of climate change and adaptation. It was really cool! While there we met with multiple stakeholders in Bangladesh who are doing climate change adaptation that are currently drawing up policy recommendations in order to mitigate climate change’s adverse effects. They are making a plan to combat these most effectively.

SAIS Team in Bangladesh
Then I traveled on to India where I met a lot of different people. First I visited an old friend’s family there and attended some Indian weddings! I got to wear an Indian suit for the first time, and I had a great time getting to know their family. I also met up with some SAIS alumni in India.

Next I went to Thailand and met up with other HNC-ers. We had fun being super touristy. Afterwards, I went to Beijing where I got to see fireworks during Chinese New Year. I got to run through them on my way to my friend’s house. It was cool to see Chinese culture up front for Chinese New Year. Everyone was with their family and there were lots of celebrations.

From there I went to Hong Kong and met up with two more HNC-ers, Peter and Jeffrey. We had fun exploring East versus West and all of that good stuff.

Chelsea: So were there a lot of people in Beijing and Hong Kong then, or was it mostly empty? I know a lot of Chinese people generally go home to visit family.

Lauren: It was super empty actually! Well, Hong Kong was pretty full because by the time I went there it was already Lantern Festival time. That was cool though because I got to visit a Lantern Festival on the harbor in Hong Kong. There were tons of people there. There were actually also a lot of tourists visiting Hong Kong from the Mainland on Chun Jie vacation.

But Beijing was empty! It was so cool because I lived there for a summer and it was full all the time. This time though even the train from Nanjing to Beijing was mostly empty. There were maybe 20 people on the train which normally is packed full with hundreds of people. I was also the only person walking around Beijing, where streets are normally full.

Empty street in Beijing
 Chelsea: Yeah, I lived in Beijing previously as well for a year. I have never been over Chun Jie however, so that must have been really interesting to see the city empty! During your trip were there any more striking images or experiences that stood out to you?

Lauren: In Bangladesh one of the really interesting images was seeing one section of the city where many people with drastically different levels of income lived near one another. It was interesting to see those different socio-economic classes converging in one place. There were some people on the street with no teeth or shoes while around the corner there was someone dressed in a fine Western suit or driving luxury cars.
SAIS Team in Bangladesh

In Beijing I also visited an art studio in a less-developed area which was cool to see since it was inter-mingled with the smaller streets. You would walk by homes and see families eating together. It kind of gave me a view of less developed areas of Chinese cities, or what larger cities would have looked like overall in the 1990s.

Chelsea: Do you have any travel tips or advice for students before we go?

Lauren: After Fall semester I kind of wanted to go home or to some Western country again. What I think is really special though is that I traveled instead and took advantage of the long vacation that you’ll probably never get again in your life if you don’t celebrate Chinese New Year on the Lunar Calendar! I think it’s important to take advantage of this time and explore the world.
That’s our interview for today! Hopefully it will inspire you guys to make travel plans for your time at the HNC or to dream big.

Till next time!