Wednesday, May 25, 2016

HNC Student TED Talks

Hey everyone!

Today I wanted to highlight one of the Hopkins Nanjing Center’s most popular weekly student-run events, HNC Student TED Talks.

Every Friday before the Student Committee (banwei) student mixer, a student will volunteer to give a presentation on a topic of their interest. There is always a large turnout given the range of interesting topics. Some previous topics HNC students have presented on include: Deforestation in Indonesia, Suppression of Women in Chinese History, Milk Industry in China and Global Wine Trade.

Joaquin Matek, a first year MAIS student at the HNC, presented one of the most recent TED Talks on Memory and Mnemonics.
HNC Student Joaquin Matek gives a TED Talk on Memory and Mnemonics
I asked him to give a brief statement for the blog on his presentation. He explains, “We often think of memory as something mechanical and humdrum, but it is actually fundamental to our creative prowess as humans, and the greatest feats of memory are predicated on the power of imagination. Whether we are trying to master a foreign language or just trying to remember the name of that new acquaintance, context is important. Context is the web of connections and associations in which our memories are situated, and the more connections that exist for any given memory, the easier it is for us to recall. Mnemonics help us encode and retrieve information by creating additional ‘artificial’ context associated with the thing we want to remember. A memory palace may sound like an edifice only a Sherlock could build, but the basic principle is simply connecting our fantastic spatial memory (our memory of places and how to get around) with a piece of information that might otherwise be forgettable. Finally, as often as we might disparage our memories and wish we could remember more, the ability to forget is actually a crucial part of learning."

All of the students at the HNC have their own personal interests that they bring to the table and share in and out of class. Despite working hard throughout the week, this is always one of my favorite weekly events to go to and learn something new.

Hope this sparks some creative cells in your own memories!


Written by Chelsea Toczauer, MAIS Student

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Spring Break to Guilin, Dazhai and Yangshuo

Hi Everyone!

While studying at the HNC you’ll have a fall break, Chun Jie vacation, and spring break. We just had our spring break and I decided to travel domestically and further south than the ancient southern capital of China we at the HNC call home.

You can get to Guilin, Guangxi, China by train (~20 hours) or plane (~2 hours) from Nanjing. If you have time, I suggest you take the train. It’s a good way to meet people on the train (just say hi! or ask if someone wants to play cards with you) and it’s a nice way to see more scenery.
Guilin Elephant Trunk Hill

Guilin was the jumping off point for the beginning of my trip, so I only had time to check out Guilin’s famous Elephant Trunk Hill. Elephant Trunk Hill is a hill in a lake that looks like an elephant drinking water, which has become a well-known landmark in Guilin. The excursion was short lived though as I was forced inside by a downpour. I didn’t mind because it gave me a chance to enjoy a cup of coffee and get some reading done at the Guilin Travelling With Hostel where I was staying. I was a little bit nervous because the weather had said it would be raining through the weekend I was traveling in Guangxi. While that was fine in Guilin, it would make hiking in Dazhai a bit more difficult. Either way it would be an adventure! I hung out the rest of the day in the hostel making friends with the owners, some European and Russian travelers (don’t ever worry about traveling alone—be smart of course, but hostels are a great way to make friends with fellow travelers! I encourage you to try it once if you haven’t yet!).

The next day I hopped on a bus I had booked to Dazhai in the Longji rice terraces. Giant gray clouds loomed in the sky, with a light drizzle misting down. First off, let me say I got super unlucky in my bus ride. I think the bus designer decided he could squeeze in two extra rows of seats in the bus to maximize profit, so the passenger in front of me was about four inches from my face. Not the most pleasant four hour trip of my life, but it would all pass. I read some of Duara’s book on Rural North China to pass the time. After about two hours I felt the flat road gradually evolve into a steeper incline. We had entered the Longji rice terraces and were winding up through the hills closer to Dazhai. There were small settlements built on the side of the main road as we passed through one small town. Upon leaving it the vertical mountainside became greener and lush. Small waterfalls cascaded down periodically. Sometimes drops would catch on the window next to my seat as we drove by. Even being stuck in this horrid bus, the terraces were absolutely lovely. It only made me more excited when we finally reached Dazhai. I grabbed my backpack from the shelf overhead and hopped off the bus when it stopped. We were here!

Dazhai rice terraces
Dazhai rice terraces

If anyone has been to China before, you know that most ‘hiking’ actually means ‘Stair Master 3000: China edition’, meaning that trails are pre-laid paths of stairs in mountains. I can say for once I appreciated this Chinese tendency given that rain and dirt trails would have meant schlepping uphill through the mud. Dazhai is a small town at the top of the rice terraces and unbeknownst to me three weeks earlier at HNC, I had booked a hostel online at the tip top of the terraces. I was in for a hike! Thank goodness I had packed light. It took almost an hour to reach Dazhai Dragon’s Den Hostel. Once getting there I checked in and dropped my bag off in my room. The view from my room was stunning. You could see the rice terraces carved out into the hill with gray clouds swirling by above. The rain had stopped so I took the opportunity to go hiking after having some ethnic Yao cuisine at the café next door. Wandering around I stumbled across a cemetery in the hills with elaborate stone markers. I admired the designs carved into the headstones but didn’t stay for long. I continued on to the point suggested by the hostel workers with a great view of the terraces. And they were right, it was gorgeous (although here you couldn’t really go wrong!). I was actually happy I had come during the rain. Why? Because I saw the sky reflected in the earth below. The rice terraces had filled up with water reflected the sky above. I took a while to appreciate the sight before heading back before it got dark. The next day I would be leaving to Yangshuo.

View from my hostel
Enjoying the region's specialty, bamboo rice
The next day’s bus ride to Yangshuo was much better than the way up, and the scenery none-the-less beautiful. Yangshuo is known for its plethora of outdoor activities located in the midst of its limestone mountains. If you get the chance, take a raft down the Li River and explore the caves.

I opted instead to take a yoga class and go bike riding during my stay in Yangshuo. I checked in at the Sudder Street Hostel on the edge of town (lovely views and not far at all, especially given the 10 yuan/day bikes and 50 yuan/day mopeds you can rent to get around). I pet the owner’s cute dog on the way out. Mood Food in Yangshuo has yoga, massage and a healthy café (great food!) and is surrounded by rock climbing companies, which I wish I had had the time to check out. After a little time there, I camped out at Echo Café to take a test for an internship application. It was hard not to get distracted by the impromptu expat jam session that started outside the café. I finished off a nice day by getting some Yangshuo beer fish for dinner and grabbing a few drinks at Kaya Bar before hitting the hay.

This was definitely a sprint of a trip, but worth it in my opinion. If I could go back again I would spend more time in Dazhai and Yangshuo. Hopefully this will give you some insight to the area and inspire your own China adventure!

Happy trails everyone,


Written by Chelsea Toczauer, MAIS Student 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Beijing Career Trek

Hello everyone! Last week, the students at HNC had our spring break. I have heard great stories from classmates that traveled throughout China and Southeast Asia. Some of the destinations that I have heard of include Guilin, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao and Sri Lanka.

For me, sixteen classmates and I participated in HNC’s Beijing Career Trek. The Beijing Career Trek is a trip organized by HNC Career Services in which students, over the course of four days, have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with practitioners from a variety of sectors to gain first-hand insights into the organizations’ strategies, operations, challenges, and hiring needs and processes. Additionally, students have the opportunity to meet and network with HNC alumni in the Beijing area.

In preparation for the event each of us researched one of the companies we met with and, before each meeting, briefed the rest of us on the company, their operations, and their job opportunities. In addition, we all had to buy (or make sure we had) professional clothing and business cards.

Career trek group outside SOHO

So after some shopping and research, we were ready! Over the course of the trek we met with ten employers and attended an alumni reception. The companies that we met with were:

  • SOHO* - SOHO China is a publicly traded real-estate company headquartered in Beijing. The company is the largest prime real estate developer in China.
  • US Embassy* - Many federal agencies have offices in the embassy, however the main agency is the Department of State, for which many Foreign Service Officers serve. This meeting was particularly interesting and insightful as we had six presenters, all of whom are HNC alumni.
  • China Centre for Globalization – The China Centre for Globalization is an independent, non-profit think tank headquartered in Beijing. The organization conducts research on a number of issues, including (but not limited to): international affairs, global talent issues, education, and sustainable development. The CCG is considered one of the top think tanks in China and works with private and state owned enterprises.
  • US-China Business Council*- The US China Business Council is a private, nonprofit organization whose members include 220-230 American companies that do business with China.
  • APCO Worldwide – APCO is the second largest public relations firm in the U.S. The firm engages in strategic communications, consulting and international public affairs. This meeting in particular was fun as the presenters, instead of having a typical Q&A session with us, gave us a case study to show us what a typical assignment for them would be like.
  • Amazon –, Inc. is an American e-commerce and cloud computing company with headquarters in Seattle, Washington. It is the largest Internet-based retailer in the United States and has a strong presence in China.
  • Weber Shandwick* - Weber Shandwick is a global public relations and communications agency. The company has expertise in (among other areas) consumer marketing, digital marketing, financial services, and digital/social media.
  • Nielsen – Nielsen is a marketing research company headquartered in New York and operating in over 100 countries. The company primarily focuses on measuring consumer behavior to help its clients make informed business decisions.
  • Pfizer – Pfizer is a global biopharmaceutical company based in New York City that specializes in medicine, healthcare products, and vaccines.
  • Bloomberg* - Bloomberg L.P. is a privately held financial software, data, and media company headquartered in New York.
* Indicates that we met with a HNC/SAIS alum working at the site.

In addition to these site visits, we attended an alumni reception. Here we met with a number of HNC alums that are all working in the Beijing area and involved in a variety of fields. Many of the alumni who came work in finance, environmental or energy companies, media companies, or PR firms in the Beijing area. It was enjoyable and inspiring to hear from these alumni and learn about their experiences post-HNC.

Alumni Reception in Beijing

My classmate Dereck, me and Anthony Kuhn, a HNC alum and currently a Beijing Correspondent at NPR
I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to all of the professionals who took the time to meet with us and to HNC/SAIS career services for organizing the trek. I know all of the students who participated in the trek events got a lot out of it. The meetings and receptions were great resources to learn more about many fascinating fields and focus our own career aspirations.

Written by Andrew Retallick , HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

HNC Mini Courses and Lectures

Hello Everyone! In this post I’m going to be talking about some of the mini courses and guest lectures given at HNC this semester. The HNC hosts special events on a weekly to bi-weekly basis. These events have ranged from Nanjing University professors giving lectures and leading discussions to mini-courses.

Mini-Course: International Banking
On Saturday, March 26 and Sunday, March 27, Wells Fargo Deputy General Manager and SAIS Alumnus Han Lin, and Ms. Joey Zhou, a Wells Fargo Senior Trade Specialist, came to the HNC to teach a mini-course on US-China Cross Cultural Banking. The course focused on Mr. Lin’s experience in international banking and assisting U.S. companies who want to either do business with Chinese companies or open their own wholly foreign-owned enterprises (WFOEs) in China.

On the first day of the mini-course, Mr. Lin focused on a number of issues revolving around: how US companies move money into China, how these companies facilitate growth in China, and how US companies move money out of China. In addition, Mr. Lin talked a lot about the risks that foreign owned enterprises in China face and the structure of these businesses in relation to their U.S. parent companies.

The second day focused more on how to build a career in the international banking world. Mr. Lin talked about skills needed at different levels of careers in banking, what management looks for in employees, and how to stand out among other employees for promotions. I know many of the HNC students who are eager to enter fields related to international finance/ economics, and trade found this mini-course incredibly informative.

In addition, Mr. Lin spent a good portion of his course talking about personal experiences and stories related to banking and how he found his current career. This in particular not only made the lecture much more personal, but also much more interesting as it gave us a little insight on the life of people in the international banking world.

HNC students with Han Li
Lecture: Moving Green Finance from Niche to Mainstream: Global Developments and Perspectives
Jessica Robinson, the head of Asia operations for the UN Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI), gave a lecture at the HNC.  Her presentation was titled, “Moving Green Finance from Niche to Mainstream: Global Developments and Perspectives.”  The United Nations-supported Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI) Initiative is an international network of investors working together to contribute to the development of a more sustainable global financial system, both environmentally and socially. Ms. Robinson focused much of her presentation on a lot of the measures that nations have been taking to address environmental concerns using market resources, such as green bonds and green investment banks. Ms. Robinson also stressed how responsible investing is not only beneficial from an environmental perspective, but also from a financial perspective as many “green funds” (investments in companies with exceptional environmental credentials) are outperforming “black funds” (investments in fossil fuels). This lecture was a great chance to see how nations around the world have made, and most likely will continue to make, environmentally responsible investments.

HNC students with Jessica Robinson
All of these events have been incredible experiences, not just for their scope, but also for their applicability. I know I speak for all of the students who participated in these events in expressing my most sincere gratitude to all of the professionals who took the time to meet and share information with us. The lectures and discussions were great resources to learn more about many fascinating fields and focus our own career aspirations.

Written by Andrew Retallick , HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student