Thursday, October 27, 2016

HNC’s New Banwei Student Committee for Fall 2016 is Elected!

Please allow me the pleasure of introducing our Fall 2016 Banwei Student Committee!

Each semester at HNC four students are elected to the 班委 Banwei (student committee), who act as a liaison between the administration and student body, and plan cultural and community events. This fall, Naomi Garcia 澳米, 马艳霞Ma Yanxia (Coco), John Wilhoite, and 金晓于 Jin Xiaoyu (Arthur) were all elected to represent the student body.

HNC's Fall 2016 Banwei Student Committee 
Despite being busy with classes, homework, interest groups and planning events for students, Naomi and Xiaoyu took the time to talk with me about their time at the HNC so far.
What are three words you would choose to describe yourself? 
Naomi: Easily-amused, child-like, sleep-deprived.

Xiaoyu: Independent, persistent, confident.

So why did you apply to HNC?
Naomi: I graduated from St. Mary’s College in Maryland with three degrees in French, Spanish and Chinese. Chinese is a very challenging language to learn and use in professional work. I applied to the HNC because I think it is the most incredible way to break down the barriers that I felt in China as a foreigner, and live within an accepting community among Chines and international students.

Xiaoyu: To learn more than just law, which I studied at East China University of Political Science and Law. I wanted to know more about American culture and make a lot of friends. I also wanted to improve my English so I could utilize it in professional work
What has been the most challenging part about studying at HNC?
Naomi: The most challenging part about studying here is the learning curve; I feel that it was so steep at first, but now I am struggling to advance to the next level.

Xiaoyu: In short, my limited vocabulary range sometimes makes it difficult for me to communicate with others in English efficiently.

What has been your favorite experience as Banwei so far?
Naomi: My favorite experience as Banwei so far was when a student approached me to say that singing on stage was incredibly helpful to her spirituality, and that she would not have had the courage to do so without our open mic night.

Xiaoyu: Organizing the activities on Friday night, which all our classmates appreciate.

What plans does Banwei have for the rest of the semester? 
Naomi: We plan to have more gatherings in the lounge, to share some Chinese and American cultural games, and celebrate Halloween with pumpkin carving!

Xiaoyu: We already celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival and now have the Halloween party coming up; after that we have plans for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas and New Year’s Day; we may also organize a short trip in the fall break or plan some other fun things in between.
As you guys can see there are a lot of plan coming up! And as a student, I’m excited to attend all of them. Especially Halloween!

Written by Chelsea Toczauer, MAIS 2017

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Day in the Life of an HNC Certificate/John Hopkins SAIS MA Student

HNC Certificate/Johns Hopkins SAIS MA student, Clarise Brown, shares her experiences now at SAIS in Washington, DC

Last month, I began my studies at the SAIS D.C. campus, penning the last lines of my chapter in China, and starting anew in Dupont Circle. After living for 4 years in China and studying a year at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, it was delightfully strange to be in D.C. again. It was foreign, familiar and frighteningly exciting all at once. I have to say, over the last month, that feeling has only intensified in the best possible way.

Although I loved living in Nanjing, adjusting to the fast-paced life in D.C. has been an incredibly strange and wonderful feeling. A typical day starts with me working in the HNC admissions office in D.C., where I often have first dibs on the tasty Chinese catering for luncheons and events.

Speaking of events, during any given week, there are at least a dozen talks on campus by the most renowned in their field. Yesterday, for example, I happened to have the pleasure of sitting in a Defense against the Dark Arts talk with former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. What is Defense against the Dark Arts you may ask? It is exactly what it sounds like in all of its Harry Potter-esque goodness. Each week, many of the most renowned and respected in their field come to SAIS to shed light on the politics of networking and pursuing your chosen profession in D.C.

In keeping with the theme, Madeleine Albright shared stories of her time studying at SAIS “sometime between the discovery of fire and invention of the iPad.” (Her words, not mine!) Moreover, she shared the tools in her “national security toolbox”, and reminded us that the “art of diplomacy is in putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.”

Feeling like a future diplomat in the making, I was eager to attend my Principles and Practices of Conflict Management class later that evening, which is one of my favorites. Professor Hopmann uses real world examples to shed light on the challenges and tools involved in conflict management. Yesterday, he analyzed the failure of the peace referendum in Colombia and applied the lessons we had only just read in our textbooks to the case at hand. That’s what I love most about the classes at SAIS. Whatever we learn in classroom can be applied directly to current events. The same can be said of my Political Economy and Microeconomics classes.

If I have time between or after classes, I’ll normally head to the library to curl up on the cozy chairs with a textbook and a few dozen highlighters. The library is always filled with the heads of SAIS students bent studiously over their readings, but a low laugh or mutually assured groan of exhaustion with classmates isn’t hard to come by.
Lately, the weather has been lovely, so I’ll bike ride through Dupont Circle or pass the White House before I head home to prep for my internship at the House of Representatives the next day. I’m a Legislative Affairs intern on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Sub-Committee on Asia and Pacific, and it’s been amazing to see firsthand Congress influencing the policies that I’ve spent my entire academic career trying to understand and, ultimately, influence.

Although it has only been a month, I already feel like I’ve learned so much during my time at SAIS. First and foremost is the importance of time management! Secondly, remember to apply every lecture to real world lessons. And, lastly, always dress your best on campus. You never know when you’ll bump into a former Secretary of State, Ambassador or, potentially, your next employer.

Written by Clarise Brown
HNC Certificate/Johns Hopkins SAIS MA 2017

Friday, October 14, 2016

Traveling to Shanxi Province

HNC students often use their holiday breaks to travel to other parts of China and Asia. One of the HNC student bloggers, Amanda Bogan, spent the National Day holiday exploring Shanxi Province.

One of my favorite parts of life in China has always been traveling to different parts of the country, easily and affordably, by train. This past week we had our first major holiday, a total of seven days to celebrate National Day (国庆节). I took advantage of this opportunity to journey north, up to Shanxi Province.

Although travel during the National Holiday can be notorious for large crowds and sold out tickets, I was lucky enough to book round trip tickets only a few days in advance, thanks to my wonderful and patient roommate, Wu-Ye (吴叶), who helped me purchase the tickets online.

By standard train, Shanxi is roughly 16 hours from Nanjing. This may sound like a long trip at first, but we got on our train in the evening and had tickets for a sleeper car, so at least half the time was spent sleeping.  The other half was spent watching the changing landscapes, reading in my cozy bunk bed, and making friends with other travelers.

Catching up on some assignments while enjoying the scenery
 Train travel, particularly on longer trips, is unique because there is plenty of time to chat with and get to know the other people in your car or cabin. Although living in Nanjing also provides ample opportunities to get out and talk with locals, it’s definitely easier to strike up a conversation with a stranger when you’re sitting in the same cabin as them for several hours.

During my trip out, I made friends with a young woman employed at an electric company in Shanghai, who was traveling 25 hours to Ningxia Province to visit her family. We shared snacks and talked about the differences in climate and culture between southern and northern China. Our conversation led to a larger conversation with other members of our cabin, many of whom had questions about my impressions of life in China having grown up in the US. A mother traveling with her daughter had many questions about the American education system and teaching methods, while others asked my opinion of the current presidential election.

Hiking with friends in the Loess Plateau (黄土高原)
Talking with people of different backgrounds and from different regions in China is also a useful way to practice Chinese, especially because of the wide range of accents and dialects across the country. In HNC classrooms, teachers speak standard Mandarin, generally with a Nanjing or Beijing accent, but on a train accents will vary significantly from person to person. Increased exposure to different accents and dialects makes it easier to communicate with people from different regions, an important practical skill when living in China.

Tradition cave dwellings (窑洞) in Lvliang (吕梁) City, Shanxi
During our conversations, I particularly enjoyed hearing other passengers’ opinions and thoughts regarding issues they found to be important. Although my hours put in at the library and note-taking during classes are obviously major assets to my education in China, some of the most valuable learning experiences I’ve had here have come directly from conversations with people in everyday, casual settings.

My time in Shanxi went by quickly and happily, filled with long meals, catching up with friends, and trips scenic areas and historical monuments. The ride back to Nanjing was just as long, but I had more than enough reading to keep me busy. Even though a bustling train car may not be the most tranquil environment to study in, it is certainly one of the more exciting and memorable places to learn.

Written by Amanda Bogan, HNC Certificate 2017

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Hopkins-Nanjing Center Library

One of key distinctions of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center is the HNC Library, which was founded in 1986 at the establishment of Hopkins-Nanjing Center. In addition to being a pillar of the HNC’s commitment to free and open academic exchange, the library is considered one of China’s top collections on international affairs. The bilingual holdings support Chinese and international student and faculty research at the HNC.

 William Speidel, the first director of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center’s Washington Office, remembers that “We started with about 200 journals on each side…half Chinese and half English. And even through the great difficulties of 1989, the journals were permitted to keep coming in.” The library now houses more than 120,000 volumes in Chinese and English, 400 periodicals and the full electronic resources of Nanjing University and Johns Hopkins SAIS. Sheila Thalhimer, the librarian at Johns Hopkins SAIS who oversees the library’s procurement of English language materials, notes that USAID funding through ASHA grants is “a major factor in maintaining [the library’s] excellence.”

The HNC library resources initially were focused on US-China relations and international affairs, but now they have expanded to include US history, international law, international development, and energy, resources, and the environment. The HNC library is an essential resource for HNC Master of International Studies (MAIS) students, who complete theses in their target language in their final year. In addition to the HNC collection, students are able to request volumes needed for research through the Johns Hopkins SAIS Library. Chinese and international students write their theses on diverse topics, recently including homosexuality in rural China, Chinese house churches, democracy in Asia, cross-strait relations, and women’s rights. Copies of these theses are kept in the HNC library.

The HNC library collection includes 30 years of alumni and faculty books 
The HNC’s extensive open stacks reflect the longstanding commitment to freedom of academic inquiry. Jan Kiely, HNC American Co-Director from 2007-2010, reflects back to how the HNC persevered through tensions in US-China relations, “There were a lot of politically charged issues in my time—the running of the torch, the Tibetan riots, the situation in Xinjiang…Sometimes there were issues that produced a degree of tensions. But that, to me, always presented the most important moment to seize: if there are different viewpoints, let’s talk about it! Let’s think about these things!” Daniel Wright, who was Director of the Washington Office during the SARS crisis, echoes the same resilient sentiment: “The Center is at its best when it’s under pressure.” Regardless of constraints beyond the HNC’s walls, the library provides students and HNC community members the resources to research, discuss, and improve understanding of the issues at the heart of China’s future in the global community.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

HNC Orientation: Welcome to Nanjing!

Earlier this month, the new cohort of HNC students arrived in Nanjing. Student blogger, Tarela Osuobeni, HNC Certificate student, recounts her first few days at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. 

On September 10th, I arrived at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center triumphant and giddy over successfully navigating the Shanghai transportation system to Nanjing. After making my way through the HNC entrance, reality struck when the desk counter clerk greeted me in Chinese and began to explain the room check-in process. I felt my ears adjust to the familiar tones and word jumbles I had grown so accustomed to throughout years of Chinese studies. Travel exhaustion threatened to hit for a moment, but I soon felt my elation return. I had safely made it to China and was ready to embark on new adventures that would stretch language, personal and academic boundaries.

Arriving at the HNC 
The novelty of the HNC took on a formal sense the next day as my classmates and I started the week of a jammed-packed, resource-filled and entertaining orientation. Self-introductions started in the morning, as Chinese and international students alike exchanged China stories and indulged in language immersion, testing out the peculiar parameters our Chinese and dialects over breakfast. As we laid the foundations for new friendships, we also exchanged questions about course workload and Nanjing nightlife. I was relieved to be around like-minded people—it seemed we had all been following parallel academic roads and had finally stopped at the same intersection.

A view of the HNC pond 

That morning, the HNC’s American and Chinese Co-directors welcomed us in both Chinese and English. Throughout the week we attended sessions on academic life, safety, and career services. However, nothing compared to the week’s highlights, which included attending a guest lecture by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Alito and participating in the Mid-Autumn Festival Party. During the party we had a chance to socialize and discover the talents of our peers, who performed pieces from Cohen’s Hallelujah to 月亮代表我的心 (The Moon Represents My Heart—A famous Chinese song).

Xuanwu Lake 

However, social bonding was not confined within the walls of the HNC. On Saturday morning a group of us ventured to the old Nanjing city wall and the beautiful Xuanwu Lake Park. Lotus flowers outlined edges of the lake, which carried boats of all sorts that departed from the bank where eager tourists waited. As we strolled along the path, we marveled at the Chinese-styled gardens, the Purple Mountains in the far distance and the sea of people that surrounded us. At the same time, our conversations drifted through various topics, from the development of simplified Mandarin, to trends in Chinese modern culture. As the culmination of orientation set in throughout the weekend, with the opening ceremony to cap it off, it became clear that we had begun a year of fulfilling experiences and ongoing dialogue about the U.S. and China.

Written by Tarela Osuobeni, HNC Certificate ‘17