Jacob Clark, HNC Certificate 2012, reflects back on his time at the HNC and his experience as a law student at Michigan State University College of Law. Read on to hear how his HNC experience helped further his career.
Tell us about your current role.
As a law student, in addition to my studies, I have used my background from HNC and in China law to tailor my summer and part-time work experience during law school to a potential role within the U.S.-China legal relationship. I have been fortunate to gain work experience at the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, NYU School of Law U.S.-Asia Law Institute, and PILnet (Public Interest Lawyers Network) in Beijing. I was also awarded an externship grant to intern in the Appeals Chamber of the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, where I worked in the chamber of the Honorable Liu Daqun of China. Additionally, I served as President of the MSU College of Law American Chinese Attorneys Club for the 2014-2015 academic year. I hope to use all these experiences combined with my background at HNC to obtain a future role as a lawyer working on issues related to China, public interest law, or international criminal law.
How do you think your experience at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center prepared you for this work?
My experience at HNC taught me several lessons to prepare me for my current role as a law student and future role as a lawyer. First, the opportunity at HNC to live with and take classes with Chinese students and others from around the world taught me how to function professionally and adapt in a multi-cultural environment. Second, it taught me how to adapt my language skills to a professional setting, which has helped me both in obtaining and gaining more responsibility at my past and current jobs. Third, I learned how to view and analyze legal issues through Chinese legal principles and legal cultures and beyond just my own understanding of the U.S. legal system. This helped me adapt to my position at the U.N., where it was imperative to view legal issues through the lens of multiple countries as well as international legal precedent. Fourth, I learned when to be patient and when to take initiative to solve issues; something I have used everyday since leaving HNC. My experience at HNC did not just develop my China knowledge and language skills, but it taught me life skills that have helped me thrive in my past work experiences, current role as a law student, and will continue to help me in my future role as a lawyer.
What was your most memorable moment when you were at the HNC?
My most memorable HNC moment was a field trip to a Nanjing landfill and waste disposal center with Professor Hua Tao for my Social Issues of China’s Modernization class. It was such a unique and random place to go, but it fit in perfectly as we were studying Chinese environmental and sustainability issues. The trip allowed me to visualize the unique environmental challenges faced by China beyond what we had read about in class. Moreover, it was great walk around the landfill and discuss what I saw with my classmates. I have never seen mountains of garbage that high before and (hopefully) never will for the rest of my life! (It smelled so bad!)
What advice would you give someone contemplating attending the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?
The HNC will help you acquire the skills and provide all the resources you need to be a functioning professional in any industry that relates to China. However, one thing to understand about the HNC is that it is a graduate school and not a language institution. That means that professors will not spoon-feed you information, and much of your development will rely on your own initiative. This does not mean that you will not learn anything in class. Quite to the contrary, it means that you must take what you learned in class and use the invaluable resources provided by HNC to round out your education. The best thing I did at the HNC was use the library and access to Chinese and international professors during their office hours to discuss class topics and current events. Taking advantage of such access combined with the classroom instruction at HNC as well as the alumni network at HNC and SAIS is what will make you a successful student and alumni of HNC.