Friday, November 17, 2017

Exploring China During Fall Break

Through the academic year, HNC students take advantage of mid-autumn, fall and winter breaks to travel around China, intern in China and abroad; and others vacation elsewhere in Asia or return to their home countries to visit family and friends. Emily Rivera, Certificate '18, shares with us her travels to Shanghai over the Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese National Day earlier this year.

A frequently question asked is: Are there opportunities to travel to nearby cities while studying in Nanjing? Although our main focus at the HNC is of course, our studies, official school breaks do give students ample free time, and some students use this time to explore China. In fact, traveling around China is becoming increasingly more convenient. To travel, you can choose from several modes of transportation including the 高铁 (fast train), which is the quickest option. During the break, some students stayed at the HNC, while others traveled to neighboring cities.

Our travel group at a delicious spicy-food / hot pot restaurant

I went with a group of friends to Shanghai, which seemed to be a popular destination this year. While we were there, we met up with other HNC students. As soon we got to Shanghai, we began to explore the city.

中山公园 is located in Shanghai’s Changning District

One of our first stops was 中山公园, a beautiful, scenic park that had a Central Park feel to it –although there was a small shop selling 手抓饼, so it was even better. Families gathered at the park to enjoy the beautiful weather. We ended up making new friends with 3 young boys and began a friendly game of soccer.

Our group pictured with our 小朋友’s after our soccer gam

Other stops included 田子坊, the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre, the Bund, the French Concession, and more. We even had a chance to sneak in Chinese massages (中医按摩).

Because we are students, admission to the Museum was free!

My favorite museum of the trip was the Shanghai World Expo Museum. Before this trip, I did not know the entire history of World Expos. What was so great about this museum in particular was that the entire museum was focused on the history of World Expos since 1851, when they began in London, until the latest one in 2010 in Shanghai.

Jing’an Temple at night

Jing’an Temple, literally “Temple of Peace and Tranquility” is a well-known Buddhist temple in Shanghai that was originally built in 247 AD. The temple was our last visit of the trip. We were lucky to be able to see Jing’an both during the day and at night.

After several days, we headed back to the HNC on the 高铁. Relaxed, rejuvenated, and grateful for some time off, we felt ready to dive back into our studies. It was nice to have time to explore other cities.

Written by Emily Rivera, Certificate '18

Monday, November 13, 2017

From Nanjing to DC, The HNC Connection Continues

As if the HNC wasn’t already special enough, another of the unique characteristics of your time in Nanjing is that almost every student rooms with another of the different culture. In this blog post, I wanted to write about my personal experience of living with my roommate Ning Xinyuan 宁心源. While our experience can’t count for everyone’s (people are different, and we all have varying dynamics) I thought it would be helpful to provide an example of what this was really like in practice.
A photo of our room from the very first week

The first step in my roommate journey was the online form I filled out in May of 2016, a couple of months after finding out I had been accepted to the HNC. There are questions about your habits and personality and sections to describe your sleeping schedule and to mention if you mind having a roommate who snores (!) (I don’t remember what I picked, but luckily for me Xinyuan did not snore, haha).

The thing that amazed us both on the very first day we met was how tailor made we were for each other – it was like we had magicked each other up out of our descriptions. Xinyuan fit all of mine and more that I wouldn’t have thought to ask for: she was an economics major which thrilled this econ nerd, and was the oldest of three kids, just like me. It’s sweet to look back at my hopes for what activities I would do with my roommate, since I can confirm now that we did indeed do all of these things.

At the beginning, it was great to have Xinyuan helping me set up things like my bank account and phone plan, as well as going to meals and orientation activities together. We hung out with our neighbors on the first floor of the dorm and had fun exploring Nanjing and going to yummy restaurants. I tried to focus my friend making energies on Xinyuan and our Chinese neighbors at the start, because I knew I would end up making lovely international friends just through virtue of living in the same place and having classes together. Hence, I wanted to be sure I was getting to know my Chinese classmates really well and building a good relationship with my roommate.

Eating dinner at our favorite Sichuan noodle joint
Some traditions we created over the year were leaving each other little treats on our desks, having sweet chats while lying on our beds during an afternoon rest or before falling asleep, and having a fairly regular Friday night dinner date at a Sichuan noodle shop (where we always ordered spicy vegetarian mixian and langya tudou, delicious cold slices of potato in a spicy mala dressing).

Improving in our target language was a big priority for the both of us, so we tried to talk in both and help the other with grammar and vocabulary. We practiced presentations and corrected pronunciation: for example, when Xinyuan was asked to deliver an introduction in English for a visiting speaker, she got me to read out the introduction to her as if I was the one presenting, so she could hear what words to stress so as to make it sound the most natural and polished possible. Likewise, when I was working on my presentation for my econometrics class, it was to Xinyuan I turned to ensure the Chinese words I had found matched up with the specific terminology I was referring to.

Xinyuan writing calligraphy
Of course, you can’t be serious all the time, certainly not these two bouncy, giggly girls, and so we had great fun playing with language too. I giggled as I listened to her speaking in her dialect with her family back in Shanxi on the phone, so growly and wild sounding compared with the precise standard Mandarin she spoke at the HNC. She was entertained by my sassy conversations with my sister, and was initially surprised by my habit of ending phone calls with “love you!” thinking it was overly demonstrative. When I used my New Zealand slang, she would try to adopt it. However, as much as I loved the thought of her spouting about jandals, lollies and paddocks, I had to caution her that the majority of English speakers she would be talking to would not understand her meaning! I did have fun though telling her pop culture English, and it always gave me such a thrill to hear her say it in the right context. For example, the line “started from the bottom now we’re here” from Drake’s song. I explained the meaning to her, and months later, after we got some good grades back in the second semester, Xinyuan proudly announced it. It was perfect.

At our commencement ceremony, a true “started from the bottom now we’re here” moment

When we left Nanjing, we each gave the other a present of calligraphy: mine in English, hers in Chinese. It was a common hobby of ours that we loved to do as a break from classes. Xinyuan’s calligraphy scroll is currently hanging on display on the wall in my bedroom in DC, and she has informed me mine is on display on her desk in her Beijing dorm. It’s a special way we can continue to have the other’s presence in our room, even as we live in different countries and time zones. I don’t know the next time we will see each other, but I know we’ll always be in touch some way or another, thanks to the profound influence we had on each other’s lives during that special year in Nanjing.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

“Creating Good: Entrepreneurs for the Environment” Mini-Course at the HNC

If you’ve never thought about soda cans sitting on the ocean floor, or how the fish you may have eaten yesterday used to feed on small, toxic plastic pieces that float throughout oceanic water columns, neither did most of us attending Doug Woodring’s three-day ERE mini-course at Hopkins-Nanjing Center, “Creating Good: Entrepreneurs for the Environment”. A SAIS/Wharton graduate and a resident of Hong Kong for the last 20 years, Doug shared with us his past successes, present endeavors, and future aspirations regarding the monumental task of reducing global plastic pollution -- and how we, as potential entrepreneurs, could do the same.

 Director and Co-Founder of the Ocean Recovery Alliance, Mr. Woodring inspired us to think about how plastic products and related services can be changed to reduce plastic footprints through design alterations and publicity, and how by imagining areas of constructive conflict between brands and creatively challenging businesses to embrace social responsibility, we can realize positive change. Some of the current projects that he and the Ocean Recovery Alliance have partnered with, such as the My Little Plastic Footprint app (beta now available) and the Plastic Soup Foundation (see thought-provoking video) served as tangible and provocative examples of how to stimulate action and awareness regarding the plastic problem we all are facing.

Despite the severity of the pollution tragedy that is unfolding upon our land, rivers, and seas, Mr. Woodring’s mini-course drove home the optimistic idea that there is still much work that must and can be done to expand human economic activity into the realms of environmental rehabilitation and recovery. Though there were only three days to explore the problems and solutions surrounding plastic, the weekend was one of productive engagement and reflection that informed the environmentalist and business-minded alike, even breaking down the barrier between the two and showing how both outlooks are essential for a healthy ecology of future entrepreneurship.

Written by Nick Manthey, MAIS '19

Friday, November 3, 2017

2017 HNC Halloween Party

Last week, the HNC held its annual Halloween party (万圣节派对). A yearly tradition, the party gives students the opportunity to spend time with their peers and faculty members, as well as the opportunity to meet students studying at other universities in Nanjing. HNC’s student-elected banwei (班委) traditionally coordinates the party. Made up of two international students and two Chinese students, the banwei act as the student representatives of the HNC student body. Besides working as the student-faculty liaison, the banwei also has the fun job of planning parties and events throughout the year, including the Halloween party, Christmas party, and end of the year BBQ!

The banquet hall before the festivities began!

My favorite part of the party was the fact that this was many of the Chinese students’ first time celebrating Halloween and attending a Halloween party! Here is what some of the Chinese students had to say about their Halloween experiences:

"The Chinese students were really excited to attend the party and do a lot of preparation, such as carefully choosing and buying the costumes and spending a lot of time doing their make-up!" – 陈娟玲

"特别开心第一次参加万圣节party,是一个从未有过的新鲜体验。我想以后我会十分怀念中心,怀念那年和你们一起度过的第一个万圣节” –  刘松月

"I loved the party, the decorations were great!"– 肖玲

Left: 杨荣骞 &毛婷婷dress up for their first Halloween! Photo courtesy of 黄葵. 胡天on the right as Superman
Pawel Chrzanowski, a first-year HNC Certificate student, joined the volunteer decorating committee formed by banwei. Four students – two international students and two Chinese students – volunteered to help plan and put up the decorations for the party. It took a lot of planning, but after speaking with Pawel, it was clear it was definitely worth it.

Why did you decide to volunteer for the decorating committee? What was your favorite part of the entire process?

Pawel: That’s easy, I’ve always enjoyed setting up parties. I love visualizing the space for a party, coming up with a plan, executing it, and then seeing the happy celebratory reactions. My favorite part, and what I’m most proud of, is that we tripled the funds that were given to last year’s decorating committee. The banwei gave us an initial budget, but after very kind donations from the students themselves, we were able to triple our budget. It showed the type of community that we have at the HNC, where everyone tries to contribute. I also really enjoyed working with the Chinese students. Our collaboration was awesome and we were so much more efficient with their help, for example they facilitated the transactions with sellers on Taobao.

 Pictured from left to right: 陈娟玲, Kimya Nia, 代攀红, 杨训琪 and Emily Rivera
The HNC Band – Savage Cabbages – was one of the highlights of the night. I had a chance to speak to three band members who shared their Savage Cabbages experience. Margie Tanner, one of the singers and a second year MAIS student, said this was her second year participating in the band. Margie explained that this year the band decided on a “haunted” theme when choosing which songs to play. These included: Haunted, Don’t Fear the Reaper, Toxic, Thriller, Uptown Funk, and 当然, and the Monster Mash. Here is what Margie, Daniel Burke, first year Certificate student and guitarist in the band, and 苏梦菲, second year Chinese MAIS student and bassist in the band, had to say about the Halloween party and their performance.

What did you think of the party? Did you have a favorite part of the performance?

Margie: This year, we had a lot of internal organization within the band so we were very organized, which was really cool. I’m glad we were able to continue the band this year, as the band is also an HNC tradition. It’s great - it makes me feel really good when I’m able to sing and everyone in the band loves making music, so it’s fun to get together and just jam. There’s a lot of diversity this year, in people and in instruments, which is also great.

Margie Tanner pictured on stage with the HNC band playing for the crowd. Photo by丁子倩
苏梦菲 (Maya): I learned to play the bass guitar right before the HNC Halloween party last year and it was the first musical instrument that I’ve ever learned to play. I felt pretty nervous this year before I stood on stage even though it has been the third time that I perform in front of a large group of people. But after I tuned my bass, everything seemed all right to me because I really enjoy playing bass and it was my last Halloween here at the center. The audience seemed to enjoy the songs, which made me so happy!

Daniel: The performance was so much fun! As we were playing, I remember looking up and thinking it was awesome to see my friends in the audience jamming out to our songs. Plus, everyone in the audience was dancing along. We couldn’t have asked for a better audience.

After speaking with several students and faculty, one thing was clear: The annual HNC Halloween party tradition must go on!

Written by Emily Rivera, Certificate '18