Friday, March 16, 2018

Four Tips for a Rewarding Second Semester

As the HNC spring semester gets underway, I thought it would be a good time to offer some advice from their predecessors as to how to make this last semester at the HNC really count. The first semester involves so much learning and constant improvements, and keeping that pace up through the second will ensure students get just as much out of their second semester.

Tip 1: Consider a more challenging class: In the fall, it can be tempting to go for a more manageable workload – be it taking classes with subjects you are more comfortable with, or ones with relatively fewer readings on the syllabus.  In the spring, you have a semester of graduate level Chinese classes under your belt, and it’s time for some of those more intimidating, challenging classes! I did this with taking Econometrics which involved both theory and the practical skills of learning how to use the program STATA. Another option might be to take a discussion seminar, like the Advanced Seminar in US-China Relations. You may even just commit to taking that class where the content really appeals to you, but you were initially scared off by the heavy accent of the professor!

Tip 2: Aim higher in your participation and written work: Everyone has their own preference in terms of how much they like to talk in class, which is understandable. But one of the best ways to get your spoken Chinese to a highly sophisticated level is by actively participating in every class – the professors will not hesitate to point out holes in your argument or push back on your statements, ultimately making for better, more persuasive communication skills. It also gets you thinking even more critically about the readings. Another aspect to this is pushing yourself to really level up in your written work for the classes you’re taking – trying to form more sophisticated sentences, using more varied vocabulary and choosing topics that are a little out of the box are all great ways to do this.

Tip 3: Engage in an activity: Now that your Chinese reading speed is so elevated, it’s time to do something with all that time you’re saving! The HNC has a plethora of student organized interest groups that meet regularly (or maybe even start your own!) Dragon boat training starts in the spring (and for the less athletic, dragon boat cheerleading). Moreover, the HNC offers cultural courses in Tai Chi, Calligraphy and Erhu. And for the politically inclined, there’s always the option of running for Banwei (the student committee).

View from Yuejiang Tower on Shizishan (Lion Mountain) in Nanjing

Tip 4: Make a Nanjing bucket list: Something special about the HNC’s location in Nanjing is that as students there, we really get the chance to explore and get to know the city really well. Even if you stay in China or return in later years, a lot of the international professionals in China end up in places like Beijing or Shanghai. With this in mind, it’s important to make the most of the remaining time you have as a Nanjing inhabitant, and go out and enjoy all that the city has to offer! In the spring semester, some of our favourite weekend sightseeing activities were visiting the Tangshan hot springs, the plum blossom festival on Purple Mountain and the Sifang modern art and architecture park.

 Written by Anna Woods, HNC Certificate/SAIS MA '18