Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Student Profile: Maria Belen Wu

 Name: Maria Belen Wu

Program: HNC Certificate '18/Johns Hopkins SAIS MA

Hometown: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Undergraduate Institution and Major: Johns Hopkins University ’18, International Studies, Economics

Fun Fact: I was born in Argentina, but my parents are actually immigrants from Shanghai. They moved to Argentina several years ago. My mom is a Chinese language teacher in Argentina. 

Tell us about your undergraduate experience. How did you become interested in China Studies?
When I first started college, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to focus on China studies or even do anything related to economics or international studies. I originally applied as a political science major. When I got there, I realized political science was too theoretical for me. I also learned that International Studies is one of the largest majors at Johns Hopkins University, and I thought this could be more relevant to me. I took my first international studies class and I loved it. I also added economics to my course load because I thought it would be a good quantitative skill to have. It turned out to be a really good combination. I have always been interested in China-Latin America relations because it’s very important in Argentina, where I am from. In fact, for the last several years, it has been a very hot topic in politics. I looked into taking a couple of China-focused classes at Johns Hopkins and I really got into the topic.

How did you first learn about the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?
When I was a freshman in college, I actually wasn’t sure what the HNC was. I learned more about the HNC/Johns Hopkins SAIS MA program my sophomore year. I came to learn that the HNC was an educational collaboration between Johns Hopkins University and Nanjing University. After visiting the HNC my sophomore winter, I decided to apply via the Johns Hopkins BA/SAIS MA program – offered to Johns Hopkins undergraduates – knowing fully well by that point that I wanted to focus on China studies.

Who has been your favorite professor here at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?

Professor Hua Tao is definitely my favorite professor – he is so enthusiastic! Professor Hua Tao completely shattered my image of what Chinese professors are like: that they are typically a little more serious and formal, and usually have a more lecture-style class. Some professors are like that, which is totally fine. Some students enjoy that. Professor Hua Tao, on the other hand, is so passionate and wants to involve all of his students in classroom discussions – it’s really motivating. The topic of the class, ethnic minorities in China, was also super interesting. I had never really learned much about ethnic minorities in China prior to this course.

What are your summer/post-graduation plans?
For the summer, I am working as a summer analyst at JP Morgan Chase in Country Risk Management. This will be my second summer at JP Morgan Chase. I find this type of work to be very intellectually stimulating. It’s a place where I can apply my economics and international studies knowledge as well as my research skills. The New York office (where I will be) particularly deals a lot with Latin America and Western Europe. Working with Latin American countries also implies knowing about China because a lot of projects/investments going on in the region are actually China-funded, so having China knowledge is also very helpful. After my nine-week internship, I will be transitioning to Johns Hopkins SAIS DC, where I will be concentrating in Latin American studies, with a specialization in international finance. I thought it would be interesting to switch my focus to Latin America, since I have the necessary language skills and the China-knowledge background that I developed at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.

Any advice for prospective students?
As graduate students in China and at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, we learn a lot from our classes. The Hopkins-Nanjing Center in particular offers a lot of unique classes you would not be able to take elsewhere. But another thing that I think is important and even more special is the entire community. I’m really glad I was actually made to live on campus and I’m also glad I didn’t detach myself too much from the Center. Just living in this type of environment is so rewarding. We have Chinese roommates, with whom you can have long talks with at night, and on topics you wouldn’t necessarily cover in class but that are really interesting for actually getting to know the youth of China and their perspectives.  Even though I am Chinese by heritage, my grandparents and parents obviously have a different perspective on certain issues. So, I was really glad I got this experience in China. I really loved the community aspect and that was one thing that pleasantly surprised me. So as for advice, I would tell students to balance spending time at the Center, and really take the time to connect with your Chinese roommate and Chinese students.

Interviewed by Emily Rivera, Certificate '18