Wednesday, January 30, 2019

From Nanjing to DC: Tips for the transition

Student blogger Tarela Osuobeni, Certificate ’17, MA ’19, gives some tips on transitioning between the Hopkins-Nanjing Center Certificate and Johns Hopkins SAIS MA program.

What is the biggest difference between studying at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and Johns Hopkins SAIS in DC?

Tip: The academic goals and environment of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and Johns Hopkins SAIS are different in some respects. Think about how you want each program to contribute to your career goals and professional development. 

The Hopkins-Nanjing Center Certificate and Johns Hopkins SAIS MA study experience are different in that they can help you enhance different skills. While both programs center on international relations, coursework in Nanjing inherently has a language and cultural immersion aspect to it. Hopkins-Nanjing Center courses will require you to think, read, and articulate yourself in Chinese. Through lectures, discussions, and debates, I was able to practice thinking and speaking about international relations, economics and law in a different cultural context.

When students begin the MA program in DC, they engage solely with English material within their concentration area, except if they are taking any foreign-language classes. (Certificate students are exempt from the SAIS MA language requirement due to their knowledge of Chinese, but some choose to study a third language in DC.)  Although you’re studying in a more familiar language, the MA program puts a strong emphasis on quantitative skills. All MA students are required to graduate with an international economics concentration. These courses may immediately feel like a challenge to some, but Johns Hopkins SAIS offers academic support from teaching assistants, professors and tutors (the Hopkins-Nanjing Center also offers quantitative-focused coursework). I came in with no economics background but I still find it doable to navigate the economics because of all the help I have sought out.

What is student life like in Nanjing versus in DC? 

Tip: Enjoy the cities of Nanjing and DC and prepare to prioritize your time. You will have many different academic, social and career opportunities available to you.

Nanjing and DC are similar in many ways. Both are big cities with many universities and opportunities to learn about China and the U.S. respectively. The differences in student life are specific to the community feel. The Hopkins-Nanjing Center has a smaller close-knit community. Most of the 150-170 students live in the student dormitory with roommates in a bilingual environment. You have access to a cafeteria, gym, common space, and classrooms all within the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. In DC, the Johns Hopkins SAIS community is more spread out because students live throughout the city. There are a plethora of on-campus events that happen each week: speaker series, mini courses, skills courses, student club meetings, etc. The city has many events to enjoy off campus so you’ll constantly have access to many opportunities.

How did you find housing in Nanjing versus DC?

Tip: Start researching early, think about price, and talk to people who are living in DC about housing options. 

In Nanjing, most students live on campus with a roommate of a different nationality. At Johns Hopkins SAIS, there are no designated living spaces for students. Students find their own housing within the city or in bordering states of Maryland and Virginia. Incoming students transitioning to DC typically use housing websites, or DC connections to find housing. I found appropriate housing through various DC online forums. During the summer, I researched DC neighborhoods and ranked them by affordability and proximity to the SAIS campus. Through understanding the costs, assessing these lists and talking with Hopkins-Nanjing Center alumni who lived in DC, I was able to find many housing options in the area.

Housing costs in DC (based on my experience in 2018):
Housing (Type)                                                                                Housing Cost Range
Less expensive and requires a roommate or more housemates      $950/month or lower
Average cost for a student (require a housemate/better location)    $950-$1200/month
High cost, may be within the city and closer to campus                    $1200/month and higher

How can you keep up your Chinese language studies in DC? 

Tip: If you want to keep up your Chinese, enroll in an advanced Chinese course each semester and explore other language options on and off campus!

When I started registering for classes at Johns Hopkins SAIS, I prioritized continuing my Chinese language studies. I wanted to build upon the language gains I had achieved at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and I knew that DC would have fewer Chinese language-immersive environments. I registered for the post-proficiency Chinese course at Johns Hopkins SAIS, Advanced Chinese Mid I, to not only resolve these concerns but also to prepare myself for a career where I could use Chinese. The class meets once a week for two hours, and we read and analyze U.S.-China-related news articles on political, social and international issues.  Class time is infused with discussions, debates and presentations. It almost feels like taking a class at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center!

In addition to advanced language courses, the Johns Hopkins SAIS language program offers a Chinese tutor and Chinese language table during the week!

What’s the most important thing to note when transitioning from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center to Johns Hopkins SAIS in DC? 

Tip: Know that each program is different and plan ahead (to the extent that you can) for each program.

Accepting that the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and the Johns Hopkins SAIS DC programs are different early on is going to be easier for your transition. Knowing what you want to get out of both programs will direct your coursework choices. You’ll be able to prioritize your academic, social and work life better. While studying in Nanjing you’ll want to consider which classes might apply to your desired MA concentration in DC. This could also influence whether you finish the MA portion of the program in 2 or 3 semesters.

Written by Tarela Osuobeni, Hopkins-Nanjing Center Certificate ’17, SAIS MA ‘18