by JOHN GRAHAM
NANJING — On Saturday, Nov. 8, current HNC students and alumni participated in the annual Wall Walk, a visit to the old City Wall of Nanjing. Forty students and faculty got together with 50 alumni to tour the City Wall, partly to get some fresh air and exercise, and partly to exchange experiences about living and working in China.
The Wall Walk has been an annual event for the past ten years, but this is the second year that the event has taken place as part of the festivities of Alumni Weekend. Certificate student Mia McAuley expressed gratitude for the HNC’s alumni weekend activities, including the Wall Walk. She was able to connect with an alumna currently working at a risk management firm in Shanghai. Their one-on-one discussion, comparing working life for women in China and the United States, helped Mia confirm that gender issues within office culture can vary from company to company, no matter one’s location. Mia believes that forming an understanding about working in China requires talking face-to-face with an experienced person. “Who better to ask what it’s like to work as an expatriate female in China than an expatriate female already working in China? Merely reading about office culture in China doesn’t shed much light on the situation, so spending time with the alumna helped me get a grasp of it.”
The exact route of the Wall Walk changes from year to year. This year’s route was from Taiping Gate to Xuanwu Gate, overlooking the Xuanwu Lake. According to UNESCO, the Nanjing City Wall was built during the early Ming Dynasty by the founding emperor Zhu Yuanzhang. The City Wall of Nanjing is one of the oldest fortifications of its kind still standing in China and the world at large, though only part of it remains. Each individual brick, of which there are almost 100 million, is marked with the name of its place of origin in Chinese.
Leowil Villanueva, a Filipino-American M.A. student with Chinese ancestry, enjoyed walking along the wall for its historical significance. “I personally love history. The wall is not just a ruin out in the wilderness. It’s something we can still call our own and use. I feel like Nanjing’s history is a fair representation of greater Chinese history, which, in my personal opinion, is both incredibly tragic, but all at once inspiring.”
Five-Semester student Ashley Johnson appreciated the Wall Walk’s networking opportunities and was particularly excited by the sheer range of fields in which various alumni had found successful careers. One of the alumni that she met works for a consulting agency, and another writes memos and documents for the US government. In addition to these, others had jobs relating to technology, law, and environmental studies. “The diverse career possibilities for HNC graduates is encouraging. One alumnus mentioned that the work we do at the HNC and at SAIS will prepare us for any career. At one point, they were students at the HNC too, and now they’ve gone on to pursue interesting careers. I feel more confident after this weekend, knowing that there are a variety of fields that will utilize the skills I’m gaining at the HNC.”
Other students took advantage of their break from studying as they had a chance to socialize with their professors outside of class. Certificate student Matt Hess said, “I was pleasantly surprised to see how many students, staff, and alumni made it out to the Wall Walk in spite of the rainy weather! I also got to see certain faculty members in a more relaxed atmosphere. This was the first time I’ve ever seen Professor Raufer in anything but slacks and a tie!”
The weather certainly looked dreary and overcast, but paradoxically this was a good thing because it meant less pollution in the air. This was an advantage over previous Wall Walk events, which were normally held in the Spring. Although the sun would be out, so would the smog. The success of last year’s decision to include the Wall Walk as one of the activities during Alumni Weekend was replicated again this year. This year, current HNC students once again got the chance to connect with past graduates and get a glimpse of the exciting future careers they could hope to enjoy.