Common interests, diverse experiences

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Certificate student Matt Geraci (center) enjoys a tea ceremony with professors and classmates at Middlebury’s Mandarin summer immersion program in Vermont.
Certificate student Matt Geraci (center) enjoys a tea ceremony with professors and classmates at Middlebury’s Mandarin summer immersion program in Vermont.

Classes are back in session in China’s Southern Capital, and that means a new cohort of international students and returning MA students from as close as South Korea,  all across the U.S. and even Central America and the Caribbean are bustling around the HNC’s Samuel Pollard building. With this diversity of backgrounds comes a variety of experiences. Before coming to the Center, some students travelled, others interned or conducted research, and yet others enrolled in intensive-immersion summer language programs to prepare for the challenge of graduate school in a foreign language.

Returning MAIS student Emily Shea (University of Washington, BA 2014) interned with a large California wine company, studying for a certification as a wine specialist and translating for the website into Chinese. “Now that I have a foundational understanding of the wine industry, I am excited to be back at the HNC and apply this knowledge to my thesis research on China’s growing wine consumption,” says Shea. After a summer touring vineyards and production facilities in Napa Valley, Ms. Shea looks forward to serving as her company’s interpreter in China and sharing her wine expertise with classmates.

Panamanian-American Certificate student Dereck Lammers (University of Arizona, BA 2014), on the other hand, comes to Nanjing after working and studying in Taiwan in preparation for the HNC. Seeking a break before starting the semester, however, Lammers took a short vacation to Laos and Thailand. Always looking for new experiences, he decided to spend part of his vacation volunteering at an elephant sanctuary in Luang Prabang where he fed, bathed, and walked the rescued victims of mining slave labor. Reflecting on his time with the elephants, Lammers said, “Being with these animals and the people that care for them helped me appreciate the work that these people do to protect creatures that don’t have a voice.” Lammers also enjoyed the hospitable and relaxed local culture compared to the competitive, fast-paced urban lifestyle of the United States.

Concentrating in both International Politics and Chinese Studies, second-year MAIS student Lev Nachman (University of Puget Sound, BA 2014) conducted thesis research in Taiwan, interviewing a total of 30 Taiwanese political activists in their twenties, recording hours’ worth of material. Inviting interviewees using café posters, social media, word of mouth, and by picketing on the streets, Nachman was able to complete primary research for his thesis. “This new social/political movement has only been around for the past few years, but due to their younger age, they have been largely dismissed by political commentators and experts,” says Nachman. His Taiwanese-accented Mandarin, extended network in Taipei and guidance from his thesis adviser at the HNC facilitated the process of finding interviewees.

A proud Colorado native, Certificate student Susan Wang (University of Colorado – Boulder, BA 2011) comes to the HNC after teaching Mandarin in a Colorado public high school. Ms. Wang is coming to China to challenge herself and better understand the modern nation state whose language she has been teaching in the U.S. “I want more students to come to China and institutions like the HNC not only for the sake of Sino-U.S. relations, but to benefit their own future career path. I hope that by coming here and learning and becoming vulnerable again that my students and others like them will believe in themselves and take the plunge to study in China and learn more about the world and themselves in the process,” says Wang. After the HNC, Wang plans to bring her experience in China back with her to the classroom and will enroll in the master’s in translation program at the Monterrey Institute of International Studies in California.

Determined to succeed at the HNC, Certificate student Matt Geraci (Bucknell University, BA 2015) enrolled in Middlebury College’s intensive summer program in Vermont. Famous for its language pledge that punishes the use of a non-target language during the 8-week program, the curriculum focuses on creating a full-immersion environment. “Since I wanted to be prepared for the HNC, my classes focused on learning how to read newspapers and understand the news,” says Geraci. After forty days of four hour classes, weekly tests and essays as well as cultural extracurricular activities like calligraphy, mah jong, and kungfu all conducted in Mandarin, Geraci feels confident he will excel at the Center.

While international students converge at the Center due to their shared interest in China, the wide variety of backgrounds and experiences of this year’s HNC cohort has brought new perspectives, ideas, and enthusiasm to the Center’s halls and testifies to their diverse personalities, talents, and goals. The Center is excited to see how they will grow and learn in the coming year and where their careers will take them next.

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