By Shen Hao, translation by Amy Bodner
NANJING, China — Autumn signals the beginning of a new semester here at the SAIS Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC). Now in its 33rd year, the HNC is a bilingual graduate center of Chinese and international students who study international relations in either English or Mandarin. Last month, jet-lagged international students poured in from the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway to join their Chinese classmates for orientation week. Student volunteers graciously greeted new students at the door, hauled their suitcases upstairs, showed them to their dorm rooms and offered tours of the HNC’s cozy campus.
Many students are drawn to the HNC because it offers a highly specialized educational experience. Students experience both Western and Eastern teaching styles, as well as traditional Chinese culture. For the Chinese students, the best part of the HNC is that they can perfect their academic English, learn to debate and are encouraged to discuss critical issues — elements that are not found in most Chinese institutions. Through classes with Chinese professors, international students study the Chinese perspective on world issues, which is invaluable information for those who plan on pursuing careers in U.S.-China relations. Additionally, international students who want to immerse themselves in traditional Chinese culture can sign up for extracurricular activities like tai chi, erhu or calligraphy. The tai chi teacher is somewhat of an icon on campus — at 80 years old she can hold her leg straight over her head far longer than her students.
The Center has a vast range of challenging classes, so a large part of orientation week was allocated for professors to introduce their classes to the student body. Class topics cover international politics, international economics, international law and energy, resources and environment studies. Classes such as politics of rural development and Chinese film studies, which promised a hands-on approach to learning, were especially popular on registration day. The rural politics class will include a trip to a rural Chinese province to conduct fieldwork, while the film class challenges students to view classic Chinese films with a modern take.
Although the heavy course load ensures that students will spend the next few weeks confined to the library, the HNC wrapped up orientation week by hosting a celebratory barbeque. On the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival, a traditional Chinese harvest holiday, HNC students and staff gathered in the courtyard to grill some American-style hamburgers, drink beer and listen to student music performances. Students also enjoyed quintessential Mid-Autumn Festival yuebing, or mooncakes, made of lotus root and duck egg yolk. All students look forward to the highly-rewarding upcoming school year.