Cristina Garafola: SAIS + HNC

My guest post!


This is the second student guest post about their winter break activities activities. Our guest blogger this week is Cristina Garafola, who was a regular student blogger for Admissions last year. Cristina is currently completing the MA component of the 5-semester option, having completed the…

Passing the (SAIS blog) baton
It’s that time of year when the weather is still as hot and humid as ever, but the calendar insists that the fall semester will be here before we know it.  It’s also the time of year for my blog to be winding down, but I’ll get to that in a moment…
While volunteering to help out at the SAIS Young Alumni BBQ event in June (featuring a delicious and nutritious BBQ feast for SAISers and SAIS alums in the area), I met Dayanita and discovered that she’s just started writing a SAIS Admissions blog for the 2012-2013 year!  Since then, we went to happy hour together (as she wrote about in a post a little while ago) and we’re planning to meet up again before she heads to Montreal.  A few Fridays ago, we also made it to Jazz in the Garden with about 10 other SAISers—I’m not sure how we managed to find them in the crowd of happy picnickers, but we did—and that was the perfect end to the work week.
Overall, SAIS has been pretty hopping this summer.  Some fellow interns and I checked out a job fair that was held at SAIS earlier in July (tip: get there early so you can leave before the lines get too long!).  SAIS also recently hosted an admissions fair called "Summerfest" with other top graduate programs in international affairs; if you’re thinking about checking out SAIS or some of these other programs, an admissions fair is a great option.  This past weekend, I saw a new movie on IMAX with 14 other SAISers, and on Sunday, I headed to another Nationals game with brand new SAIS alumnus and fellow intern Jingbo:
Jingbo Jing, SAIS MA ‘12, sporting his new Washington Nationals hat, while I’m doing my best to coordinate with the Nats’ colors of red, white and blue.  In case you were wondering, they also won this game!
Anyway, it’s nearing the end of July, and Tuesday was actually my last day as a TA for a summer class here at SAIS.  From here on out, I’ll be transitioning to SAIS D.C. life and gearing up for the fall semester as I finish up my summer internship.  Thanks again for coming back each week to read my blog; it’s been a great year at HNC and in D.C.!  I’m sure Dayanita and the other new bloggers will do an amazing job, but if you have any specific questions about my experiences, feel free to reach out to me via SAIS Admissions (mention my name in the email subject) or by finding me on the internet in general.  Until then, I’m passing on the blog baton to the next round of SAIS bloggers.
A very American 4th of July

It’s been about a month now since I landed in the U.S. and moved to D.C. to start my internship.  The last few weeks of class and final exams were a rush of papers and packing, so I’m glad to be done with that—although it’s hard to believe that it will be a long time before I can reunite with HNC classmates in Nanjing again.

So far, though, I’ve been having a great time in D.C.!  It’s nice to have a change of pace from student life, as I’m working this summer.  There are actually some current SAISers and recent alumni working downtown along with me, so we’ve been meeting up a lot despite the heat… and has there ever been heat.  This was my first 4th of July in the capital, and I spent the day at a Washington Nationals baseball game (they won!), barbecuing with friends at their house, and watching the fireworks from the top of my apartment building.

The Teddy Roosevelt mascot lost the Presidents’ Race around one side of the field—Thomas Jefferson won this time—in a running joke that TR never wins.  He is trailing quite a bit in this photo (almost parallel the second baseman), but it was about 95 degrees out so it’s hard to blame him.  The crowd is wearing their best red, white and blue.

All in all, celebrating America’s birthday in D.C. was a great experience and the perfect cap off to my first month back in town.

Heading home

I’m sitting in the Beijing airport right now, heading back to the U.S.!  I’ll be starting an internship in D.C. on Monday.  I’m looking forward to catching up with my fellow SAISers who are in D.C. for the summer (although many are working abroad this summer in places like Japan, India, Jordan, China, Austria, and more).  Anyway, more updates about the end of the semester after I land in the States!

HNC’s 25th anniversary

The semester is winding down, but that also means that HNC’s 25th anniversary is coming up!  Students first started attending HNC in the fall of 1986 and the past few anniversary celebrations have been held in the summer, in honor of the first class’s graduation.

Given that this year celebrates a quarter-century of HNC, some special activities have been planned.  First (of course) is this year’s graduation, but there’s also alumni reunions, guest speakers, panels, and visits by Johns Hopkins University President Ronald Daniels and Nanjing University President Chen Jun.  To commemorate the 25th, the Student Council (Banwei) decided to host a photo contest to produce postcards for the anniversary celebration.  We got submissions from current and former students as well as the HNC Washington Support Office—here are a few of the winners!

HNC during its construction in 1984 or 1985, courtesy of the HNC Washington Support Office.

Steven Muller Atrium in HNC’s library, courtesy of Geng Yuchao, HNC Certificate ‘12.

The stacks in the library, courtesy of Hu Wenjie, HNC Certificate ‘12.

The courtyard from above, courtesy of Spike Nowak, HNC Certificate ‘12.

Students talking at the fish pond, courtesy of Hu Wenjie, HNC Certificate ‘12.

Technical difficulties…

…so no regular blog post this week, sorry!  But congratulations to the Class of 2012!  You can see videos of commencement or hear what the new grads plan to do next at SAIS’s YouTube channel.  Enjoy!

In which HNCers visit the U.S. consulate

It all started with a trip to Shanghai to attend Ambassador Locke’s lecture (see my earlier post on that here).  After the lecture, people were milling around, enjoying the reception, and meeting fellow attendees.  I ended up striking up an acquaintance with an intern the U.S. Commercial Service, who put me in touch with someone at the U.S. consulate in Shanghai, who very graciously invited HNC students to the consulate for an afternoon to get a better understanding of careers in the Foreign Service!  Talk about a chain reaction of awesome opportunities.

Anyway, so that was last Friday.  About 20 or so HNCers caught a(nother) morning train to Shanghai and assembled at the consulate after it reopened post-lunch break.  Actually, a few of us struggled to get out of the elevator once we got there because a long, long line of Chinese citizens had quickly formed, most of whom were hoping to obtain U.S. visas that day.  Apparently, this one site processes about 2,000 visas daily!  It was easily the busiest visa office I’ve ever seen.

Once inside the office, we learned a lot about the work done there, including visa interviews, as well as more general insights into life in the Foreign Service and the FSO (Foreign Service Officer) career.  We also met a few HNC alums working there, so it was great to get their perspectives.  Maybe in the future, we’ll have an HNC ‘12 classmate working at the U.S. consulate in Shanghai—who knows!

Time for dinner! (Or lunch or breakfast.)

On Tuesday, my roommate and I went on an adventure to purchase something called 蒸笼 (zhenglong), which is a kind of steamer cooking basket for The Best Food in the World, also known as 蒸饺 (zhengjiao) or steamed dumplings—I’m hoping to use the steamer basket to make my own dumplings once I get back to SAIS!  Later that day, I stopped at my favorite dumpling restaurant near campus to celebrate my purchase, after trying out a pastry at a new bakery that recently opened and stopping with a friend at one of the tea shops around the HNC/Nanjing University campus.  My food adventures today got me thinking about the variety of foods close to HNC, and compared to a lot of places in China (and even some in the U.S.), it’s pretty impressive.

The Best Food in the World, accompanied by the Best Condiments in the World—vinegar and hot pepper (photo by me).

First of all, there’s our cafeteria, which has really been mixing it up this semester and also continues to feature delicious, delicious pancakes (with maple syrup!) for breakfast.  I’ve discovered that breakfast foods outside the Center are also pretty great, such as the Western-style brunch served at one place and the flavorful Nanjing-style 煎饼 (jianbing), an omelette/pancake type thing.  Favorite Chinese restaurants in the area hail from regions such as Fujian, Xinjiang, Yunnan and more.  If you’re looking for something a little farther afield, we’ve also got sushi, Indian, Turkish, German, Italian, Middle Eastern, and (for some unknown but excellent reason) at least six Korean restaurants within a ten minute walk of the Center.  If you want sandwiches, cookies, or pie, the local bakery, Skyways, has got you covered.  If you’re too lazy/stressed to eat out, you can even order in from McDonald’s, KFC, and other fast food places.  Last, if you just want a healthy or not so healthy snack, there’s tons of fruit stores and tea and coffee shops near NanDa and HNC.  So, even if you’re not a dumpling addict like me, there’s definitely a restaurant near HNC where you can discover your own favorite foods.

What to expect: SAIS + HNC edition

On the SAIS D.C. admissions blog, Associate Director of Admissions Erin Cameron has been giving a lot of tips for incoming SAISers who are heading to D.C. and Bologna this fall.  I wanted to add a little bit about what to expect if you’re a 5 Semester student like me, gearing up for some combination of D.C./Nanjing academic experience.

If you’re heading to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center first (like I did):

The good news about housing at HNC is that HNC has dorm rooms, which (for those who have had experience finding their own housing in China know) is incredibly convenient and hassle-free, although second year MA students can apply to live off campus if they wish to do so.  More information about housing, residence permits, academic standards, contact information and other awesomeness will be winging your way (via email) in the form of the HNC Student Orientation Handbook sometime in May.  Also, regardless if you’re already a 5 Semester student, an HNC certificate/MA student who’s interested in economics, or a HNC certificate student considering applying to SAIS to complete the 5 Semester program, you too can participate in Pre-Term at SAIS D.C.!  You can find more information about HNCers completing Pre-Term here (scroll down to “Can Hopkins-Nanjing Center entrants attend?”).

If you’re finishing up at HNC and heading to SAIS D.C. this fall (like I am now):

Excellent, we’re both returning to the U.S.!  If you’ve been at HNC for a year, you already have your JHED and have most likely already checked out the Admit Pack, so your biggest concerns are probably A.) our upcoming finals :/ and B.) finding housing during Pre-Term (if you’re doing Pre-Term) and/or for the next academic year.  Again, I’d really recommend checking out the SAIS housing site, because I found some good leads on there when I was apartment hunting.  Also, some Pre-Termers sublet in the summer and then decide to room with fellow SAISers for the academic year, so that’s an option as well.

As always, whether you’re an HNCer, a SAISer or both, feel free to submit questions on this blog!

What’s been going on at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center lately?  Here’s a brief update:

  • After spring break, banwei (the student council) organized a campus-wide Easter egg hunt party as both a way to introduce Chinese students to egg hunts and as an excuse to buy delicious chocolate treats—both missions were fulfilled!  Sorry, no photos because all the prizes and treats were immediately consumed …
  • HNC students, administration, and faculty participated in a Nanjing-wide city wall walk last Saturday.  According to Wikipedia and other sources, Nanjing has some of the largest city wall structures ever built in China, and participants walked a lot.  How much?  About 40 kilometers or ~25 miles in 11.5 hours!  After their marathon excursion, participants enjoyed a delicious barbecue feast and ice cream on the second floor patio of the dorm building.
  • Even though we just got back from spring break a few weeks ago, we’re already preparing for another short break for the Chinese Labor Day holiday on May 1st.  Students are traveling to places such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Qingdao for the break.  I’m hoping to head to Suzhou for a day to see the canals and gardens there.

Here’s some photos from the Ningxia trip and the city wall walk!  All of the photos are by me unless otherwise noted.

Entering a mosque in Yinchuan, Ningxia.

Visiting a mosque between Wuzhong and Yinchuan, Ningxia.

Students pose for a picture at the Muslim Cultural Center in Ningxia.

At a roundtable discussion at Ningxia University.

City wall walk!  Photo by Geng Yuchao, HNC Certificate ‘12.

Students hungrily waiting for kebabs (串儿). Photo by Ling Chuyang, HNC Certificate ‘12.