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Full Name: Eric Omorogieva
Home Country: United States
Degree Program:Certificate + MAIR 2025

Tell us about your background and how you became interested in China. 

When I was starting middle school at Washington International School in Northwest D.C., we had to choose a 2nd language to study, and my choices were between French, Spanish and the new Chinese program that had just started. Having never imagined myself studying Chinese before, I decided to jump into it, and managed to stick with it through college. Through my language learning journey, I also built an interest in Chinese culture, which cemented itself in 2013 when my Chinese program visited Beijing and Xi’an for a few weeks. From then on, I knew that I’d continue learning for a long as I could and one day I’d have to return to China for an extended stay. Along the way as an International Affairs major and Chinese minor, I picked up a minor in African Studies and forged a specific research interest in China-Africa relations.

Before joining the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, what were you doing? 

After graduating from Wake Forest University in 2021, I worked for a couple of years as a refugee caseworker at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), where I assisted newly resettled refugees in their transition from their home countries to life in the U.S. This included assisting with applying for several benefits programs, social security, and enrolling students in the public school system. This experience was an extension of volunteer and intern work I did in college and served as a unique addition to my understanding of aspects of International Relations and domestic U.S programs I didn’t think about as much before.

In the face of China reopening in Spring 2023 and a crucial time in U.S-China relations, it felt like a perfect opening for me to complete this life goal that I had for so long...

What led you to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center? What made you choose the HNC?

It was always my intention to study abroad in China at some point, but those plans were paused during the pandemic. When considering my graduate school options, I initially focused on Washington D.C. area schools like SAIS, but the additional opportunity that the Hopkins-Nanjing Center provided was hard to pass up. It allows me to continue my language study through my international relations coursework, gain a deep insight into how Chinese government and society operates, and take part in an amazing graduate school program. In the face of China reopening in Spring 2023 and a crucial time in U.S-China relations, it felt like a perfect opening for me to complete this life goal that I had for so long and still graduate from the MAIR program in D.C.

How was your experience adjusting to the Chinese coursework? Do you have any tips for future students?  

Studying Chinese can be intimidating, but taking a graduate-level course in Chinese takes that to another level. However, the best way to truly improve in your language level journey is to find ways of immersing yourself, which you cannot shy away from at the HNC. It’s difficult, but very rewarding once you begin to see the improvements month to month. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of adjusting to listening, reading, and speaking Chinese every day even though it can be time consuming. The best advice would be to take advantage of every opportunity to practice speaking with classmates and reading articles to the best of your ability the first few weeks. Instilling that practice sets the stage for your semester and improvement in the language. Also take opportunities to use your language with locals around the city, who are often patient, helpful, and ultimately understanding of the effort you’re putting in. It will give you the chance to recognize a wide range of accents and approaches to grammar that can be tricky.

If you are involved in any extracurricular activities or student groups, could you please tell us about that?

I am a staff writer for the HNC Bureau of the SAIS Observer, the student run newspaper. I love writing about major issues and recent events, so I look forward to contributing to the paper from my perspective living in China, and pitching stories that don’t often get as much attention. I also recently started attending our quiz bowl club a fellow classmate hosts at the HNC. It’s a great time to answer trivia questions on a wide range of topics and learn random facts that could be useful in the future.

What is your favorite thing about Nanjing?

A large part of the past hundreds of years of Chinese history and culture are still so imbedded in the city, and I love learning as much as I can through the historic landmarks and trendy spots here. From the Presidential Palace to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial, to the Purple Mountain, there is just so much to see about the city. Even in walking around nearby HNC, you can easily end up in areas like Yihe Road, a beautiful area of the city where the old Republic of China hosted many embassies when Nanjing was the nation’s capital city.
One of the most interesting places I’ve visited so far is a bookstore called Libraire Avant Gard, which has the feel of an old warehouse turned into a massive showcase of books from just about any topic you can imagine. The entrance is famous on social media here, and the inside doesn’t disappoint. I’m hoping to be able to fully read some of the books I get by the time I depart the HNC with the skills I’m gradually acquiring.

HNC students talking
If you are looking to learn more about what it's like to be a current student at Johns Hopkins SAIS, we encourage you to schedule a virtual appointment with one of our Admissions Fellows.

Enjoyed reading Eric's experience? Learn more about our Certificate in Chinese and American Studies + MAIR.

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