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There’s Something that Only the HNC Offers

Mojica's Student Profile

Name: Paula Gonzalez-Mojica
Home Country: Colombia
Degree: Master of Arts in International Studies – ERE concentration

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

When I was living in Beijing, a representative from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center came to Beijing and spoke with us about the HNC, and invited us to attend the Open House in Nanjing. When I visited Nanjing, I was able to participate in classes and meet with the students and the professors. When I saw that the international students’ Chinese abilities were good enough to be able to do presentations and even a thesis in Chinese, I realized that I wanted to be able to do that too, so at that point attending the HNC became my goal. There’s something that only the HNC offers, and that is the fact that we are attending both a Chinese and an American university at the same time. So it makes me feel like I can experience the culture of both China and the United States in one place. There are not that many programs where you can study in Chinese as a foreigner, so that was one of the most important factors to me because my main goal is to become fluent in Chinese.

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

Adjusting definitely takes time, so you need to be patient. Your Chinese level will definitely improve, but it’s not immediate. Likewise, the Chinese students are more than willing to help you if you need it, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Make sure to make many Chinese friends at the HNC and go to the Writing Center often because it will help a lot. I also want to mention something that HNC Co-Director Adam Webb told me last year, which is that it’s okay not to understand everything. Don’t be too hard on yourself because we are all doing our best. Lastly, I want to say not to overwhelm yourself by taking too many classes to the point where you don’t have time to interact with other students and participate in activities.

Paula Gonzalez-Mojica

What has been one of your favorite experiences at theHopkins-Nanjing Centerso far?

Definitely the career treks in Singapore and Vietnam, because it was an amazing experience, from the professional development opportunities to tourist activities. I learned how to network, how to talk to people in a business environment, how to interact with people at happy hours, all of which I had never experienced before. We also went to the Cu Chi Tunnel in Ho Chi Minh City and took a boat through the Mekong River Delta. I learned a lot through the career trek, specifically many important things related to my future career.

Are you involved in any extracurricular activities or student groups?

I am in the Hispanohablantes group, which is an interest group where people who know Spanish can talk with each other and practice their language skills. We mainly just eat lunch together, but what I like most about this interest group is that because we are always in a Chinese-American environment at the HNC, I’m always out of my comfort zone since neither English nor Chinese is my native language. But in this group, I feel less like a foreigner because we are talking in my native language. I also really like that the Hispanohablantes group includes both professors and students, so I can have more opportunities to interact with the faculty at the HNC. It makes the HNC feel like even more of a community, and I really enjoy participating in this cultural exchange.

What is your favorite thing about Nanjing?

I have several things I really enjoy about Nanjing. The first thing is that Nanjing is not as international as other cities in China, so I am constantly immersed in Chinese culture and society. I like that I am able to speak Chinese all the time here, which is very different from Beijing and Shanghai. I also love that Nanjing has many historical sites, as well as amazing restaurants. The public transportation is also great, including both the subway and the rail system. Nanjing is in a geographically convenient location close to many of the major cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Yunnan, Chengdu, etc., so traveling to many places is not super hard. Lastly, I really like the weather in Nanjing because Beijing is so cold in the winter, especially compared to my hometown of Bogota.

I have experienced the Chinese culture every day being here...Cultures can be very different, but our goals are the same and help bind us together.

What was one of the things you learned during your time at the HNC that transformed your perspective or way of thinking?

First, I lived in Taipei for a year and now am living in mainland China for the next year and a half, which has provided me with many different experiences. I have experienced the Chinese culture every day being here, such as eating with my Chinese classmates all the time, going to events with them, and participating in classes in Chinese. Just traveling throughout China has also taught me that the world is huge—which is obvious, but sometimes it’s not as obvious as we make it out to be—and that the way I was taught to do things is not the only way. Cultures can be very different, but our goals are the same and help bind us together. Since we are all working toward a similar goal, we should accept each other’s differences and not impose anything onto others, as differences are impossible to avoid.

If you could give one piece of advice to future HNC students, what would that be?

The Hopkins-Nanjing Center has so much to offer. When I first applied to the HNC, I thought I would just be taking classes in Chinese, but they offer so much more. Of course, they offer a high-quality education as well as an opportunity for Chinese language learning, but they also offer career development trips, social events, etc. Therefore, my advice is to participate in as much as you can at the HNC, especially because I feel like you might not get all these types of events in other programs. Having a place where activities are happening all the time and creating meaningful relationships with students and faculty is something that you might not always find easily in other programs. You should both study hard and play hard, but don’t forget your most important goal is to be happy and healthy, so don’t feel pressured to do absolutely everything.

What do youplan on pursuing after graduation? Where do you see yourself 5-10 years after graduation?

After graduation, my plan is to work at the Bank of Infrastructure and Investment of Asia (BIIA) in Beijing for around 3 years, since I received a scholarship from the Colombian government that allows me to work abroad for a few years before returning to Colombia. As for 5 to 10 years from now, I see myself as the next ambassador of Colombia in China, and after that I see myself as the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Colombia.
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 Paula's experience? Learn more about our Master of Arts in International Studies – ERE concentration.

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