Skip navigation

Working in the China-Africa Space

Abena Oduro

Abena Oduro is from Ghana, and studied in the HNC Certificate + SAIS MAIR program, focusing on economics, finance, China, and Africa.

Why did you choose the HNC Certificate + SAIS MAIR program?  

I chose the HNC Certificate + SAIS MAIR program, because I thought it would give me a good understanding of learning in an American context versus learning in a Chinese context. As someone who was interested in not only international relations and improving Chinese proficiency, but also in China-Africa relations, I thought that I would get an even richer experience learning in both environments.

Were there any challenges you faced during your studies? How did you overcome them?

I really struggled at the beginning of the MAIR program in DC trying to understand how to go through readings, extract key information, allocate time between assignments, and pick up the relevant international relations jargon. The process happened again at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, learning the relevant vocabulary, reading articles, and writing in Chinese. But I overcame these challenges by practicing. It just takes time! Exposing yourself to having conversations with professors and students about those topics allowed me to get the information that I needed and learn how to use the terminology correctly. 

...try to take courses outside of your focus. While my MAIR concentration is on China, Africa, economics and finance, the film class was completely out of my concentration, and it was the most rewarding course I took.

How do you see your future career trajectory after completing this program? OR What are your plans after graduating? 

In the next year I see myself completing my national service for Ghana, and going into the private sphere. So that looks like either consulting or researching with private companies and international trade and economics, which is my focus. I also see myself working closely in the China Africa space, perhaps with Chinese enterprises on the continent, or in some sort of China Africa field.  

Can you share any standout experiences or memorable moments from your time in the program?  OR What was your favorite memory at the HNC or SAIS? 

It was the everyday life that really made me feel that the program was worth it, whether it was socializing with friends at happy hours in DC or catching up with HNC classmates about navigating classes. It was nice to get food and just socialize with friends during the weekend. Even though I wasn’t able to go to Nanjing this past year, I enjoyed my time in Taiwan—studying in cafes with friends, walking around in parks, and just generally enjoy life in Taipei. Sometimes it's the little things that are the most memorable.

What was the best class you took?  

The best class I took at HNC is 现代中国电影与社会with 杨柳老师. She was the coolest professor; she knew so much about Chinese music, the Chinese entertainment industry, directors and actors, and the terminology of filming scenes. Also, watching a new Chinese movie might be the best homework assignment ever. Our class had American, Chinese, and European classmates, making it such a rich experience discussing exciting media platforms, whether it be laughing at funny scenes or having different opinions on various characters. It was the most rewarding class I took in my entire two years, and I would definitely take the class again if I had the chance. 

What advice would you give prospective students considering the program you’re enrolled in? For current students?  

For prospective students looking at this program, brush up on your Chinese vocabulary before you start. Obviously, no matter how much you study, there's always going to be a learning curve at the beginning, but more exposure to Chinese writing, especially Chinese news sources, and Chinese IR vocabulary will be important. I would also suggest focusing on making connections because I learned so much from just talking with classmates who have really niche interests. Everyone here has such amazing backgrounds, interests and experiences. Lastly if possible try to take courses outside of your focus. While my MAIR concentration is on China, Africa, economics and finance, the film class was completely out of my concentration, and it was the most rewarding course I took.
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 Abena's experience? Learn more about our Certificate in Chinese and American Studies + MAIR.

Back to Student Stories