Christian Flores is a first year HNC Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS) student from Queens, New York. Christian desires to work in the Foreign Service and obtain a PhD. He is involved in HNC’s Book Club and Hit Workout group on campus. He also started the bilingual Multicultural Interest Group, which explores the student diversity of HNC. Previous events have included Chinese oral histories, led by two Chinese professors, and a discussion on the movie Moonlight. Read below for Christian’s journey to HNC, advice on the MAIS thesis process and advice on preparing for studying at the HNC.
How has your background influenced your study at the HNC?
I was born in Ecuador and immigrated to the United States at a very young age. I grew up in a bilingual household where we used both Spanish and English mainly because my father spoke limited English. My parents encouraged me to pursue programs in school that were bilingual, especially Spanish programs. This encouragement eventually led me to study Chinese in high school and then partake in the Chinese Flagship Program during undergrad. The Flagship program is a U.S. government sponsored language program that aims to make students fluent in Chinese after four years. When I started studying Chinese, I saw a lot of cultural similarities between Ecuador and China. Emphasis on family and children taking care of their parents as they get older were aspects of Chinese culture that I could relate to the Ecuadorian part of my culture. This lens on viewing China still impacts me today.
Why did you choose the HNC?
Throughout my undergraduate experiences in China, I gained a passion for Chinese language and society. When I graduated from college, I began to think of programs that would meet these interests. During Flagship, HNC representatives often came to talk to students about the graduate programs they offered. Since HNC combined the skills and knowledge I needed for my career pursuit, I applied for the program. Meanwhile, I started working in the private sector as a translation project manager. I was a liaison between clients and translators, which meant that I checked English to Chinese and Spanish translations to make sure they were impeccable before they were sent back to clients. This kept up my interest in Chinese while I waited to hear back from HNC.
However, when I received my HNC acceptance, I didn’t make my decision until I received the Boren Fellowship. The Boren Fellowship is a U.S. government program that sponsors American students to study critical languages. After completing a Masters program, they require minimal years of service in the U.S. State Department. The combo package of HNC and the Boren Fellowship was enough to satisfy my career-oriented outlook. Both are helping me achieve my goals of becoming a Foreign Service Officer and obtaining a PhD.
|HNC Students partake in Chinese Oral Histories led by Chinese professors during the Multicultural Interest Group earlier this week. Christian calls it a platform that showcases and celebrates the diversity within HNC through both Chinese and English.
How did you pick your MAIS thesis topic?
I decided to base my thesis topics off of something I really liked. As an undergraduate, I studied International Political Economy (IPE), which is a very interesting realm within international relations. For the Boren fellowship, I wrote about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) which is an international organization established by China in 2013. It’s new and the U.S. is unsure about the prospects of the organization in Asia. Since I took an IPE course during my first semester at HNC, my interest in the AIIB increased. After speaking with my advisor, I decided to write a thesis on the future of the AIIB by looking at the circumstances for success or failure. I will mostly focus on comparative research on China’s past experiences with foreign direct investment. This summer I have to do a lot of reading!
How did you choose your MA thesis advisor?
During the first semester, HNC encouraged us to begin thinking about choosing an advisor that taught in our target language. So I decided to explore and take a lot of courses. During my first semester, I took 6 classes, 3 courses in Chinese and 3 courses in English. The English courses were very writing intensive and interactive while the Chinese courses had two types. Traditional Chinese classes typically include the professor lecturing for an hour and a half in front of the classroom. He may or may not ask questions about the readings in class but requires students to understand the information. The other style for Chinese classrooms at HNC is more liberal with a lot more reading-based discussion and intensive sessions.
Fortunately, I took an IPE course instructed in Chinese and tried my best to do well and stay engaged in the coursework. At the end of the semester, the professor took our class out to dinner. After I discussed with him about IPE and the AIIB during dinner, I asked him to be my advisor right then and there.
What’s your advice for prospective HNC students?
Advice for Choosing an Advisor
The key begins with building a relationship. Start as early as possible and get to know the professor a little bit more. Go to office hours and talk to them to see if both of your research interests match up. Stop by other professor’s office hours to ask for advice and talk about interests as well. You could choose an advisor from a class you didn’t take. If you have an interest in your concentration, which you choose in your first semester, make sure you take courses in your concentration during that period.
Advice for Chinese Language Preparation
- Take a language intensive course in the summer before HNC. It’s a productive way to spend your summer as opposed to doing an internship. You’ll have a lot of opportunity to take internships when you come to China. A language program helps you refresh vocabulary, learn new grammar and immerse yourself in Chinese culture again because it does take time to adjust. When you don’t use a language for a long time, there’s a gap in acclimating to the language environment.
- Talk to your current Chinese professors to get resources to help you study Chinese in the summer.
- Read Chinese newspapers. Go into Chinese databases for Chinese academic papers and try to read on topics that you’re interested in. These help you become familiar with grammar structure and common words. Start getting used to that level of reading in Chinese because it takes time.
- Refresh! Wherever your Chinese level is, it doesn’t hurt to refresh on what you already know.
All the best!
Written by Tarela Osuobeni, HNC Certificate ‘17