A Day in the Life of a Certificate Student at the HNC

A Day in the Life of a Certificate Student at the HNC

Certificate student Elizabeth Gonzales takes us through a day in her life as a Hopkins-Nanjing Center student taking classes virtually. 
“This is really happening,” I thought to myself when I completed looking over the Hopkins-Nanjing Center orientation schedule. At that moment, I was feeling a frisson of excitement and fear. After two years of postponing my enrollment into the program, I am finally attending the HNC. I could not help but wonder - am I ready? Do I actually belong here? What if I fail? What if my professors and classmates laugh at me for not speaking Mandarin perfectly? By the end of the day, I had given myself a headache from spending a great deal of time putting myself through unnecessary stress. I did not realize until later that what I was feeling was called “imposter syndrome.”

Imposter syndrome is defined as “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s efforts or skills.” After speaking with someone from the HNC, she let me know that this feeling was normal. She had gone through the same experience, and revealed that almost every HNC student for the last 35 years has felt the same thing. I really suffered from imposter syndrome after my first week of classes. I thought everyone else’s Mandarin was better than mine; this was even after studying Chinese for four years at the undergraduate level, spending a year in Taiwan teaching English, and participating in an immersive Chinese language program last summer. However, I did feel a sense of validation that I was not crazy or alone in feeling this way. 

As first-year graduate students or certificate students, we often sound more prepared than what we may feel on the inside. I realized this on my first day of class. My classmates and I created a WeChat group, and the first message in the group, someone sent, “I am overwhelmed.” Others sent similar messages, and I could not help but laugh and feel relieved.

I have been taking virtual classes for over a month now, and I no longer feel imposter syndrome. It took time to adjust to taking all my courses in Mandarin, including my reading and writing assignments. However, I knew that I was trying my best by listening and participating in class, reviewing my reading assignments ahead of time, and asking for help from the writing center. Also, it is essential to remind yourself of why you are attending the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and the academic and career goals that you wish to achieve at the HNC.

What is a day in my life taking virtual HNC courses like?
6:00 am – 7:20 am
I wake up over an hour before my first class starts, so I can skim my notes from the readings and look over the professor’s PowerPoint in my Chinese Constitution class. It is super helpful because there are some Chinese words that I do not know, and having the PowerPoint allows me to learn them before class starts. A good tip for online courses is asking the professor if she/he would not mind emailing the class his/her PowerPoints.
If I want to attend my professor’s office hours, they start at 7:00 am – 7:30 am, right before class. It is effortless to hop onto her Zoom link and ask questions.
I also take some time to make myself a cup of coffee or tea!
7:30am – 9:00am
My Chinese Constitution (中国宪法) class is on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I take notes on the Notability app on my iPad. I recommend this app as it is a handy note-taking app that allows you to also annotate files. 

During the day

I download all the readings from all my courses onto my iPad to make some annotations while I read; since the readings for my courses are in Mandarin, I use Pleco and Baidu translate when I do not understand something.
For my Anthropology and Chinese Studies course, most readings are in English, but I must write a book review in Chinese each week, so I take some time taking notes, looking up some words, and writing the essay.
6:30pm – 8:00pm
My Anthropology and Chinese Studies (人类学与中国研究) class is on Mondays and Wednesdays, and again, I take notes on the Notability app. I screenshot the professor’s PowerPoint slides so I can go over them after class, if necessary.
After 9:00pm
If I have completed my book review, I send a WeChat message to one of the Chinese peer writing assistants to read my composition for any grammatical mistakes.  I make sure it is not too early in China when I send them a message.
(My third course History and Philosophy of Law in the West (西方法律史和法哲学) has not started yet but will on November 15th. I cannot wait to start the course!)
I am enjoying attending the HNC, virtually: the HNC administration and the professors are all very supportive and more than happy to help in any way. In addition, there are many exciting lectures, workshops, and interest groups that students can attend through Zoom. I also have a WeChat, WhatsApp, or Line chat group with my HNC peers, so there are many ways to connect even though we are not all physically at the Nanjing campus.