Alumna reflects on the HNC's impact on her international relations career

Alumna reflects on the HNC's impact on her international relations career

Alyssa Perez, Certificate '18, is currently an Associate Director of the Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. 

How did you become interested in China and what drew you to the HNC? 
I started learning Chinese when I was in the sixth grade, just two years before the 2008 Summer Olympics were held in Beijing. Not only were the 2008 Beijing Olympics a decidedly pivotal point in China’s place on the world stage, but it was also an important period in the evolving US-China relationship. All eyes were on China’s rise as a global competitor, including mine. This pushed me to pursue Chinese studies in high school and at DePaul University, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in International Studies before attending the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. As the world prepares for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on how much I have learned since I first started studying Chinese, and I lean on my experience at the HNC to understand the nuances of the world around me. 
How has your time at the HNC influenced your personal and professional life?
To say the least, my experience at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center prepared me for my career in US-China relations and beyond. I graduated from the HNC Certificate program in 2018. In 2019 I began working at the number-one think tank in the United States, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, D.C. As the associate director of the Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics, I help manage a team that conducts research on China’s economy, industrial policy, and the overarching US-China relationship to better inform Washington policymakers. 

What is a favorite memory from the HNC? 

Attending the HNC is one of the best decisions I have ever made. While I expected to advance my Chinese language skills and deepen my knowledge of US-China relations at the HNC, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the most valuable takeaway was the experience of living in China and fostering new friendships and connections that I continue to carry throughout my personal life and professional career. I made best friends and colleagues and created some of my favorite memories during my time at the HNC. One of my favorite parts about studying there was having the opportunity to explore Nanjing – from hiking Purple Mountain to walking along Xuanwu Lake and the City Wall of Nanjing – and fully immersing myself in Chinese culture. 
What is one piece of advice you have for current or future HNC students?  

To the current and future HNC students, this adventure is just the start of the next chapter of your life. My advice is to get out of your comfort zone – practice your Chinese by striking up a conversation on the subway, dive into a research topic that you find intriguing yet challenging, or even just try a local Nanjing dish. The future of US-China relations relies on your language skills, your first-hand experience in Chinese culture, and your tactful analysis. Attending the HNC will prove to be a step in the right direction in this new chapter of your life. 

Interview conducted by Elizabeth Gonzales.