Coming to HNC? Here are One Student's Tips!

Coming to HNC? Here are One Student's Tips!

Two months into living at the HNC, student blogger and Certificate+MAIR ‘25 candidate Sam Trizza shares his thoughts on a few things he wants prospective students to know about as they consider/prepare coming to the HNC. 

Visa Process

The process of obtaining an international student visa for China can change a bit year to year and different Chinese consulates around the US can have different document requirements and visa processes. Since I was away from home for the summer before the Fall 2023 arrival at the HNC, this had me a little stressed out, so I want to provide you (a prospective student) an overview of how this process was for me and some considerations. When you’re admitted to the HNC, you can create a group chat with other admitted students to advise each other and ask questions on the visa process. And of course, the HNC staff are there to help via email. Plus, there is an HNC-provided guide on how to apply for the visa.

I decided to apply for the visa in-person through the Washington, DC embassy. Having been to China before when I lived far from a Chinese consulate, I had used visa services before (like Travisa) with no issues. I knew I would be in DC for a week or so before going to the HNC, so after some research I knew I could likely get my visa in this timeline. I applied for the visa online via the China Online Visa Application (COVA) and then was able to book a visa interview appointment online via the Appointment for Visa Application Submission (AVAS). Note, that you must be sure everything is correct on this (spelling, numbers, information, etc.) or else you’ll have to re-do the application and re-book an appointment. Also, there is the possibility of the need for an appointment will no longer be required next year, so always something to double check before you go!

I paid for the expedited visa process ($25) just in case, but it wasn’t needed. I went to the Chinese visa office on Monday with all my printed documents (2 copies of each just in case) including my visa interview appointment confirmation. A few folks in front of me filled things out wrong or didn’t have all their appropriate documentation and were told to start over (cue nerves). But I had all the required documentation, the interview was quick, and I picked up the Visa on Wednesday or Thursday. Easy peasy! China, here we come.

Orientation Week

Students submitting their residence
permit applications!

When you come to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center for the start of a new year, you’ll arrive on a Saturday or Sunday and have a whole week of orientation before classes start the following Monday. Orientation week has sessions that cover campus safety, career services, the library, and an introduction from professors about their classes, to name a few. Each day is intentionally not full to the brim of these sessions because living in China as a foreigner takes more than just showing up; there’s a to-do list.

The trusty “Hopkins-Nanjing Center International Student Arrival Guide” will be your friend while you’re getting acclimated to life in China and living at the HNC. This guide is kept up to date and includes all you need to know about setting up a phone number and bank account, getting your foreigner health exam done, and completing the residence permit application. More importantly, you will go through these processes with other students during orientation week and be advised by HNC staff, so it’s far less stressful than doing it alone. All in all, you’ll likely be done with the last process (obtaining your residence permit) 30-45 days into living in Nanjing. Getting through these processes is a great way to practice Chinese and is bonding for you and your fellow classmates!

How’s Studying Going? Any Tips?

In short, it’s a process! For one, HNC is not a Chinese language school, but a program that uses Chinese to learn about international studies. So, your language will naturally improve over time through different classes. My Chinese language abilities are below-average at the HNC, so I have implemented a few study rules/tips to help:

An example of Sam's notes
  • Zhongwen: Chinese-English Dictionary is a Google Chrome extension that is crucial for reading articles in Chinese and interacting with your class notes. Turn it on in the browser, hover over a few characters, and the definition in Chinese pops up. Incredible! Find it here in the Chrome Web Store.
  • I take in-class and reading notes on Word Online and have them stored in my JHU-provided OneDrive account. I do this because the Zhongwen extension only works in the browser, I can create short summaries of readings, and I can build useful vocab lists.
  • After class, I’ll complete filling out the vocab list and then manually add them to a Pleco study deck that I can use for daily flash cards. 
  • Especially during time when I have more than two hours of studying, I will use the pomodoro study technique. Do some Googling on this for more info, but basically it’s to help you focus by doing 25 minutes of study and 5 minutes of break repeated a few times before a larger ~20 minute break. You can use as your timer too. During my 20 minute break, I usually go to nearby Auntie Jenny’s for some zero-sugar milk tea.
  • Go to your professor's office hours! Don't have a reason? Make one up! The HNC professors have office hours to talk about class topics and answer assignment questions, but also want to get to know your background and share advice on your future career. They will be a special part of the HNC experience and building relationships with them is part of what makes the Center a great bilateral space.
  • The student-run writing center is incredibly helpful. I like to get my writing assignments done early so that I can go sit down with a Chinese student in the center to ask questions about grammar. They help me learn how to write in a more fluent, professional way. There is also a group chat where Chinese and international students can randomly ask each other for essay edits.

Friends blowing off
some steam in a boxing class!

Reading articles in Chinese is slow. Starting out, especially at my language level, you will not comprehend everything the author is saying, there will be lots of new words/characters, and doing deliberate translation will be necessary. Over time, more characters become recognizable, and you’ll need to translate less. Language learning is also very much a long process, especially learning Chinese. I’ve had to give myself some slack and establish a daily rhythm of reading/flash cards/speaking. Already two months in, I have noticed my language skills improve and my confidence to go into conversations and make mistakes.

Lastly, there are plenty of on- or off-campus activities to do to get away from all the assignments and studying. The HNC has many interest and sports groups, guest lectures, and a gym. Plus, NJU has a running track, soccer field, and lap pool that I frequent often. Going out to eat with friends, traveling, or doing something in Nanjing keeps the study-life balance in check!

Written by Sam Trizza, Cert+MAIR ‘25