Connecting through Hobbies

Connecting through Hobbies

This semester, with the Hopkins-Nanjing Center fully back in-person for the first time in three years, many interest groups are back to their pre-pandemic activities and many new ones have sprouted, like the Public Speaking Club, Ping Pong Class, the Hogwarts Games, food and milk tea groups, and even the student-run coffee shop in the HNC student lounge. Below are a few highlighted groups.

Public Speaking Club (Toastmasters)

If you've never heard of Toastmasters, I'd encourage anyone to try it out! It's a worldwide organization with more than 10,000 clubs, including 100 in China and 20 in Nanjing. The Toastmasters meeting format includes table topic discussions, two speeches, evaluations, and other activities that provide participants an encouraging environment to practice their public speaking on all topics. In the HNC club, the Chinese students use English while the international use Chinese. We always discuss topics relating to culture, history, and international relations, of course! This group is designed perfectly for the HNC because it helps students improve their public speaking abilities that they can use in and out of the class. Ultimately, Toastmasters' goal is to make leaders, because if you can communicate, you can lead. We hope to embody that spirit through this club.

Mahjong Interest Group

About once or twice a week, students in the mahjong interest group will send a message over WeChat to have an impromptu session. Since readings and class assignments have started stacking up as we get further into the semester, students still have found the chance to play a game or two. Only four people can play in a traditional mahjong game, but many students will come to watch the game as they wait for their own turn, with upwards of ten people surrounding one table as they watch others play. Likewise, mahjong has several different varieties, depending on the location it originated from, each with extremely different styles. Students tend to play several different types of mahjong, with the most prominent being Sichuan-style mahjong. However, if a student wants to play a different style, they just need to know how to teach the other students how to play. Mahjong proves to be a fantastic way to practice language and really get to know other students, including their poker faces. With so many mahjong players and varieties of mahjong amongst the group, the mahjong interest group is likely not to get boring anytime soon!

Prof. Armstrong-Taylor at the
House Sorting Ceremony

Dungeons and Dragons Interest Group

With DND being extremely popular in the US, with even a movie coming out regarding the game this past year, it isn’t unexpected that a DND interest group has found its way to the HNC. Students set up a joint semester-long campaign with sessions meeting weekly. The first few weeks of the semester involved introducing students who had never played before to the world of DND, wherein in the first session they used pre-made characters to experience a sample run-through of the game. The next session involved character-making, where students got to create characters for the campaign that will be starting in a few weeks' time. Some characters created so far consist of Loomesa Nightingale the elf ranger, Elis-Nura the human barbarian, and Norbert “Noodle” McNamara the human rogue, with many more to come before the first campaign session!

Quiz Bowl Interest Group

Quiz Bowl is a popular trivia game played by students ranging all the way from elementary school to university, in which teams of students use buzzers to answer questions regarding various subjects. This semester, student Naeem Chowdhury decided to bring the fun of Quiz Bowl to HNC every week on Thursday at 8pm. However, this version of quiz bowl is slightly different—in that students yell out “buzz” instead of pressing a buzzer, which leaves for some questioning about who called it out first. After answering a “toss-up question,” where everyone from either team can answer the question for up to 15 points, the next question is only given to the team that answered the toss-up question correctly, in which they can earn up to 30 more points. In total, there are 20 toss-up questions, but teams can earn over 500 points in a game if they are experts on all the subjects.

After the first session of Quiz Bowl, many of the international students realized the practice Quiz Bowl questions from the internet often tended to be very Western-centric, so they decided to ask the Chinese students if there were any similar games in China. Turns out, there was! The Quiz Bowl interest groups then decided to try out something new—have one game with Western-centric questions in English and then one game with China-centric questions in Chinese. Just like how the Chinese students struggled to answer the Western-centric Quiz Bowl questions, the international students also struggled to answer the China-centric trivia questions. Altogether, it added to the fun of trivia as students learned new information about the world as well as new vocabulary in both Chinese and English!

Written by Savannah Glaves (MAIS '25) and Sam Trizza (Cert+MAIR '25)