Meet the '23-'24 HNC Student Bloggers!

Meet the '23-'24 HNC Student Bloggers!

Each year several students share their HNC experience on this blog, ranging in topics from their studies to their travels, and study tips to community member profiles. This year these three students below will be a window into the HNC with their photos and stories. Let’s meet them!
Sam Trizza

Sam Trizza

Oklahoma, USA
Certificate + MAIR ‘25
Savannah Glaves
Kansas, USA 
MAIS ‘25
Eric Omorogieva
Maryland, USA
Certificate + MAIR ‘25
How did you become interested in China?
Sam: I started my Chinese studies in 2012 and visited China on student exchange shortly thereafter. With that trip, I was hooked. At that time, I was so interested in China because it felt like Mars. What I mean by that is it was so different than anything I had ever known. As I’ve studied China over the years, I realize my analogy holds true in some areas and has faults in others. I continued my Chinese studies in college, but took a few years off of study to work, but went to Middlebury Language Schools this summer before coming to the HNC. The HNC has been the natural next step in my US-China-focused career. Out of all the international programs in China, the HNC is distinct in its history, model, and vast alumni network who impact US-China relations everyday.
Eric: When I was starting middle school at Washington International School in Northwest D.C., we had to choose a second language to study, and my choices were between French, Spanish and the new Chinese program that had just started. Having never imagined myself studying Chinese before, I decided to jump into it, and managed to stick with it through college. Through my language learning journey, I also built an interest in Chinese culture, which cemented itself in 2013 when my Chinese program visited Beijing and Xi’an for a few weeks. From then on, I knew that I’d continue learning for a long as I could and one day I’d have to return to China for an extended stay. Along the way as a International Affairs major and Chinese minor, I picked up a minor African Studies and forged a specific research interest in China-Africa relations. 
Before joining the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, what were you doing? 
Sam: I worked for three years between college and entering Johns Hopkins SAIS. For the first year and a half I was in the US Senate covering national security and foreign affairs and for the last year and a half I worked at a marketing start-up. Particularly for me, I needed time to work before entering graduate school. I wanted to develop professional communication skills, work in different industries, and learn more about what I wanted to pursue in my career. I studied business, entrepreneurship, and Chinese language in college. My college studies and time in the workforce all provided me insight for what to seek out in a graduate school and what I could create through the Certificate + MAIR experience. 
Eric Omorogieva

Eric: After graduating from Wake Forest University in 2021, I worked for a couple of years as a refugee caseworker at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), where I assisted newly resettled refugees in their transition from their home countries to life in the U.S. This included assisting with applying for several benefits programs, social security, and enrolling students in the public school system. This experience was an extension of volunteer and intern work I did in college and served as a unique addition to my understanding of aspects of International Relations and domestic U.S programs I didn’t think about as much before. 

I was finishing up my undergraduate degree at the University of Kansas. My undergraduate majors were East Asian Languages & Cultures and Global & International Studies, which is where I found my interest in soft power and decided I wanted to pursue international relations and politics in the future.
What led you to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center? What made you choose the HNC?
Eric: It was always my intention to study abroad in China at some point, but those plans were paused during the pandemic. When considering my graduate school options, I initially focused on Washington D.C. area schools like SAIS, but the additional opportunity that the Hopkins-Nanjing Center provided was hard to pass up. It allows me to continue my language study through my international relations coursework, gain a deep insight into how Chinese government and society operates, and take part in an amazing graduate school program. In the face of China reopening in Spring 2023 and a crucial time in U.S-China relations, it felt like a perfect opening for me to complete this life goal that I had for so long and still graduate from the MAIR program in D.C. 
Savannah Glaves

Savannah: One of the major things that led me to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center was the Chinese immersion. While in Taiwan, I was enrolled at the International Chinese Language Program (ICLP) at National Taiwan University. ICLP had a language pledge that required us to speak in Chinese everyday that we were in the building, and I wanted to have something similar to that in my masters program. While the HNC does not have a language pledge, it has a similar structure in that we are expected to speak in Chinese in our classes (unless you’re taking a class in English, that is), and we are often encouraged to speak in Chinese to explain certain English words to our Chinese classmates. Being in a 2-year program here will help majorly in improving my Chinese language skills, and it was the biggest reason I chose to go the HNC.

How was your experience adjusting to the Chinese coursework? Do you have any tips for future students?  
Sam: The adjustment to Chinese coursework is slow, but I notice improvement every day. My biggest piece of advice may be the most obvious: the better your Chinese ability, the better your HNC in-class learning experience will be, so study up! While all international students’ Chinese language abilities are at a certain minimum level for entry into the HNC, I found myself frustrated when I couldn’t get my point across or express myself fully in the early months of in-and-out of class conversations. While language skills do improve throughout time at the HNC, the better your Chinese is from the start, the richer learning you will have from professors and your Chinese peers.

If you are involved in any extracurricular activities or student groups, could you please tell us about that?

Eric: I am a staff writer for the HNC Bureau of the SAIS Observer, the student run newspaper. I love writing about major issues and recent events, so I look forward to contributing to the paper from my perspective living in China, and pitching stories that don’t often get as much attention. I also recently started attending our quiz bowl club a fellow classmate hosts at the HNC. It’s a great time to answer trivia questions on a wide range of topics and learn random facts that could be useful in the future. 
What is one thing you've learned during your time at HNC that transformed your perspective or way of thinking?

Savannah: Communicating with the other students has given me more of an idea that people have very diverse perspectives because of our backgrounds. It seems more prominent to me than in my undergraduate university, particularly because the vast majority of students were American, although we did have some foreign students scattered throughout. I’m often learning about how Chinese people think about certain global issues, which may not always coincide with what I think about the issue. My MAIS tutorial class specifically points these differences as well, since we often look at different theories from a Chinese point of view and an American one. Due to constant interactions with diverse people and readings at the HNC, I am learning the valuable skill of seeing issues from different perspectives. 
What is your favorite thing about Nanjing? 

Sam: I studied abroad next door to the HNC in Fall 2017 and discovered that Nanjing is home to incredible history that is particularly important for students studying modern China, which was a partial draw in coming to the HNC. Nanjing is also a great hub for traveling throughout China since it’s located in the middle of the coast and has great air and train access. Lastly, Nanjing is a big city, but it has a small city feel to me. Perhaps it’s having favorite restaurants and cafes close by (of which, there are many), often recognizing people in the neighborhood, or me being from a small city in the South, but Nanjing feels like a second home.

If you could give one piece of advice to future HNC students, what would that be?
Sam: This is a fun piece of advice, but one that I think has profound impact on students’ understanding of China and their experience at the HNC: travel with purpose and get a little uncomfortable. Travel to places that have historical significance in China; don’t just go to the inspiring mountains or bustling cities but go to spots where you can learn more about China. If there’s a high-speed train there or an overnight sleeper, take the sleeper train every now and then to talk with locals. No matter your language ability, hearing their stories and their perspectives are fascinating. You can get creative too with diversifying your traveling experience. I read Country Driving by Peter Hessler for encouragement in living into this piece of advice. 
Savannah: Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. When I first got accepted to the HNC, I was ecstatic that I was going to be able to study in China, especially after the country being closed for the past 3-4 years. However, as the date came closer to my departure, I kept second-guessing myself. However, now that I’m here, I can say that I did make the right decision. If you think you should do something and then change your mind due to fears, try to push past that and you likely won’t regret it!
Whose support has made your journey at the HNC possible?

Sam: SAIS alumni and students of similar graduate programs have all been incredible resources that helped guide me to the HNC. Networking with them, learning about their experiences, and deciding what I wanted out of a graduate program were all incredibly helpful in choosing SAIS. Also, when worries arose about finances, classes, or the job search, they have been there to provide encouragement, advice, and direction.
Edited by Sam Trizza, Cert+MAIR '25