Student Profiles: A Range of Pursuits

Student Profiles: A Range of Pursuits

The HNC attracts a wide variety of students with different backgrounds united by a common interest in US-China studies. The three students below highlight their path to the HNC, advice to future students, and their plans going forward. Let’s meet Stephany, Feiyu, and Chris!


Stephany Su 苏睿琦

HNC Certificate + MAIR '25
Concentration: Development, Climate, and Sustainability
Hometown: Berkeley, California      
Undergraduate Institution: UC Berkeley
Cheng Feiyu 程飞羽 (Fred)
MAIS '24
Concentration: International Economics
Hometown: Luoyang, Henan
Undergraduate Institution: Northeastern University 东北大学
Chris Hankin 林奎
MAIS '24
Concentration: Energy, Resources and Environment
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Undergraduate Institution: Whitman College
Why did you choose your program at the HNC?

Stephany: I heard about programs at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center early on in the beginning of high school and after learning Chinese for the majority of my life, I knew that I wanted to continue with my Chinese studies. HNC is one of the only opportunities where international students can take graduate level courses fully in Chinese, which is challenging, but rewarding. While studying Political Economy in undergrad, I became more interested in international development and Chinese political economy and I wanted to learn more analytical skills, so I thought that the HNC Certificate + MAIR curriculum was a perfect fit. Being at the HNC I also get to work with a diverse group of students to discuss similar topics of interest and gain new perspectives. 


Feiyu: My undergraduate thesis advisor, an alumna of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, recommended the MAIS program to me. I was particularly drawn to the extensive resources available at the HNC library, the program's distinguished reputation in the field of international studies, and the unique opportunities for cross-cultural learning and living. These factors collectively influenced my decision to pursue my studies at the HNC.

Chris: I was drawn to the HNC by a mix of professional and personal factors. In 2019 I spent a year in Taiwan through Fulbright, and the Fulbright Director at the time had a close relationship with the HNC and encouraged me to apply. I want to dedicate my career to understanding and improving the US-China relationship. The robust alumni network, in addition to a truly unique curriculum, convinced me that this would be the best place to start that journey. In addition, my great-grandfather was a missionary in Nanjing from 1915 until the end of the 1940s. Being here makes me feel connected to that legacy.

Chris' story and great-grandfather's history are featured here in a recent video by Xinhua.


Have there been any challenges you faced during your studies? How did you overcome them? 

Stephany: One challenge so far has been trying to balance schoolwork with finding time to explore the city. I often find myself wanting to spend more time on my Chinese readings so that I can become more fluent. Over time, I noticed that Chinese readings became a bit easier and I was able to recognize more characters. There is still plenty of time to get dinner with fellow classmates around campus and many breaks during the semester to go on trips or explore the city!
Feiyu: I encountered a pervasive challenge common to most HNC students—the burden of a heavy workload. In response, I proactively addressed this challenge by establishing a collaborative study group with my peers. In this collective effort, we engage in joint readings of academic literature, fostering an environment where insights and commentary are shared. This collaborative approach represents a departure from my previous study habits, as I typically formed study groups only in the context of group assignments. However, the adoption of this new strategy has significantly heightened our collective productivity.
Chris: Oftentimes our class discussions veer into delicate and important topics, and I feel frustrated that even though I am able to basically communicate my ideas, I still struggle to reach the level of precision and nuance that I am accustomed to when speaking in English. As HNC students we want to improve our language skills, but we also want to understand our teachers and classmates. In moments those goals can feel at odds. The first step to overcoming that problem is, of course, study. With every week that goes by I can more fully articulate my ideas. In addition, I have found that continuing conversations outside of the classroom is the best way to understand one another more thoroughly.


How do you see your career trajectory after graduation?

Stephany: After completing my master’s, I intend to join a think tank to gain research experience. In the long run, I hope to pursue a career in the public sector to work internationally or domestically on urban development policy. Here, I can tackle issues in niche areas such as transportation and labor migration to create policies and reduce economic disparities. 
Feiyu: Probably a tech company, which is a place where creativeness, cross-cultural experience, and international passion are possible.
Chris: My assessment is that the best path to improved US-China relations is through collaboration on climate goals. In addition, I think that the private sector has played an enormous role in building a foundation for the relationship. For that reason I have accepted a full-time offer with a company whose mission is to mobilize the private sector to build out America’s renewable energy capacity. I hope to work with multinational corporations who are interested in greening their electricity load in China.
What advice do you have for prospective students considering coming to the HNC?

Stephany: I would recommend setting up personal goals before coming to the HNC so that you can get the most out of your time here. Whether it is getting a language partner, going to office hours, or engaging in different conversations, there is a lot to do. There are also many interest groups to join and opportunities to get involved in the student body. If you are worried about getting adjusted, students and staff are all very helpful and will guide you through the adjustment process. HNC hosts around 40 out of the 350 American students studying in China right now, so we are at a rare moment to take advantage of this time, explore the country, and gain new perspectives.

Feiyu: (1) Read more books. (2) Learn quantitative skills as early as possible. (3) Focus on a specific concentration area as early as possible while adopting a interdisciplinary perspective. I would like to cite the well-known "60% principle" to illustrate this notion. As you embark on your journey towards a goal, it is not imperative to achieve 100% perfection at each step. Attaining 60% proficiency is adequate for each individual stride. The key lies in advancing, embracing mistakes, rectifying them, and propelling forward with maximum swiftness. (4) Devote your attention very carefully. HNC embodies a dynamic environment teeming with intellectual vitality, creative inspiration, and exceptional talents. While individuals may find themselves captivated by various domains, it is imperative to recognize the constraints imposed by the finite resource of time. (5) Keep a work-life balance. HNC epitomizes a realm brimming with boundless potential. Rather than adhering to the maxim of "work hard, play hard," I remind myself to exercise judiciousness by embracing the principle of moderation: "don’t work too much, don’t play too much." Again, be cautious on the distribution of your attention. 

Chris: I think that prospective students should think carefully about the impact they want to have on the world before coming to the HNC. That isn’t advice specific to the HNC, but rather to graduate school more generally. I think the HNC gives the most to the students who know what they want to ask of it. There are some problems in the world that the HNC can prepare you to solve, and others that it can’t. Knowing which problem you want to try to solve is the first step.
Chris (left)

What do you do for fun outside of class?

Stephany: On my free time, I like to play badminton and walk around campus. Nanjing University has a lot of history which can still be seen in the buildings and architecture. 
Feiyu: I mainly play ping pong, lift weights, and run. I have made numerous friends in the gym, united by our shared dedication to build ourselves up through consistent effort. I also own an electric bicycle capable of reaching 50kph, so my city tours are pretty fun. I occasionally rent a car to explore nearby cities too. This penchant stems from my belief that one's world is shaped by the places they have traversed and experienced.
Chris: I bought an e-bike and spend many happy weekend afternoons riding around the city, discovering new neighborhoods. I also play soccer 3 times per week with a group of Chinese graduate students at Nanda and love to eat and travel with classmates. 
Edited by Sam Trizza, Cert+MAIR '25