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OneEye

Is Nanjing right for me?

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OneEye

I'm looking at moving to China next year to study for a year or so. My goal is to be able to enter grad school afterward, with a PhD and a career in academia being the ultimate goal. I've looked around and Nanjing seems like a nice place to live. Unfortunately, the websites for NJU and NJNU aren't the most helpful, but maybe someone here can offer some more information. My three main concerns are:

1) being able to study modern Chinese to a reasonably high level (i.e., being able to do MA-level work in Chinese)

2) being able to study classical Chinese (many MA programs in the US require a year of classical Chinese study beforehand)

3) not having school consume my entire time (as I've heard IUP at Tsinghua would do).

#3 is particularly important. I don't mind studying hard in a rigorous program, but I do want to enjoy my first time living in a foreign country. My wife is also going with me (to teach English, not to study), so I will need time with her as well. We want to be able to see some of China while we're there, and plan on taking some weekend trips occasionally. Of course, the first priority is learning the language well.

So, is Nanjing the place? And if so, which school?

Here's my situation as it applies to going to grad school. I have nothing else related to Chinese on my transcripts (my undergrad degree was in music), but was told by professors at different universities that going to China for a year would be better than getting a BA or post-bacc in Chinese in the US. However, when I apply for grad school, I don't want the admissions committee to throw my application away because of a poor school choice. I wonder if I should just suck it up and cough up the money for Tsinghua or the ICLP program in Taipei, but I may end up at one of those schools for a while during grad school anyway, so I'm thinking I should enjoy my first time in China a bit more and save the really intensive stuff for later.

Thanks for reading such a long post. Thoughts?

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Manoz

I spent the last year at Nanjing University studying Chinese. Classes normally run from 8-12 every day (sometimes with one afternoon class per week), and 高级 classes run throughout the day (you can choose which classes to take). In short, you will have a lot of free time, although if you want to get the most out of classes, you'll be expected to put in a fair bit of work in your free time too. They also offer a Classical Chinese class. I would recommend studying here. I've also met people from and heard good things about Nanjing Normal University too.

As a city, I think Nanjing is great. A very short distance away from Shanghai, and well connected if you wish to travel further afield.

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OneEye

Thanks for the info.

Are the courses fairly fast-paced at NJU? Also, how is the weather there? I've heard it's really hot but I've also seen pictures of snow-covered roofs there, which we don't get in Austin, TX (where it really is hot).

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Meng Lelan

Oh, but it did snow in Austin for a day or two back in 2007, even classes at UT Austin were canceled for two days and kids went sledding on Murchison Hill.

Nanjing University is very beautiful, with a number of classically designed buildings.

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James Johnston

Hot summers and cold unheated winters. Spring and autumn last about a fortnight each.

In the summers temperatures get up to the high 30s, but the main problem is the nights when it doesn't cool down. Night time lows can be around 30 in the city centre. However, you probably don't need to be in Nanjing in August which is the hottest month.

Thick snow is not particularly common in Nanjing. It rarely stays below zero for more than a couple of days so any snow that does fall will melt fairly soon. It can feel very cold though because there isn't a great deal of heating. The classrooms for the foreign students are heated though and you can always pay for your own heating. The locals will mainly just wear lots of clothes.

I did live and study in Nanjing a few years back, but I can't say much about their courses compared with elsewhere, except that I don't think there is a great deal to choose between Nanjing University and Nanjing Normal University as far as their courses teaching Chinese to foreigners are concerned. However, if you want access to top academics - perhaps sitting in on their lectures - in preparation for your future studies, you might be better off at Nanjing University.

You could always pay for one semester first and then change if you aren't impressed. The old campuses, where the foreigners and postgraduates are taught, of both universities aren't more than about ten minutes apart. In addition, there are other fairly high ranking universities close by too, such as Hohai University and Southeast University, which are more focused on the sciences I think, but doubtless also teach Chinese to foreigners as it generates income.

The proximity of all these universities makes for a nice university quarter in a part of town that retains at least some charm from the 1920s before the the Chinese fell in love with concrete box architecture. Central Nanjing is also compact enough that you can get around quite easily by foot as long as you're not living out in the suburbs, though this of course depends on how much you like walking.

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James Johnston
Nanjing University is very beautiful, with a number of classically designed buildings.

To be fair, Nanjing Normal University is probably more beautiful with more surviving classical buildings.

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gato

OneEye,

Hope you don't take it the way, but have you thought your plan for an academic career? Give that your background is in music and you are a relative beginner in Chinese, how do you that an academic career in a Chinese-related field is right for you? Speaking as a dropout from a PhD program in one of the social sciences, I know personally that academia can look a lot more glamorous and interesting from the outside.

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OneEye

I had a feeling that would come up. :)

Yes, I've thought through it, and I know it may not ultimately work out, but I'm going to try anyway. I'll at least be able to get a Master's, I'm sure, and if I'm not able to get a PhD then I've thought of several possible backup plans. I've been in touch with professors at several universities with respected Chinese programs and have discussed my background and current preparation with them. At one point I planned on getting a second Bachelor's in Chinese so I'd have the background, but was advised by some of these professors that I'd have a stronger application if I moved to China for a year to study instead.

I also have some good contacts within academia who will give me strong recommendation letters, including one professor at one of the big-name schools in New England and a good friend who is a curator for one of the largest museums in the US, who has also put me in touch with one of his colleagues in Taiwan. Meanwhile, I'm trying to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge left by not having a BA in the field by reading from course syllabi and auditing classes when possible. My current job leaves me a good deal of free time to do these things and to work on my Chinese. My French reading skills are coming along well, which will help with the research language requirements.

Anyway, I appreciate your concern. I know it may not work out in the end but I'm doing everything I can to try to make sure that it does.

Oh' date=' but it did snow in Austin for a day or two back in 2007, even classes at UT Austin were canceled for two days and kids went sledding on Murchison Hill. [/quote']

Haha. Well, it "snowed" last December too, but coming from Boston I wouldn't call that snow. If there's only enough snow to go sledding every few years, then it doesn't really snow. :P

Thanks to everyone for the help so far!

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Manoz

In response to your question regarding the pace of the courses at Nanda, it depends on which group you're in. Basically, they have different levels (ranging in difficulty) D, C, B, A and 高级 and each level will have a number of groups (2-4 depending on the number of people in that level). From what I experienced, the pace in B1 was slightly faster than the pace in B2 and much faster than that of B3 and B4, the pace of A1 was slightly faster than A2 and much faster than A3 (I think you catch my drift :P ). They give you the first week of each semester to try out as many different groups/classes as you like until you find one that suits you.

As someone mentioned about Autumn and Spring are pretty much non-existent. Winter was a bit of a shock at first, as the weather literally changed from mild to freezing overnight and all I had was an air-conditioning unit to keep me warm, but it's something that you can get used to.

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gato

I am not really talking about getting admitted, but what if you find out after the years of work that you don't really want to do a PhD or can't find a job you like in academia.

The reference to your background is merely to suggest that you might not have spent enough time in this discipline in an academic setting to know the practical difficulties of being an academic (like the relative scarcity of tenure-track professor positions in universities in desirable locations.)

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OneEye

I think I knew where you were going with your post, but for some reason I went a different way in my response. Blame it on me being tight on time this morning.

I have read a lot on the subject in the year or so since I decided to pursue this goal, so I am reasonably aware of the difficulties that lie ahead. I know the academic job market is very tough, and I know a lot of people who start PhD programs don't finish them due to the work load, stress, and pressure to "publish or perish." My brother-in-law is an academic who is working on his dissertation, so I've heard a lot from him about the experience. I have no doubt that I'll be able to finish an MA for sure, like I said earlier, so at least I will have that if I can't finish the PhD. From there I've thought of several options, including teaching (either high school, as an adjunct, or at a community college), translation work, business (I do have some experience there), and some other things.

Fortunately, my wife and I are in a good position for me to pursue this right now. We're young (mid-twenties), have no kids, no debt, and are in good shape financially. She has already begun to make a good name for herself in her career, and will have no trouble finding work no matter which school I may end up at. If I spend several years doing this and can't hack it for whatever reason, it won't ruin us. I'd rather go for it now than regret not having taken the chance later.

Thanks for your concern, gato. I've thought this through very well, and I'm going to be stubborn about it. :P

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Chris Two Times

OneEye,

 

This thread was written five years ago and coming full circle to 2015, it looks like you've made good on a lot of this. Nice work!

 

Warm regards,

Chris Two Times

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