Name: Priya Bhanu
Year: Class of 2009
Hometown: San Carlos, CA
Major: International Studies, East Asian Studies
Chairman Mao, Footbinding, 中文: East Asian Studies at Hopkins
Coming into college, I knew I wanted to study international studies, but beyond that, I was clueless. Second semester of freshman year, I more or less randomly decided to take a class on Contemporary Chinese Politics. Okay, so maybe my decision was not completely random, but China is an up-and-coming region in the world today, and seeing as how I would need to choose a concentration for IR, I thought that maybe China would be a good place to start. Of course, being a freshman, I was put on the wait list for the class, and luckily the professor decided to double the class size, and that semester is when my fascination with China began. I fell in love with contemporary China, and I decided to start taking Chinese in order to make my study of China easier; it is pretty hard to remember all the names of important historical and political figures if you don’t know Chinese. During my sophomore year, I realized that double majoring in East Asian studies would complement my IR degree very well, especially since I’d chosen China as a concentration.
Once I’d decided that East Asian studies would be doable, I began to realize why East Asian studies was such a great major. First of all, I love the language requirement component; you need to study three years of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, or you can study two years of one language and two years of another. I have obviously chosen to study Chinese, and as a part of my quest for fluency in Chinese, I spent spring 2008 studying abroad in Beijing, where I studied only Chinese language for an entire semester. In addition to soaking up the Chinese culture, I was also required to participate in a language pledge, which prohibited me from speaking English all semester! Let me just say how challenging this experience was, but it was worth it. I managed to skip one and a half levels of Chinese in one semester abroad! It was definitely an amazing experience, and one that was definitely doable—and in my opinion necessary—as an East Asian studies major. In addition to language requirements, EAS Majors are required to take eight classes related to East Asia; in other words, these can be political, historical, cultural, or literary classes about East Asia. In my studies of China, I have taken two in the political science department, one in the sociology department, several in the history department, and one that focused on cultural imaginations of the body. Furthermore, of the eight required classes, any class concerning China, Japan, or Korea counts as an East Asian class, and up to two can focus on other regions of Asia, such as South Asia and Southeast Asia. As a result, this major lends a lot of freedom to the student, and there are very few restrictions.
In addition to study abroad opportunities, the EAS Department just began offering the opportunity to write an honors thesis in your senior year, in addition to providing research grants to encourage students to go abroad and research East Asia in the field. Furthermore, the EAS Department has also set up language corners that meet once a week in order to help students increase their language abilities in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, and to give students an outlet to practice their languages. The EAS Department is also very diligent at alerting students to opportunities relating to EAS, be they lectures in the area or opportunities to work and study abroad. Hopkins also has a club called the East Asian Forum and Review. It brings in lecturers every semester for events that are open to all students; it also publishes a journal to which students can submit their original research in hopes of being published! Professor Kellee Tsai just took over as head of the EAS Department, and she is very excited about helping the program grow. As a result, many new programs have been set up just in the last year or so, in an attempt at further enhancing our program.
Because the EAS Department is still relatively small, it is easy to get to know your professors and fellow students in your major. There is something about learning character-based languages that creates a bond with fellow students. Although I have skipped Chinese levels, I’m still good friends with all my fellow students from Beginning Chinese. Because it is such a different language, struggling through it together is pretty amazing. When I was abroad, I immediately found a close group of friends, partially because we were all crazy enough to have decided to study abroad in China, and then to have chosen a program that prohibited English! When I was abroad, I lived with a Chinese roommate who didn’t speak any English! The first couple of weeks were really tough, but now we use Skype to chat at least once a month, and there are no problems. One of my favorite parts of EAS is that it gives you so much freedom to make your major your own. I also love that language is an integral part of the program, which not only enables you to study abroad, but encourages it!
Now that I am a senior, I am beginning to think about what I am going to do with my life, and it definitely includes going back to China for some time. Ideally, I will work in the government, at the CIA or the Defense Intelligence Agency, and do analysis regarding US-China relations. However, I might also go into journalism and become a foreign correspondent, focusing on China. One of the great things about this major is that you can tailor it to what you want to do, and in the end, it will open up a plethora of opportunities. Honestly, right now, East Asia is on the rise, and there is no better time than now to factor it into your future.
The best way to sum up the East Asian studies major at Hopkins: 真好。！AWESOME!
Click here to access more information about the East Asian Studies Undergraduate Program of Study.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the East Asian Studies question thread.