HNC Alumni Profile: Shirlene Yee

Shirlene Yee, MAIS 2012, reflects back on her time at the HNC and her experience working as a Foreign Service Officer.

Tell us about your current role.
Currently I am a diplomat (Foreign Service Officer) with the US Department of State. This summer I am completing my first overseas assignment in Manila and will continue on to my second assignment in Toronto. Last year I returned to China for a month assignment in Chengdu. With China's involvement in Southeast Asia and its widespread diaspora communities, the Philippines and Canada provide ample opportunity to speak Chinese and deepen knowledge of China's role worldwide.
How did your experience at the HNC prepare you for this work?
Taking graduate level classes in Chinese, writing a graduate thesis in Chinese, and studying alongside Chinese and international students in all while in Nanjing built a robust foundation for my work in diplomacy. With half the student body Chinese nationals and half from numerous foreign countries, you are challenged to evaluate your world perspective and cultural framework. Communicating in a culturally competent manner is a subtle yet crucial skill in any international work; it is a skill the Hopkins-Nanjing Center environment specially seeks to cultivate.
What was your most memorable moment when you were at the HNC?
Participating in the Jessup International Law Moot Court remains a favorite memory. HNC was (and perhaps still is) the only school in China with both Chinese and international students participating on an international moot court team together. We competed with the top universities across all of China in debating the pressing issues in international law. Our first year, all four of our oralists placed in the Top 15 (out of 150+ total) at China’s national round. The next year, we advanced to the World Round in Washington, DC. It was an unforgettable exercise in teamwork, debate, and international law.

Do you have any advice for current or future students at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?
Embrace your time in Nanjing to get to know your peers as you will continue to cross paths in the future. It's easy to get bogged down with the master's thesis and academic work, especially those staying beyond one year. Many incredible people go through HNC that you will connect with again down the road. These friends and classmates will become your professional colleagues. I've had the good fortune of connecting with alumni around the world--in Hong Kong, Chengdu, Manila, Washington, DC, and New York.