|Southeast Asian Studies Spotlight: Master’s Candidate Hsin-ning Chang
Hsin-ning Chang is a second-year master’s student in the Southeast Asian Studies (SEAS) program. Recently we were able to chat with Hsin-Ning about her motivations for joining the program, thoughts on how the program has affected her, and future aspirations after completing the program. The transcript of the interview appears here.
SEAS: Hsin-ning, how long have you been here at Ohio University? What have you been studying during that time?
HNC: I have been in Athens since fall 2005. I came to pursue a master’s degree in Film Studies. After I graduated from that program in 2008, I worked on an OPT (optional practical training) visa for a year, and then I was accepted by the SEAS program.
SEAS: Where are you from? Did you do your undergraduate studies here at OU as well?
HNC: I am from Taiwan. I completed my undergraduate studies in Taiwan.
SEAS: What made you choose Ohio University for your graduate studies?
HNC: Since high school, I have wanted to study something related to film. My father asked me not to do so, because he wanted me to study basic subjects — history, literature, philosophy - those kinds of things. But after I graduated from my undergraduate college, I started looking for film studies programs. There were not many of them in Taiwan, plus I was hoping to study abroad, so I “googled” to find out what universities have film studies program, and Ohio University (OHIO) was one of them. I applied and happily was accepted.
SEAS: What made you choose to enter the Southeast Asian Studies master’s program?
HNC: There are several reasons. One is that I was hoping to stay and work in the cinema. Not because that I want to stay in United States per se, but I wanted to have a few more years of practice working as a projectionist. Thus I was looking for another graduate program at OHIO, and SEAS came to my attention because I have been amazed by the film and video works that have come out of Southeast Asia during the past few couple years.
Turns out joining this program might be one of the smartest decisions I have ever made in my student life. I have learned a lot - really, a lot - in this program. When I was so focused on studying film, I tended to ignore many other types of mediums (e.g., text) and means of analysis that are important. Classes in the SEAS program have reminded me that I should pay attention to various ways of thinking.
SEAS: What has been the course, or who has been the faculty member, who has been the most influential in your studies here?
Professor Gene Ammarell’s classes really strike me in many ways. Professor Marina Peterson’s classes also influenced me in different ways. Their classes literally changed my ways of living and thinking.
SEAS: I heard you work at the Athena Theatre on Court St. What is that like? How did you end up doing that? Does your work there tie in with your graduate studies, or is it “just for fun”?
|HNC: When I first came to OHIO, I started working in the Athens Center for Film and Video with Professor Ruth Bradley. When the university decided to take over the uptown Athena theater and to be managed by the Athens Center for Film and Video, I got trained as one of the projectionists. In a way, yes, it is tied in with my previous graduate studies. It is certainly fun work, too.
The work in Athena is great. It can be tiresome sometimes, especially when I have to deal with all sorts of schoolwork.
|Nevertheless, when I am overwhelmed by papers or difficult readings, working with the machines in the theater can be the best means of relief for me. I mean, sometimes academic reading or writing is so “messy” that I don’t know what to do, but with the machines in the theater, usually when you flip one switch there will be one reaction, simple and clear.
|SEAS: Have you been to Southeast Asia? What cities/countries have you visited, and what were your impressions?|
|HNC: I have been only to Malaysia and Singapore, and I just traveled there during this past winter break. For most of my trip, I stayed in Kuala Lumpur (KL). The diversity of that city amazed me. In KL, you see people from various religious, cultural, ethnic and national backgrounds. I have never experienced that before. The Azan (Islamic call to prayer) in the air was another vivid new experience. During that time, I felt that I was “soaked” in something that I never known before.
I went to Malaysia to learn Malay language and to try to talk to some video and filmmakers whose work relates to my thesis research. I found that these video and filmmakers are so friendly
| and willing to meet with me. At the same time, they are so sharp and smart in reacting to my questions. If they disagree with my point of view, they are not shy to point that out.
|SEAS: What are your plans for the future? What would you like to see yourself doing five or ten years from now?
HNC: I am not sure. I have applied for several Ph.D. programs during the past couple of months and I am waiting for replies. My goal is to keep learning academically and practically (in theater). My dream is that I will be able to do something related to both theory and applied practice.
|SEAS: What is your least favorite thing about Athens? What is your favorite?
HNC: My least favorite thing about Athens is seeing people waste stuff, especially when I always hear news about OHIO’s budget cuts. My favorite thing about Athens is the seasonal changes here. I didn’t get to experience such clear change of seasons back in Taiwan.
SEAS: If you could leave us with one final thought or impression, what would it be? Hsin-ning the filmmaker? Hsin-ning the researcher? Something else?
Center for Southeast Asian Studies
Yamada International House, 56 E. Union Street, Athens OH 45701 (740) 593-1840