Political science student wins scholarship to study in China

Ethan Paul will leave in September for a year in China. Credit: Sean Yoder/Penn StateAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ethan Paul said it was the responsibility of all Americans to better understand China as the global economy evolves.

Paul, a senior graduating in May, will get firsthand experience of and a complete immersion in Chinese culture as he takes advantage of a scholarship to study at Yenching Academy of Peking University in Beijing.

“For generations, Americans have been accustomed to being ‘on top’ in geopolitics and the global economy,” Paul said. “I believe that China's economic and political rise represents a new era where we will see — and already have seen — China challenge the United States, something that most Americans are neither prepared for or even necessarily aware of.”

Yenching Academy offers an English-language master’s degree program in China Studies. Scholars pick between one of six academic concentrations and take Chinese language training.

Paul will be studying politics and international relations at Yenching Academy. He said he hopes the knowledge and skills acquired will shed light on how to make the relationship between the U.S. and China “mutually beneficial, and [make sure] at the very least [it] does not result in a conflict between our two countries.”

The Hanover native will leave for China in September and spend at least a year in Beijing. He said many students in the program opt to continue for another year in order to finish and defend their thesis.

“Ethan has had a remarkably active undergraduate career and applied to a number of fellowships over the years,” said Caitlin Ting, interim director of the University Fellowships Office. “We are thrilled that his accomplishments are now being recognized by Yenching Academy of Peking University and we hope that Ethan’s successes inspire other Penn State students to consider international post-graduate opportunities.”

Paul is also a Schreyer Scholar and Paterno Fellow. He is president of Pi Sigma Alpha, the National Political Science Honor Society; a previous politics editor with The Underground; and currently works in communications for Marc Friedenberg’s 5th congressional district campaign.

Paul noted that his senior honors thesis “examines what the outcomes of the U.S.-China power transition will be, and offers recommendations for U.S. foreign policy to ensure that the transition is both peaceful and beneficial for the United States.”

This won’t be Paul’s first stint in China. He spent two weeks there in summer 2016. He said he hopes to hone his knowledge of the language and is currently in his fourth semester of Mandarin language class.

Nervous isn’t quite the right descriptor of how he feels about living abroad for a year by himself, he said. He described it as more a nervous excitement, the same feeling he had when he first started at Penn State.

To learn more about scholarships and fellowships opportunities, visit the University Fellowships Office website. The University Fellowships Office is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at

Last Updated February 13, 2018