Nearing the halfway point in his Fulbright year, Ryan Etzcorn (M.A. Public Policy; Asian Studies ‘16) is pleased with the progress he’s made while in China. For nearly five months, Ryan has been researching social and economic transformations facing the country’s civil society, with a focus on the Guangdong Province. He’s hoping to “better understand the ways that quasi-governmental organizations behave as intermediary channels and gatekeepers for funding and social control.” Although the bulk of the work is centered in Guangzhou, he’s been able to visit Shenzhen—expanding his comparative research between the two cities.

The remaining time in country will be spent processing the rapid societal changes occurring in China and looking for opportunities to introduce the global significance to a wider, Western audience—helping Ryan achieve his career goal of “becoming a leader in sustaining and expanding direct interactions between Chinese and American citizens, beyond the narratives provided by their governments and media.”

Although the months have gone by quickly, they’ve been significant. The most impactful experience he’s had relates to his research and his integration into several WeChat groups that are populated with social, business, and government leaders of all age groups who are all seeking innovative solutions to social problems.

Despite current tensions between the United States and China, Ryan continues to be amazed by the openness and warm welcomes he’s received in South China— “a stark contrast to what is often portrayed in U.S. mass media,” he says.  

His best advice for those interested in applying to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program: get feedback, early and often. “Don’t be afraid to write a draft [of the Statement of Grant Purpose] and have faculty advisors, Fulbright advisors, and peers give feedback.”