UA student earns State Department scholarship to study in China


Ben Nypaver in China

Senior economics major Benjamin Nypaver standing on the Great Wall during his first trip to study in China in 2012.

The University of Akron’s Benjamin Nypaver, a senior economics major, will spend two months in Guangzhou, China, as one of the 550 national recipients of the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship.

The scholarship, intended to increase the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Russian, provides fully funded, group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences.

Nypaver, who is in the Honors College, will leave for China on June 13. He is one of the 20 students nationwide selected to take courses in Mandarin from Chinese instructors in Guangzhou.

Increased marketability

“Knowing Chinese languages is very useful in our global economy,” Nypaver says. “It definitely makes me more marketable to be able to go abroad for companies and negotiate.”

Nypaver, who could neither speak nor read a word of Mandarin before taking courses as a freshman, proved a quick study, attributing his success with the tonal language to his musical background.

“I’m good at mimicking sounds and have a good ear for tone, which I attribute to my years playing piano, saxophone and woodwinds,” he says.

But more than anything, Nypaver credits his 10-month stay in 2012 in Kaifeng, China, through UA’s Confucius Institute study abroad program, an experience that taught him about much more than language.

Benefits of studying abroad

“You learn so much, not just about the country and language, but about yourself,” he says. “You learn to adapt and react. And you gain a lot of confidence. If you can deal with being dropped in another country, and having to learn to another language, then everything here seems easier. I can’t stress enough how glad I am that I did this. I had to delay graduation a year, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”

Each year the Confucius Institute, a partnership between UA and Henan University in China, offers Chinese language and culture immersion trips to Kaifeng. It also hosts “China Week” each fall, a celebration of diverse aspects of Chinese culture.

“There are so many great opportunities offered by the Confucius Institute,” Nypaver says, “which students don’t seem to be aware of. I encourage everyone to study abroad. I think the University should make it mandatory, in fact.”

 Story by Nicholas Nussen

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