Summer internships and study abroad in China provide rich student experiences

Andrew Kleit
September 01, 2016

Getting a summer internship is a great way to gain real-world work experience. Securing an internship with the largest petroleum company in China would be even better. And that is what Penn State students got the chance to do this summer through Penn State’s Energy Business and Finance (EBF) program.

Through internships with Dalian Petrochemical, a subsidiary of PetroChina -  China’s biggest oil and gas producer - Penn State students had the opportunity to learn first-hand about the petrochemical industry.

Located in the port city of Dalian in Liaoning Province on China’s beautiful northeast Pacific coast, Dalian Petrochemical is one of PetroChina’s main refineries. As part of the internship, each student was paired with a mentor from Dalian Petrochemical and given a specific project to work on.

Taylor Clayton, a junior in EBF, was assigned the task of evaluating the impact of PetroChina meeting U.S. regulatory requirements, using the company’s internal capital cost estimator. 

“This internship gave me the chance to put into practice what I have learned from my studies in the EBF program,” said Clayton. “The PetroChina internship has opened my eyes to the inner workings of a petroleum company. This internship provides a valuable set of experiences for anybody participating in it. I also had a great opportunity to learn from my PetroChina mentor.”

The internships are part of a summer study abroad program offered by the EBF program in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering. EBF partnered with the Dalian University of Technology (DUT) to produce the six-week study abroad program focusing on how China is dealing with the energy and environmental challenges caused by the growth of the Chinese economy.

This is the third consecutive summer that the EBF study abroad program took students to DUT and this summer’s cohort of six students indicated they had a great time in China. 

“Everyone was so nice – from the DUT staff, to the DUT faculty, to the DUT students and all the people we met during our travels,” said Nur Hafid Mohadi, a senior in EBF. “This has been a truly wonderful experience.”

Studies at DUT

Students took two challenging three-credit classes at DUT: Chinese economic history and Chinese environmental policy, taught by DUT resident faculty. 

“I usually don’t find history interesting,” said Yubaihe Zhou, who is majoring in statistics. “But since 1949, with the cultural revolution and the market reformation, the course of China’s economy has been fascinating.” 

In discussing China’s tradeoff between economic growth and protecting the environment, Xiangzun Leo Wang, a sophomore in chemistry, said that “it looks like China is really trying to deal with its environmental challenges.”

Students learn calligraphy

In addition to their courses, Penn State students in the Dalian University of Technology summer study abroad program were able to learn calligraphy. Left to right: Xiangxun Leo Wang, calligraphy instructor, Fatin Nor Azizi, Nur Hafid Mohadi, and Yiyi Chen with Taylor Clayton looking on.

IMAGE: Penn State

Students also were able to take classes in Chinese calligraphy, cooking and martial arts. 

“It was so much fun to see how beautiful calligraphy can be,” said Fatin Nor Azizi, a senior in anthropology.

Chance to experience China’s culture

Students in the Penn State program also had the opportunity to visit other parts of China.  In May, they visited Shenyang, the provincial capital and largest city of Liaoning Province, which is a three-hour bullet train ride north of Dalian. There, they toured Mukden Palace, the imperial palace of the early Qing dynasty and a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.  The Mukden Palace is the site of the original Forbidden City, predating the Forbidden City in Beijing by 20 years.

Student visit the Great Buddha of Leshan in China

Students in Penn State’s Dalian University of Technology summer study abroad program were able to learn about China’s cultural history. The group visited the Grand Buddha of Leshan Chengdu in southwest China. Front: Yubaihe Zhou; second row: Yiyi Chen and Taylor Clayton; third row: Andrew Kleit, Nur Hafid Mohadi, and Fatin Nor Azizi; back row: Chinese tourist and Xiangxun Leo Wang.

IMAGE: Penn State

In June, Andrew Kleit, professor of energy and environmental economics and director of EBF’s Energy Land Management option, joined the Penn State students and Du Lao Ban, study abroad coordinator at DUT, on the visit to Chengdu in southwest China.

Out of many cities in China, the students chose to visit Chengdu because there are two significant sights to see in the area. The first is the Grand Buddha of Leshan, another UNESCO World Heritage site, and the second is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. 

The Grand Buddha of Leshan is a 233-foot tall stone statue completed in the year 830. It is carved out of a cliff face that lies at the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers. It is the largest stone Buddha in the world and it is the tallest pre-modern statue in the world. 

“This place is truly amazing,” said Yiyi Chen, a junior in EBF. “It helps me to understand who the Buddha was.” 

Kleit, who in 2015 was appointed a “Hai-Tian” (Sea-Sky) Scholar by DUT in recognition of his contributions in the areas of energy and environmental economics, said, “Probably the best part for me was when I overcame my dislike of water-borne craft and hopped in a speedboat with the Penn State group. With the wind blowing through my scalp, we dashed up the river right up to the base of the Buddha. The students then let me be part of their group selfie, a first for me.”

The students also got a chance to visit the world’s largest collection of pandas at the Chengdu Panda Base, whose stated goals are the “preservation of endangered wildlife, integrating scientific research and breeding of giant pandas, conservation education, tourism education and panda cultural events.”

“These animals are cute. I think I am spoiled for all other zoos,” Zhou said.

Kleit said, “For me, the best part was my eyeball to eyeball standoff with a rare red panda.  I suspect the panda won the contest.”

About the EBF summer DUT study abroad program

Summer 2014 marked the launch of the DUT study abroad program, which takes advantage of a strong collaborative relationship between Penn State and DUT that started in 2009. Due to DUT's excellence in engineering and energy and environment research, Penn State has established close ties with DUT through the development of the Penn State and DUT Joint Center for Energy Research (JCER), which facilitates collaborative research ventures in technology and energy sciences and promotes the exchange of faculty and students.

The Dalian summer program is open to all Penn State students. U.S. students are also eligible for a $600 living stipend from the Sino-American Humanities Exchange Program. For more information, visit online.

If you are interested in having your own China adventure in the summer of 2017, together with an internship at one of the largest oil companies in the world, contact Professor Kleit at

The Energy Business and Finance program is offered jointly by the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and the Smeal College of Business and combines training in business, economics, finance, and the physical sciences with a core of courses focusing on energy and related industries. 

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Last Updated September 01, 2016