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Byron Meinerth ’09 changing a tire while on a road trip to Zhejiang province, China.

Byron Meinerth ’09 graduated with a double major in international studies and Spanish, so it’s not surprising to find him studying and working abroad. But in China?

“East Asia is the most dynamic place in the entire world right now,” Meinerth said in a recent Skype interview. “But, more important than that, I was looking for a challenge.”

After teaching English in China for more than a year, Meinerth began a graduate certificate program in Chinese and American studies from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, a collaboration between Johns Hopkins and Nanjing universities located in downtown Nanjing.

Then, deciding the certificate program wasn’t intensive enough, he transferred into the master of arts in international studies program, where 80 percent of his classes are conducted in Chinese. “I had only spent a couple years in China at that point,” he said. “I realized that if I really wanted to understand East Asia, especially China, I needed to spend more time here.”

After three years in China, he will graduate in June with an economics concentration. Aiming for professional and academic fluency, he will take the Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK), Level 6, in April.

Funded by the prestigious Boren Fellowship, Meinerth spent this year researching economic incentives surrounding Central American countries’ political recognition of Taiwan. He hopes to fulfill the fellowship’s government service requirement through U.S. military service.

His master’s thesis topic aligns with his passion: clean energy and transportation. “I’m still optimistic enough to believe that decreasing our carbon-intensivity is possible with the right amount of commitment and financial backing,” he wrote in an e-mail.

To Meinerth, East and Southeast Asian countries, which are often manufacturing hubs, have the most to gain from installing cleaner energy and increasing efficiency.

Despite the intensive academic commitment, Meinerth, a member of the cycling team and a leader of the Outing Club at Colby, hasn’t neglected adventuring. Since graduating, he has led Overland Summers outdoor trips in Costa Rica and Peru. He also led a dozen students on an Overland bicycle trip from Georgia to California in the summer of 2012.

This winter he was planning to climb a mountain that he said has no previously recorded ascents and that locals consider too dangerous to climb. Weeks later, Meinerth wrote that the mountain was, thus far, too snow-covered and remote. “I’ll be back out there soon enough though,” he vowed. “I can’t be held back too long.”

—Lauren Pongan ’09