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UNG students win Freeman-ASIA and Gilman scholarships to study abroad

Jonathan Lomas, a sophomore from Gainesville, Georgia, majoring in engineering, did not think he would ever be able to study abroad. But he won two scholarships — the Freeman-ASIA and the Benjamin A. Gilman International scholarship — to spend nine weeks in Japan.

Growing up with two older brothers, University of North Georgia (UNG) junior Caroline Frank was accustomed to watching the anime television show "Pokemon." Something about it stuck with her.

"I liked the show and the animation. I was drawn to it," said Frank, who is majoring in studio art with a concentration in graphic design. "I watched more anime as I got older and really liked the Japanese culture."

Now, the 21-year-old from Cumming, Georgia, will experience the Japanese culture first-hand as one of seven UNG students awarded the Freeman-ASIA scholarships. She will spend nine weeks in Japan this summer. She and eight other UNG students going to study in Japan have received additional funds to cover their airfare thanks to a 2016 grant from the Japan Foundation.

"I hope the experience will make me more culturally aware," Frank said, who, like the other six recipients, will receive $3,000 to study in Asia. "I hope it will increase my communication skills in the language and I hope I will become a more well-rounded person."

The Freeman-ASIA scholarship supports U.S.-based undergraduates with demonstrated financial need to study abroad in East or Southeast Asia. The goal is to increase the number of U.S. citizens and permanent residents with first-hand exposure to and understanding of Asia and its peoples and cultures.

Jonathan Lomas, a sophomore from Gainesville, Georgia, majoring in engineering, said he would never have been able to travel overseas without the Freeman-ASIA scholarship.

"I've always wanted to go to a different country … because it would be a fun experience to learn a new language and learn about a culture that I didn't know about," Lomas said. "The appeal of this program was it paid for the airfare and almost everything, except for my meals."

Lomas, who also is going to Japan, chose the option of staying with a host family instead of living in a residence hall at a college.

"When you are with a family, you can observe how they act, eat and talk to each other. I wanted to see that for myself and participate in it," he said.

Two other UNG students heading to Japan this summer will be Tiffany Bell Hostetter, a junior from Dahlonega, Georgia, majoring in East Asian studies; and Aubrey Rost, a senior from Statesboro, Georgia, majoring in history education.

"I want to move to Japan after I graduate," Hostetter said. "This will be a trial run."


Tiffany Bell Hostetter, a junior from Dahlonega, Georgia, majoring in East Asian studies, earned a Freeman-ASIA scholarship. She will spend the summer studying in Japan.

The three remaining Freeman-ASIA scholarship winners are Ariel Rembert, Josh Shepherd and Samuel "Sam" Thirakoune. All three are part of the Chinese Flagship Program at UNG and have received an additional $1,600 from the Huayu Enrichment Scholarship sponsored by the Taiwanese Ministry of Education. They are headed to Taiwan for eight weeks.

Thirakoune, a junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, majoring in Chinese and anthropology, is looking forward to returning to Asia after visiting family there. The 21-year-old's family emigrated from Laos, which is west of Taiwan.

"I am a language major and don't have much exposure to practice it other than in class," said Thirakoune, who is fluent in English, Thai and Lao. "If I was to use the Chinese language in my career, I need to be at a high-proficient level. Being there in Taiwan, I will use it every day."


Samuel "Sam" Thirakoune, a junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, majoring in Chinese and anthropology, earned three scholarships to study abroad in Taiwan this summer. They were the Freeman-ASIA,  Benjamin A. Gilman International and Huayu Enrichment Scholarship scholarships.

Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant vice president of research and engagement and associate professor of English at UNG, said having seven students selected for the Freeman-ASIA program marks an increase for UNG.

"The increase in our numbers is due in large part to coordination with the Center for Global Engagement’s study abroad advisors and Daniela Martinez in the Chinese Flagship Program," Lin said. “It also reflects our students' continued commitment to internationalizing their studies to better understand our globalized world.”

In addition to the Freeman-ASIA winners, seven UNG students were notified of winning the Benjamin A. Gilman International scholarships for the summer semester plus two alternates. They are:

  • Riane Hood received $4,000 to study in Morocco
  • Lacey Walden received $3,000 to study in Costa Rica
  • Jonathan Lomas received $6,500 to study in Japan
  • Edwin Thomas received $3,500 to study in China
  • Janae Jackson received $3,000 to study in South Korea
  • Samuel Thirakoune received $4,000 to study in Taiwan
  • Esteban Reyes received $3,500 to study in Argentina
  • Ivan Baquerizo is an alternate; he hopes to study in Peru
  • Katherine Torres is an alternate; she hopes to study in Ireland

The Gilman is open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who receive Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university to participate in study and intern abroad programs worldwide. Lin explained the scholarship is unique because it is geared toward supporting students who are underrepresented in study abroad programs.

UNG has been named as one of the top-producing schools of the Gilman scholarships by the U.S. Department of State. UNG is No. 3 on the list among large public and private schools with more than 15,000 students in Georgia for the 2016-17 academic year.

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