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Four alumni and one senior selected as Fulbright finalists

April 27, 2020

University of North Georgia (UNG) alumna Madelyn Beacham wants to attend graduate school in Turkey. UNG senior Candace Seabolt wants to step out of her comfort zone and into a foreign country. UNG alumnus Bernhard "Benny" Purk wants a cultural teaching experience to help determine his career path.

Their dreams have turned into reality. The trio along with two alumnae Karley Mathews and Emile Phommavongsy have been selected as finalists for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. The highly competitive and prestigious program enables graduates to pursue research activities, become English Teaching Assistants, or enroll in graduate school.

UNG's five Fulbright finalists are:

Fulbright also selected two alternates from UNG's 11 semifinalists. They include:

"Once again, UNG students have demonstrated our commitment to excellence and leadership, especially in a global context, said Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant vice president of research and engagement. "I remain very impressed by each of this year's outstanding applicants, and I look forward to watching our students support the Fulbright mission of mutual understanding while abroad."

Lin pointed out a few firsts among the Fulbright finalists. Beacham is the first UNG student to be awarded the scholarship for graduate school. The grant will pay for her tuition and living expenses.

Seabolt and Nash are the first two students who started their collegiate careers on UNG's Blue Ridge and Oconee campuses, respectively. Seabolt is also the first Blue Ridge Scholar to earn a Fulbright scholarship.

"I thought, 'Oh my goodness. This is really happening. I am going to be in another country for 11 months,'" said Seabolt, who has lived in Blue Ridge for most of her life. "Now, I am showing younger people that there is more to life than being in a small town and that we can step out of our comfort zone."

Purk, however, will feel right at home in Germany. The 22-year-old's mother was born there and he has traveled there several times to visit family and friends for a few months. Now, Purk is looking forward to the nearly yearlong stay, especially since he didn't win the Fulbright scholarship last year.

"After being disappointed last time, it is amazing to achieve this goal at the right time," Purk said. "Fulbright is a great step in the right direction for me. And if I enjoy the teaching experience, I may try it for another year."

Phommavongsy is looking forward to immersing herself in the Laotian culture. The Lao-American said she has never been to the country that her parents called home.

"Winning this scholarship is like a calling to home," Phommavongsy said. "I get to finally immerse myself with my parents' beautiful language, culture and rich history. Overall, I am super excited to connect with the community."

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