Phillips Ambassador T.J. Turner ’20 and some of his Korean and Japanese friends visit Shiba Park near Tokyo Tower.
T.J. Turner ’20, an Asian studies and chemistry major from Kernersville, North Carolina, spent the spring semester of his junior year studying in Japan through the Phillips Ambassadors Program. T.J. wants to become an aerospace physician — or “space doctor,” as he likes to call it — and anticipates working with researchers and scientific colleagues from all over the world.
“The Phillips Ambassadors Program provided me with the opportunity to become proficient in Japanese at one of Japan’s most prestigious universities, and I learned how to better approach acquiring a new language,” noted T.J.
Phillips Ambassador T.J. Turner ’20 attended classes in Japanese language and traditional painting at Keio University in Tokyo.
Founded in 2007 by Ambassador Earl N. “Phil” Phillips Jr. and his family, the Phillips Ambassadors Program is one of UNC-Chapel Hill’s most flexible scholarships for undergraduate study abroad in Asia.
Each ambassador receives a financial award of $5,000, takes academic courses and has the opportunity to share their experience with the Carolina community.
“The program is much more than a scholarship — it is a community that truly loves to see its alumni continually engaging with Asia in new and novel ways,” added T.J.
Phillips Ambassadors are chosen based on a range of criteria, including strong communication skills, intellectual curiosity, academic achievement, evidence of generous service on campus and in their community, and previous record of leadership.
Alaina Plauche ’21 was the first Phillips Ambassador to study abroad and intern in Bhutan.
Wilmington, North Carolina, native Alaina Plauche ’21, a public policy major, embodies these characteristics. Alaina was the first Phillips Ambassador to study and intern in Bhutan. She became interested in the South Asian country when she learned about its Gross National Happiness philosophy and net carbon negative status in her public policy and environmental classes at Carolina.
“When I saw that this was a country I could visit as a Phillips Ambassador, I got so excited,” she shared.
While in Bhutan, Alaina took an introductory Dzongkha language class and courses on water resource management and the political history of Bhutan — all while interning with a local nonprofit.
At her internship, she worked with former members of the Parliament of Bhutan in researching public policy and encouraging community involvement in government.
Alaina’s experience in Bhutan mirrors her career goals: to work with local governments and communities, “potentially in an international setting,” she said. The experience has broadened her world view and contributed to her studies back home.
“I feel that I can provide a more interesting and unique perspective to class discussions and my academic work.”