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Photo of Chelsea Kerbaugh

ABERDEEN, S.D. – After Chelsea Kerbaugh traveled to China on the Northern State University 2013 band tour, she knew she wanted to return to Asia someday.

“I fell in love with that area of the world,” said Kerbaugh, a recent NSU graduate.

Now, Kerbaugh is going back – this time, as the recipient of a prestigious J. William Fulbright Scholarship. Kerbaugh will be an English teaching assistant in Vietnam from August through June 2016. She is the first NSU student to receive a grant from the Fulbright program, a U.S. government-sponsored scholarship program that promotes international educational exchange.

Kerbaugh will find out her exact teaching location soon, but will first start out in Hanoi for a month of orientation. The Harwood, N.D., native said she’s excited to experience a part of the world that a lot of people from the Midwest haven’t visited.

“I’m looking forward to just experiencing a new culture and being immersed in it for 10 months,” she said.

Kerbaugh, 23, graduated from NSU in December 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in instrumental and vocal music education. Last semester, she taught elementary and middle school music for the Warner School District.

Excited for international teaching

While she is looking forward to experiencing the culture in Vietnam, she’s also excited for the international teaching portion.

“This is the launching pad for my career in international education,” she said.

She has wanted to teach overseas since she went to Spain on a school trip at age 17. She looks forward to being around people who have a different culture and language, but who share the same passion for education and learning through cultural differences.

“I think we have a lot to learn from international education, and I think more people should be looking into the benefits it provides society with,” Kerbaugh said.

It unifies people of different nations, and that’s the purpose of the Fulbright program, she said – promoting the United States’ relationships with other countries.

Encouraged by faculty member

Kerbaugh applied for the Fulbright opportunity while still a student at NSU, after taking a course with NSU’s Dr. Alyssa Anderson, assistant professor of biology and one of the Fulbright scholars among the Northern faculty.

Anderson said she could tell Kerbaugh was enthusiastic, motivated, driven and personable. With those qualities, along with her career goals, she seemed like the ideal candidate for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program. She’s confident Kerbaugh will embrace this opportunity and take advantage of all the experience has to offer. The program is much more than the primary teaching or research obligations.

“It’s about becoming part of the society of the host country – sharing perspectives from our culture and bringing back and relaying experiences from the host country are central to the success of the Fulbright program,” Anderson said.

‘One of the greatest things I have done’

Anderson received her Fulbright research grant as a graduate student, traveling to Norway to study at the Norwegian Institute of Science and Technology. There, she was able to expand her graduate research and learn new skills, including DNA barcoding and morphological taxonomic techniques that allowed her to describe three new insect species.

“The experience was incredible and ended up being one of the greatest things I have done – I ended up loving the research and I made so many new friends and connections, and got to experience so much more of the world,” Anderson said. “Most importantly, I tested my limits and developed a much stronger confidence in my abilities – I hope Chelsea can say the same when she comes back to the States.”