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Pine native surprised to earn Fulbright scholarship

| Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
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Holly Belkot, 22, celebrates graduation with her mom, Dana, and dad, Kenwyn.

China-bound after winning a Fulbright scholarship is Holly Belkot, 22, of Pine, a new graduate of Susquehanna University in Snyder County.

“I had no expectation of actually receiving it,” Belkot said. “So it's kind of a surprise.”

“I get a living stipend and housing,” she said about the prestigious federal grant. “My understanding is that it's about $30,000 or $40,000.”

The Council for International Exchange of Scholars, or CIES, helps administer the Fulbright Scholar Program on behalf of the U.S. Department of State.

In 1945, Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas proposed the program to Congress after World War II to advance “mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries of the world,” according to the program's online site.

Belkot, who studied Mandarin Chinese as a Pine-Richland High School student, expects to teach English at the University of St. Joseph in Macau, a former Portuguese colony on the South China Sea.

“It's a perfect assignment for her,” said social-studies teacher Matt Roberts of Pine-Richland High School.

Belkot, a 2009 Pine-Richand graduate, credits Roberts for nurturing her interest in foreign affairs.

“Holly was always an excellent student,” said Roberts. “I knew she was going to do great things.”

Belkot will go to Macau in early August and spend 11 months in the seaport's tropical climate.

She also expects to organize cultural programs and perhaps do research on Macau as a microcosm of globalization.

“Holly is a very involved, conscientious, creative, and intelligent student of life,” said Catherine Cymone Fourshey of Susquehanna University, associate professor of history and faculty coordinator for postgraduate opportunities.

“She is concerned not only about her own personal interests but also the global community and making a positive impact on society,” Fourshey said.

Belkot applied for her Fulbright scholarship at the urging of Fourshey.

Belkot also credits her parents — Kenwyn and Dana Belkot of Pine — with fostering her yen for globe-trotting.

“They've never been afraid to travel, even when we were younger,” said Belkot, who has two older brothers.

“I think that really lit the fire for me.”

As a 10-year-old child, Belkot visited Central America on a family mission trip to rural Honduras.

Two years ago, Belkot spent five months in Gambia on the west coast of Africa to fulfill a Susquehanna University requirement for study abroad.

“I've been to Senegal. I've been to a lot of Western Europe — France, Spain and Portugal. I've been to Moldavia,” said Belkot, who has not been to China.

Belkot said her experience with global travel helped her gain a Fulbright scholarship.

“Essentially you're getting thrown into a different culture, a different place and a job,” she said. “You kind of just have to be ready to adapt, and I think that's what traveling has done for me.”

But Belkot described herself as a less than fluent when it comes to speaking Chinese. “I'm not very good at it, but I can,” she said.

“I actually don't consider myself too adept at learning new languages, which is kind of ironic,” Belkot said. “But I pick up languages pretty well when I'm in the places where they're spoken.”

At Pine-Richland High School, Belkot was president of the service-oriented Key Club.

At Susquehanna University, Belkot majored in history and international relations.

She claims no musical talent or athletic pursuits.

“I'm kind of just a big reader and a big nerd,” she said. My big thing in college was service ... I organized service trips and participated in service learning. “

Career-wise, Belkot said, she ultimately aspires to work oversees and help women gain access to banking, education and trades in developing nations.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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