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Fortune Favors the Alternate: Lilly Thompson Goes from Backup to Breakthrough

‘Alternate’ is a lucky word for Lilly Thompson.

The Honors College Scholar in International Studies from Atlanta plans to attend graduate school in international policy next fall, but that could change in a heartbeat. 

Thompson is a semifinalist for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and was recently notified that she has been upgraded to an alternate. The same thing happened when she applied for an internship with the State Department last summer and made it in as an alternate. So, for Thompson, ‘alternate’ has been lucky for her in the past. 

“I made so many wonderful connections at the State Department,” she said. “I would just email people that I found, like a Foreign Service officer that I was interested in talking to. I’d email them and have coffee with them. It was great to make those connections because the people at State were all so friendly and helpful. And they were like, ‘Yeah, if you ever need something, email me, I would love to help you.’”

Her experience at the State Department was just one of the things that Thompson loved about Georgia Southern; another was its Model United Nations program.

“One of the reasons I decided to go to Georgia Southern for college is because Georgia Southern has a really prestigious Model United Nations program,” said Thompson. “It’s one of the best in the world, and we consistently outperform others at the New York competition.”

Model U.N. has taught Thompson skills she could not find easily elsewhere. 

“When I joined the Model United Nations team, it changed my college career,” she said. “I’ve made so many friends from this experience. I’ve learned so much about public speaking, critical thinking and analysis skills, interacting with other people, conflict management, compromise and negotiation skills. I’ve ended up this year being head delegate. Those types of things have helped me, especially for my future career.”

The Model U.N. program as well as Thompson’s experience studying a semester abroad in the Czech Republic drove her research interest in the Baltic States for her Honors Thesis. It is also why she applied to the Fulbright for research in Latvia, because of her visit there during her study abroad experience.

“My thesis is titled, ‘Examining Populist Political Parties in the Baltic States,’” explained Thompson. “Essentially I’m looking at what variables contribute to populist success in those three countries: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.”

Thompson is being mentored for her thesis by Jacek Lubecki, Ph.D. professor in the International Studies and Political Science Department, but counts many of her other professors as mentors as well.

“The professors here have been so amazing and helpful,” said Thompson. “Dr. Scalera, I don’t think I would have been able to make it through college without her, and some of the other professors like Dr. Biebuyck and Dr. Balleck made their courses so interesting.”

Thompson says her education at Georgia Southern has been world-class. Her experiences with the Model U.N. team helped her get the State Department internship, and the Honors College helped her in every way.

Whether it’s graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, Boston University, the University of Georgia — or if she ends up in Latvia with the Fulbright, Thompson is sure she’ll be a successful alternate somewhere, and that’s just great with her.

UPDATE: Lilly Thompson was moved off the alternate list and selected for a Fulbright U.S. Student Grant for study and research in Latvia.

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Posted in Graduate Stories, Press Releases