As one of the first Phillips Ambassadors, Schaffernoth went to China for three months in 2007 before his senior year at UNC. He said the experience was so impactful, it inspired him to apply for the grant to recreate it for his fellow marines.
“As part of (my trip), I was able to stay with a host family for a short period of time,” Schaffernoth said. “I learned more from living with that host family for five days than I did from walking around as a foreigner and trying to speak the language on my own, and just realizing how impactful that experience was stayed with me.”
In November 2016, Schaffernoth was selected among four others as a Phillips Ambassador Scholar for the 10th anniversary of the program. This specific scholarship allowed alumni to design a project proposal and upon selection, receive funding for their Asia-based project.
“Typically, the guys who enlist in the Marine Corps enlist right out of high school and never get a chance to do something like this,” Schaffernoth said. “Really what the Phillips Ambassador grant has allowed us to do is create a miniature study abroad experience for these five guys who would never have the opportunity to do this any other way.”
Schaffernoth said the long-term plan for the project is for the Marines to come back to their units and share their experiences.
Janet Walters, program manager of the Phillips Ambassadors program, said Schaffernoth has remained engaged with the program even though he has graduated and become a part of the marines.
“I think the committee felt that Adam’s proposal really embodied the spirit of the award and of the Phillips Ambassadors program as a whole, especially in the sense of giving back to one’s community,” Walters said. “He really does share the experience and share his experience as a Phillips Ambassador with fellow marines who are now in Japan, so we think it has great potential to be transformative in the lives of those who he has recruited to be a part of the program.”
Lance Corporal Robert Waterman was one of the five marines who got to study in Japan as part of Schaffernoth’s project. He said his brief stay in Tokyo has been an experience of a lifetime.
“Many times people will visit a different country and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city and do the touristy activities, and I feel that I’ve been immersed into Japanese culture,” Waterman said.
Waterman said he gained a respect for the Japanese culture that he wouldn’t have if he hadn’t stayed in a host family’s home.
“Every day I looked forward to going home and sitting down to a delicious meal, swapping stories and playing with one of the most adorable two-year-olds I’ve ever met,” he said.