Bryan Cronan ('14C)
Award: Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship - Malaysia
Award Supported: One-year English teaching placement in Malaysia
Undergraduate major(s): International Studies; Journalism (highest honors)
Currently: Completing Fulbright ETA in Malaysia
While at Emory, Bryan was an intern at the AJC, WonderRoot, Creative Loafing, and Atlanta Magazine, and received the William D. Krahling Excellence in Journalism Scholarship. Bryan was on the varsity Cross Country, Track and Field, and Indoor Track and Field teams, and was active with Students for a Free Tibet, Alpha Tau Omega, and Amnesty International.
Q: What experiences at Emory prepared you for the Fulbright?
A: Emory’s liberal arts education allowed me to explore my interests fully. For example, I became very interested in Hinduism during my freshman year, so I took a class in Hinduism. The things I learned in that class have allowed me to connect easily and understand the large Hindu community in Malaysia. I ran cross country for Emory, and have been able to use running to connect with people in my host community in Malaysia.
Q: What memorable or interesting things happened during your Fulbright year?
A: I’ve been doing a lot of work with the Orang Asli community. Organ Aslis are the native people of Malaysia, probably best known for the blowguns they use to hunt. In Malaysia, the Organ Asli community is poor and disenfranchised. When I first arrived at the school I teach at, the Organ Asli students could barely speak and would run away when they saw me coming down the hall. Slowly, and with a lot of persistence, I’ve gotten them to open up. Trying to help empower the Orang Asli community has been a life-changing experience. As they’ve opened up to me, I’ve begun to learn about what plants they use for medicine, their ancient hunting techniques, and the oral history they’ve passed down for hundreds of years. It is these types of experiences that make Fulbright so special.
Q: How did the Fulbright impact your academic/ career path?
A: Fulbright has given me the opportunity to consider whether I truly want to pursue a career in international policy. A lot of foreign policy involves creating connections across countries through public diplomacy, which is one of Fulbright’s main objectives. This is the part of the ETA I find most interesting. I am able to build friendships with people in my community and learn more about Malaysia while also sharing the culture of the United States. Fulbright has made me realize that I want to pursue a career where I can continue to cultivate a mutual understanding between countries through people’s personal connections.
Q: What advice would you give current Fulbright applicants?
A: I think applicants should know that Fulbright is different from a study abroad experience. During my study abroad experience, I lived in a city and went to classes with American students. In Malaysia, I am in a small rural area, and the closest Fulbrighters are an hour from me. Through Fulbright, I truly live and work with the local community, which can be challenging but also very exciting. And, although teaching is a lot of fun and rewarding, it takes a lot of work and energy. If you’re up to the challenge, Fulbright is a life-changing year, filled with exciting opportunities and wonderful memories.