Senior to learn and teach language in Taiwan

Robert Bryant will be traveling to Taiwan to continue learning Mandarin and teaching English.

Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Robert Bryant won both the Critical Language Scholarship and Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Robert Bryant has always been interested in other languages because he grew up surrounded by both Japanese and Italian culture. He started to learn Spanish in middle school and he enjoyed studying the language and wanted to continue learning.  

“I took the opportunity to learn Spanish and I continued that all the way till college and I knew one, that I was really curious about other languages, not just Spanish, and two, if I wanted to be competitive in this international field, I would have to know more than just Spanish,” said Bryant, a senior Spanish and communication studies major.

Bryant began learning Mandarin Chinese during his freshman year of college and he will be traveling to Taiwan to continue his journey after graduation. This summer, Bryant will be participating in the Critical Language Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. After the six- to eight-week program, Bryant will be staying in Taiwan as a part of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program where he will be placed in a local school. 

He was first accepted to CLS, an immersive program for American students learning other languages, in the last spring but did not initially pursue it because the program was virtual. Instead, he spent the summer studying at the National Taiwan University as a part of an in-person exchange program through Temple.

When applying last fall, Bryant did not expect to receive both the CLS and Fulbright ETA scholarships but he applied to both to increase his chances of winning one.

“I was like, ‘No, I’m going to try to see how many possibilities, to see how many chances I have, and I’ll apply to all of them, and if I get one, that’s great, if I get two, that’s crazy,’” Bryant said.

When Bryant heard he was a semifinalist for both awards, he was thrilled and shocked because he assumed there would be a bias against him for denying the award the first time around.

Bryant’s friends, however, were not surprised that he received both awards because of his driven nature.

“This is not surprising that he won this, you know, based on his character and how hard he works, so he’s very humble, but I’m not surprised at all,” said Celia Bolinger, a 2022 communication studies alumna.

However, Bryant is struggling to secure his travel visas due to the overlap of the programs as each program requires a different visa. He is currently working to resolve them, which has been delayed because of the difference in time zones.  

“It feels like sending a letter in the mail because I have to send an email and then they email me back, like either that night at 3 a.m. or the next, following night at 3 a.m.,” Bryant said.

Despite these challenges, Bryant is looking forward to the immersive learning experience he will receive in Taiwan, which he feels his study abroad experiences have prepared him for.

“I’m actually really excited because I think it is a very effective way to learn a language,” Bryant said. “When you have to use the words, only the words that you know, to form sentences, it really makes you think in a creative way.”

Throughout his time at Temple, Bryant has often helped support other students, like his friend Hadley Driscoll during her law school application process. 

“He really helped me with my applications, looking at my personal statement, making sure that I presented myself the best that I could, and then but never once did he put down my work as I was going so I really admire that,” said Driscoll, a senior communication studies and entrepreneurship and innovation management major.

After the Fulbright program concludes, Bryant hopes to pursue a career as a foreign service officer, which would allow him to utilize the languages he learned.

Bryant plans to continue learning new languages, although he is unsure which he wants to learn next because it is difficult for him to apply languages practically while living in the United States.

​”I think it’s amazing learning languages, but it’s hard to learn them if you don’t use them in your lifestyle, and I’m finding it hard to use both Spanish and Mandarin and my lifestyle already at the same time, so I’m scared of learning one, and then losing those skills,” Bryant said. “So I would have to really think about what language I would want to learn next, but I absolutely would love to learn more languages.”

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