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Thomas Nolan ’20 is pictured near the Jvari Monastery in north of Tbilisi in Mtskheta, Georgia, in November 2018 during his visit to Georgia after an internship at the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican.

Senior wins Fulbright teaching fellowship

Thomas Nolan ’20, a Near Eastern studies and government double major in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a Fulbright teaching fellowship. Nolan will work this fall in the country of Georgia.

Nolan spent time in Georgia during the fall semester of his junior year, when he traveled around the region following an internship at the Vatican.

“I loved it so much. Georgia is in this really interesting nexus where East meets West,” he said. “It’s an area that’s so often forgotten, but the three countries in the south Caucasus are a microcosm of world politics today. The U.S. is a big backer of Georgia, which has issues with Russia. Turkey is a backer of Azerbaijan, while Iran is backing Armenia. In this small area, all of these things are going on.”

Nolan was encouraged to apply for the position in Georgia by his Persian instructor, Iago Gocheleishvili, a senior lecturer in Near Eastern studies, who helped him think about the way to approach his future.

“I’ve always been thinking on the organizational level and not about the people who are impacted by government decisions,” said Nolan, who hopes to go into a career in diplomacy or law. “But professors like him have shown me it’s important to interact with people on the ground before you move on to other positions. Plus, he genuinely cares about his students and their work.”

As a Fulbright English teaching assistant, Nolan will work with students at a university still to be determined. He will teach English and tackle a project he proposed during his application: forming an American a capella group with university students in Georgia.

“When I went to Georgia, I went to a rehearsal of this Georgian folk singing group and it devolved into them just singing for me,” said Nolan, who’s been a musical director at Cornell for the a cappella group Men of Last Call. “Although we had very different musical styles, we just had this instant connection. That’s the moment I knew Georgia was the country where I wanted to be.”

Singing would help his students learn English, and they could cap off the year with a concert, perhaps at the U.S. Embassy, he said.

Although Nolan is looking forward to the experience, he realizes that all of his plans are a bit up in the air, as the Fulbright program awaits more clarity around the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program has announced that its 2020-21 programs are delayed until at least January 2021.

He’s also applied to graduate school and was accepted into a master’s program in global governance and diplomacy at Oxford University in England, so he has an option if the Fulbright is canceled for 2021.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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Rebecca Valli