A grandson of Palestinian migrants, Stuart Bryson has been interested in world affairs since his childhood.
An insatiable curiosity for understanding global politics led Stuart from Penrith in far western Sydney to become the first person in his family to attend university after he won a Charles Hawker Scholarship.
“I’ve taken a long path, but I appreciate the flexibility you have here to try different subjects and find out what you like,” the Bachelor of Arts / Bachelor of Law student says.
“It’s great for students who don’t know what they want.”
Stuart’s wanted to learn more about international affairs since his first visit to The Australian National University as part of the Model United Nations finals when he was at Penrith High School.
“I was struck by the beauty of the campus and the expertise of the lecturers,” he recalls.
“It was very different to where I grew up and I wanted to be part of that.
“My high school featured students of very diverse backgrounds and was forward looking, with a social justice mindset.
“I came to ANU with a goal of social justice and giving back to my community.”
He’s done that in a variety of ways, including helping organise Model UN events on campus, along with Rotary. The August 2016 gathering featured more than 70 students from high schools around Australia, who met ANU student ambassadors and academics, toured the University, and other Canberra landmarks.
“The Model UN is a place that allows students to not just be empathetic to different perspectives, but also put into practice and test various scenarios,” Stuart says.
“That makes for a good scholar, because you’re taught to look at things from multiple angles. It’s great training for your critical thinking skills.”
In Stuart’s first year at ANU he was part of its Model UN delegation that visited Harvard University, Washington DC, and the UN headquarters in New York.
“The ANU sponsored my trip, and fitted it around my studies,” he explains.
“My uni’s been very supportive of students who want to participate in extra-curricular activities.”
Aside from the US, Stuart’s roles with the Model UN has also involved trips to The Hague in the Netherlands, Sydney and Melbourne.
He’s a past president of the ANU International Relations Society and is now part of the Council of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, for which he’s helped organise various panels around Canberra.
“You get to meet fantastic scholars and thinkers of international affairs, but also get mentored by senior members of Australia’s foreign affairs community,” Stuart says.
“We get to practice our own skills with interviews, presentations, research and podcasts.
“We’ll often learn about a particular issue in class, and then put it into practice.
“I encourage students to get involved in groups outside of the university, because one of the benefits of ANU is you get to build relationships with people who are experts in their field of study.
“That experience nurtures you.”
Stuart's working full-time and studying part-time, and expects to graduate in 2017.
“I’m a Young Endeavour ambassador and would like to continue my involvement in the community sector by encouraging more young people to try the program,” he says.
“In 2015 I spent a few weeks on the North Sea sailing from England to Denmark to Norway on a tall ships race.
“It was one of the best experiences of my life and it taught me leadership, resilience, team work and how to leave my comfort zone.”