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Hannah Johnstone

Photo of Hannah Johnstone
Hannah Johnstone

My passion for international education began in university. I had chosen to go to China for my undergraduate studies without speaking a word of Mandarin Chinese. Being thrown into an environment where I was suddenly illiterate and couldn’t express myself instilled in me a whole new appreciation for education and language as a means of empowerment. I majored in integrated humanities and minored in global education, taking on teaching jobs and internships in immigrant populations to gain experience in diverse educational environments. Before coming to Stanford, I had the honor of working as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in a rural village in Malaysia. Working with my students and refugee populations in a variety of capacities both inside and outside of the classroom made me realize that I still wanted to pursue work in the field of education but not directly as a classroom educator. This inspired my application to Stanford in the field of International and Comparative Education.

When I started at Stanford, I had no idea what I wanted to pursue. This gradually changed as I took new classes that highlighted disparities and power imbalances in global education that I had never considered. Discussions with faculty and peers provided insights into how global education was evolving and what types of educators, academics and policymakers would be needed to encourage positive change and growth in education systems across the world.

Stanford not only provided me with the opportunity to interact with incredible people who were inspiring in their nuanced understanding educational problems and solutions, but I learned technical skills which became invaluable to my research and my eventual employment. Having never taken a statistics course, the quantitative and qualitative methods classes offered at Stanford built the foundation of my own research methods and allowed me to read and understand academic work in a way that I had not previously been able to. Outside of the GSE, I was able to take classes pertaining to psychology and modern Chinese affairs—both areas that I was interested in incorporating into my future studies and job. Perhaps the most impactful class that I took, and the reason why Stanford truly stands apart in its ICE/IEPA program, was the series of classes designed to support you as you research and write your master’s thesis. My research used data from the Rural Education Action Program (an FSI research center) and was on the topic of infant cognitive development in rural provinces of China. My co-author and I worked closely with our director and advisor to produce a publishable paper within a year’s time. When I started at Stanford, I had no research background, no familiarity with statistics, and no experience with data coding. In one year, with the help of my mentors and collogues, I co-wrote a complete quantitative research paper, and was hired at the Rural Education Action Program to assist with data collection, data analysis, and research publications.

This past year at Stanford has by no means been easy, but never in my life have I been so supported and challenged by professors, advisors and peers. I hadn’t imagined that my interest in global education would lead me to conducting research in rural Chinese communities, a job and passion I never would have discovered nor had the hard skills for had it not been for my time here at Stanford. I hope you consider joining the incredible community at the Graduate School of Education—I guarantee you will learn and experience more than you ever expected.

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