NYU Shanghai Graduate Earns Coveted Fulbright Scholarship

Oct 13 2017

NYU Shanghai graduate Hannah Johnstone ‘17 was recently bestowed the 2017-2018 Fulbright U.S. Student Award on September 26. As the University’s first Fulbrighter, Johnstone will travel to Malaysia in January for a 10-month teaching assignment aiming to enhance mutual understanding between Americans and the people in Malaysia.

Johnstone was selected as one of the winners of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program. She will be teaching the English language to high schoolers together with a Malaysian colleague. The grant benefit will cover round-trip transportation to Malaysia, living expenses,  health care, and more.

“I have always believed in challenging the misconceptions and flawed ideas surrounding the idea of ‘foreign’, a problematic word in and of itself, by pushing myself to have uncomfortable experiences, form relationships and partake in discussions to better understand that which is not familiar to me,” Johnstone said.


The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program of the United States. Starting in 1948, more than 100,000 students have undertaken grants to serve as a cultural ambassador.

A Humanities major, Johnstone graduated as part of the inaugural class of NYU Shanghai in May. Following her passion for global education and volunteerism, Johnstone taught ESL through immigrant language services such as University Settlement Society in New York City and One Heart Source in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Since graduating, Johnstone has worked to build a better understanding of the American education system and educational inequality through Teach for America and served as a third-grade teacher in Brooklyn, New York.



An Interview with Hannah Johnstone

The Gazette spoke to Johnstone shortly after the announcement of 2017-2018 Fulbright U.S. Student Award for her reaction to the wonderful news:

Q: What does the winning of this Fulbright ETA scholarship mean to you?

A: Winning this Fulbright scholarship is an incredible honor. In my time at NYU Shanghai, I have seen how valuable and impactful cross-cultural learning is on one’s fundamental beliefs, ideas, and perspectives. Being awarded the opportunity to spend the next 10 months integrated into a community and participating in Malaysian traditions will be indispensable to my future work in global education.


Q: What motivated you to apply for the scholarship?

A: Originally, I applied to the ETA program in Mongolia. After being selected as an alternate, but ultimately not receiving the scholarship, I had made plans to re-apply in the coming years. However, I was subsequently offered an ETA position in Malaysia. While the two countries are obviously very different, I was primarily interested in Fulbright because of its founding principle of “promoting international goodwill through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture, and science.”


Q: What do you plan to achieve during the 10 months you will be teaching in Malaysia?

A: While I am in Malaysia, I will be working in a local school teaching English. I also hope to become involved in after-school programs and community activities. Given that each city in Malaysia has its own unique population, I'm excited to spend my breaks traveling around Malaysia and experiencing as much as its diverse culture as I can.