Our team is located all across Asia Pacific and the United States. TEAN headquarters are based in Chicago. Learn more about our team and the amazing people that help make TEAN the experts in the Asia Pacific.

USA Based Staff

Jennifer Acosta

General Manager

With more than 20 years of experience in the field, Jennifer oversees the teams of both ISA and TEAN by WorldStrides. She has a passion for program management and meeting students on their terms. She works with her team to bring this passion to our students, guiding them through the entire education abroad process, focusing on customer service and student engagement. Jennifer holds a B.A. in Spanish and Latin American Studies from SUNY Plattsburgh and an M.A. in Teaching Spanish from Southwest Texas State University. In her study abroad days, she spent a semester at the Universidad de Sevilla in Spain as well as a summer at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Shelly Alfaro

Associate Director - Alumni Relations

Shelly’s spark for learning about different cultures and systems came from having grown up in an immigrant household. She was the first in her family to go to college and received her bachelor’s degree from Texas State University in 2015. Shelly studied abroad with TEAN’s sister division, ISA, for a semester in Paris, France where she learned the value and complexity of holding both Mexican and American identities and how these are perceived in different parts of the world and by others. Eager to share more about her adventures in France, she participated in the ISA/TEAN Global Ambassador program before graduating. She later joined the WorldStrides team in 2016 as an Academic Records Coordinator and then served as a Senior Regional Director for IL, MI, WI and MO. In this role, Shelly has had the opportunity to present at several conferences including NAFSA Region V and Diversity Abroad, and she developed a passion for increasing the participation of underserved students and fostering inclusive spaces in education abroad. She now serves as the Associate Director for Alumni Relations for WorldStrides Higher Education, helping returnees unpack their experiences as well as define their stories and goals. In her spare time, Shelly is discovering new reads through BookTok, thrifting around Austin, or comparing flight prices for her next adventure.

Eric Anderson

Senior Associate Vice President - Campus Partnerships

Before joining WorldStrides in 2017, Eric spent three years with Up with People as the Vice President for Admissions and was with GlobaLinks Learning Abroad for ten years as a Regional Director and then Director of Institutional Relations before that. Eric also lived in Coogee, Australia, for three years as the Operations Manager for the Olympic Youth Camp as part of the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. He has been a member of NAFSA for 15 years and the Forum since 2008. Eric has visited over 40 countries and all 50 states, but these days, he prefers spending free time at home in Colorado catching bugs and watching Moana over and over and over with his wife and two daughters.

Russ Alexander

Head of Innovation

Russ was involved with the first group of US study abroad students to come to Australia in the late 1980s. He studied abroad as a high school student for a year in Tyler, Texas and a semester at Georgetown University in Washington DC. Russ graduated from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, where he also became the Associate Director for Study Abroad. Russ joined the Study Australia team in 2000 and now directs the programs in Asia and is responsible for the educational design elements of our Australian/South Pacific programs. Russ is based in Chicago.

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Q&A

What makes the Asia Pacific great for studying, interning and living abroad?
The diversity of the region stands out and for many Americans it still provides an option from the well-trodden study abroad pathways to Europe. This part of the world offers pretty much everything from the incredible natural beauty of New Zealand, the South Pacific and Australia through to the fascinating and welcoming cultures of Southeast Asia to the cutting edge technologies and dynamic cities of China and South Korea.

What is your favorite TEAN event?
My favorite event is our annual TEAN Fun Run that takes place at NAFSA (the largest International Education Conference in the world). The conference attracts around 10,000 attendees and is a blur of meetings, sessions and receptions. We decided 6 years ago that instead of holding another cocktail event like everyone else we would donate that money instead. We invited colleagues to show up to a 1K walk or 5K run through the city and we donate a sum to a different charity annually based on the number of participants. It’s a fun outdoorsy event that gets people out of the conference venue and does make a difference. In 5 years we have donated over $22,000 to charities as diverse as the Christchurch and Nepal Earthquake Appeals, a special Thai school for burmese refugees and an American charity that rehabilitates those affected by drug and alcohol.

What does TEAN’s core value Choose Earth mean to you?
That every single decision we make as individuals has an impact and a consequence. We have a responsibility to leave this place better than we found it. By making simple, informed decisions around our everyday actions, we can improve the lives of people we have never met by reducing global inequalities and fostering social justice and fairness, plus we can protect our planet for future generations by reducing our own environmental footprint.

Kora Alexander

Official Office Dog

Kora joined the team in 2013. She is a graduate (and rescue) of the The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago. Kora’s main responsibilities include welcoming all office visitors, afternoon naps in the sun and spreading smiles. She also occasionally attends study abroad fairs to help get the word out about TEAN programs. Her favorite part of working for TEAN is all the attention, treats and love her TEAN family give her.

Desiree Baker

Program Manager

Desiree studied abroad with The Education Abroad Network at Bond University in Australia where her passion for travel was sparked. After her semester at Bond University, Desiree decided to take a gap year and backpack Europe. After her European Adventure she went back to school and graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston with a degree in Communication. Desiree’s experience in Australia and abroad was so amazing that it inspired her to help create similar experiences for students through her career at TEAN.

Patrick Barker

Director - Health & Safety

After receiving his B.A. in Geography from the University of Kentucky, Patrick interned with the Overseas Security Advisory Council in Washington, D.C. He later returned to the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at UK for his M.A., where he focused on national security policy. He studied abroad for a summer in Amman, Jordan, where he fell in love with the Middle East. Patrick has traveled to more than 50 countries and enjoys trying new restaurants, road tripping, and cheering on his beloved Kentucky Wildcats.

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Aley Bedair

Director - Campus Partnerships & Veritas Christian Study Abroad

A native Texan, born and raised, Aley developed a love for travel at a young age. Graduating from Texas A&M University with a degree in International Studies: Spanish Arts and Culture, Aley had the amazing opportunity to study abroad with Veritas in Cusco, Peru, for the Summer of 2016. Aley spent her mornings taking classes and afternoons doing mission work at an after-school program for young children. Her time in Cusco deepened her passion for culture and experiential learning. Aley loves Broadway musicals, whether seeing one live or singing along in her car. She also has a deep love for alpacas and considers them one of the world’s greatest creatures. Aley is excited to share her love of study abroad!

Melissa Chambers

Associate Vice President - Campus Partnerships

Melissa is grateful to have spent the past 20 years transforming students’ lives though international education. Her professional areas of expertise include developing strategic partnerships for international education, sexual health and sexual violence prevention, and excellence in diversity, equity, and inclusivity for education abroad. She is also the author of NAFSA’s Sexual Health Abroad: A Guide to Healthy Practices (2009 and 2016). Melissa has presented at state, regional, and national conferences, spoken for the IIE Whitaker Fellows Program as well as at several universities, and sits on the Rainbow SIG of NAFSA Advisory Board. She has undergraduate degrees in Spanish and creative writing and a master’s degree in communication studies. Melissa loves spending time with her family, who regularly fosters dogs and cats. She lives with her husband, Martin, and two sons in Charlotte, NC. Melissa and Martin love to support local businesses and build community by hosting a farmers’ market club at their home once a month. And, of course, they love to travel together and explore different places.

ndarvin

Nicole Darvin

Regional Director - Campus Partnerships

California, Nevada, Hawaii

Growing up in a multicultural and diverse community in California, Nicole has always loved learning through immersion and dreamed of traveling around the world. She attended the University of California Irvine and earned a bachelor’s degree in Korean Literature and Culture while also pursuing a minor in Film and Media studies. Her time studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea ignited a passion for global learning and inspired her to begin working in the field of international education at her university’s study abroad office as a peer advisor. She also has a deep passion for promoting international education in minority and underrepresented communities and hopes to continue to be a resource for minorities looking to study abroad. Outside of work, Nicole enjoys traveling, spending time with her dogs, and finding new places to eat.

Alonso De La Fuente

Associate Vice President - Academic Records

Alonso joined WorldStrides in 2004 and has been dedicated to the Office of Academic Records. Texas-born, and having lived in Mexico for several years, made for a perfect recipe that sparked an interest from an early age in cultural interactions and languages. Alonso is a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin (Hook ‘Em!) where he earned a Bachelor’s in Hispanic Studies with a concentration in Spanish, and another in Latin American Studies with a focus in Business and Economics. While at UT, he studied and interned at the Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM)-Mexico City for two summers where he made life-long connections with students from all over the world and that experience further fueled his passion for travel and international education. In his free time, you can find Alonso enjoying the diverse food scene in Austin, pushing himself at the gym, or enjoying the outdoors with his miniature goldendoodle, Lola.

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Alexandra Diaz

Program Advisor

Alexandra was born in Santa Clara, California. Raised by Mexican parents, she is proud to be a Mexican American and possesses two native languages: English and Spanish. Now a mother of two beautiful daughters, the most important thing is her family. Her children inspire her to be more successful day by day to provide them a much better life. During her free time, Alexandra loves to go to the beach, travel, spend time with friends and family, cook, and learn new recipes! She is always looking to improve and is never afraid of taking risks.

Michelle Dippold

Assistant Director - Curriculum & Academics

Born and raised in Central Ohio, Michelle received an Individualized B.A. in Environmental Sociology from Otterbein University and an M.Ed. in Higher Education and Student Affairs from the University of South Carolina. Despite being an avid solo traveler, she didn’t collect most of her passport stamps until her late 20s. Now a self-proclaimed expert in optimizing 48-72 hours at a destination, she is always planning the next adventure. As an international educator who “tripped and fell” into the field, she is passionate about designing experiences that align with students’ long-term personal and professional goals. In her free time, she enjoys reading, spending time outdoors (in moderation), supporting local businesses, and conspiring to take over the world with her cat.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Zac Einerson

Associate Vice President - Campus Partnerships

Zac has been professionally active in international higher education since 2004. Volunteering in an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya when he was 16 allowed him to practice travel with a purpose and experiential learning. From this encounter, Zac concluded that properly reflecting upon his experiences was an integral part of the learning process. While earning a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Colorado State University, he also studied abroad in Prague, the Czech Republic, and St. Petersburg, Russia. Upon his return, Zac worked as a peer study abroad advisor, and then became a full-time study abroad advisor after graduation. Based on his strong regard for reflection, he additionally co-founded Lessons From Abroad, Inc., an organization dedicated to helping students who have recently returned from study and internship abroad programs to articulate their experiences and communicate their program’s value academically, socially, and professionally. Zac has two master’s degrees and expects to receive his Ph.D. from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland this year. He has traveled to nearly 100 countries and all seven continents. He currently lives in Los Angeles, CA and is eager to see more students experience the world.

Nadine El Maalem

Coordinator - Alumni Relations

Nadine is a proud first-gen Moroccan-American and first-gen college graduate originally from New Jersey. She received her bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from Rowan University in 2021 and her love for travel began early in her college career.

In 2019, Nadine spent a semester abroad in Meknes, Morocco with ISA, where she explored her Moroccan heritage, studied Modern Standard Arabic, and experienced first-hand the many advantages of going abroad. She then served as an ISA Global Ambassador, connecting with her peers and promoting education abroad opportunities for students at her home university, including underserved students such as first-gen and high financial need students. She closed out her undergraduate studies with another semester abroad with ISA in Meknes, Morocco before later joining the WorldStrides team as the Alumni Relations Coordinator. Today, she works alongside the Alumni Relations team to guide the next generation of ISA and TEAN Global Ambassadors as they spread the good word about going abroad on their campuses and make study abroad a more widely-accessible and inclusive avenue for learning and growth. 

In her spare time, you can find Nadine planning her next adventure to Morocco, continuing her love of language learning in Arabic, Spanish, and French, and exploring music from around the globe! 

Elizabeth Erbeznik, Ph.D.

Senior Director - Curriculum and Academic Programs

As a part of WorldStrides’ Academic Affairs team since 2015, Elizabeth works to identify and dismantle the academic barriers that keep students from pursuing their education abroad goals. Originally from California, she graduated with a double major in English and French from UCLA. After spending two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar, she moved to Texas to pursue her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin. Years spent teaching French language, literature, and culture to college students and leading study abroad programs in France inspired her to pursue a career in international education. When she is not working, Elizabeth enjoys writing fiction, traveling, and hanging out with her husband and daughter.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Susan Farley

Vice President - Institutional Agreements & Financial Affairs

Susan was born and raised in Texas and graduated from Texas Christian University. Her first study abroad experience was in Costa Rica, where she enjoyed living with a family and exploring the beautiful country. That first program abroad changed the course of her life and sparked a passion for international education. Susan joined the team in 1997 and been fortunate to travel extensively in and around Europe, Latin America and the Pacific for business and personal travel. In her free time, she most enjoys exploring the great outdoors with her family. Susan is based in Austin.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Abraham Ferreyra

Program Advisor

Born and raised in Progreso, Yucatan. He is very familiar with the notion of international travels since he lives in a port where tourism is one of the main economic activities. When he was in high school, he took the Tourism path and was an outstanding English student because he discovered that’s one of the things he liked the most. Apart from school Abraham always shown interest in knowing other cultures, languages and to discover all the interesting things that are out there. That’s why a couple years later he got his degree in Modern Languages and started working as an English teacher for kids, an experience he really appreciated. He was also an independent tourist guide at Xcambo Archaeological site where he had contact with a lot of people from all around the world, getting to know a little of their different cultures, accents, ways of living and other things he found interesting. He spends his free time watching movies since he is a cinephile, listening to music and making printings with optical illusions.

Mark Gallovic

Vice President - Campus Partnerships

Transformed by his own student experiences abroad in Venezuela, Mexico, and Spain as a high school and undergraduate student, Mark has been dedicated to the education abroad profession for more than 24 years. Prior to joining WorldStrides in 2014, he served as Director of Education Abroad at the University North Carolina Wilmington for eight years and as Assistant Director of the Office of International Programs at Arizona State University for eight years before that. He also worked for the Institute for Study Abroad, both in the U.S. and Australia. Mark earned undergraduate degrees in International Studies and Spanish at Miami University and a M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration from Arizona State University. When not focused on education abroad program development, he likes to go off recipe and cook by the inspiration of quirky ingredient baskets. Like many others hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, Mark will always root for the underdog.

Photo of TEAN staff, Crystal Giedt

Crystal Giedt

Senior Program Manager

Born and raised in a small town in Minnesota, Crystal has since become an avid traveler, including time living abroad in Thailand as a teacher. Her explorations have taken her to all Southeast Asian countries, as well as Australia, Japan, and South Korea. Crystal’s time working, living, and traveling abroad motivated her toward a career in international education and now she supports students wanting to take their own leap and see the world. Along with researching airline tickets, Crystal enjoys running, taking fitness classes, going to the movie theater, and being a tourist in her own backyard.

Yolanda Golden

Head of Diversity Equity & Inclusion

With over 25 years in K12 and Higher Ed spaces, Yolanda Golden leads WorldStrides’ strategic planning and implementation of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Throughout her career, she has enriched communities by serving, training, and developing programs to support diverse populations. At WorldStrides, Yolanda spearheaded, collaborated, or supported various aspects of WorldStrides’ current DEI infrastructure and programming to include the development of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and the DEI Council. Yolanda holds a BS in Psychology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a Master of Social Work from Loyola University of Chicago.

Alex Halvorson

Regional Director - Campus Partnerships

Originally from Wisconsin, Alex earned undergraduate degrees in Spanish and Community Health from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. He first developed a passion for international travel and education during his undergrad after he went to Germany to visit a German exchange student friend from high school. Afterward, Alex decided to study in Granada, Spain for two semesters with WorldStrides! His love for study abroad and higher education led him to pursue his master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from St. Cloud State with hopes of helping more students travel the world and broaden their horizons. When Alex isn’t working or daydreaming about eating tapas in Spain, he enjoys running marathons, cheering for the Minnesota Vikings, playing his ukulele, re-reading Harry Potter books, and staying at home and watching The Office.

Donald Hawkins

Associate Director – Veritas Christian Study Abroad

Donald fell in love with travelling after studying abroad at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus in Barbados in 2010.  Since his time abroad Donald has traveled to 25 other countries and studied abroad in Israel in 2017. He graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in 2012 with a B.A. in African American Studies. In 2019 Donald earned a M.A. in Theology from Liberty University. Donald credits his love of travel to his dad who served in the Air Force on deployments all over the world and his mom who started her travelling with a study abroad trip to Mexico. He is passionate about cultural and ethnic identity, history, and education. Before joining WorldStrides, Donald taught history at a middle school for a year and a half. Prior to teaching, he worked as an International Educator for four years at Liberty University. Outside of travel and international education Donald enjoys spending time with family and friends, playing and coaching sports, reading, writing, sneakers and watching movies. He lives in Virginia with his wife and labradoodle.

Kate Hilby

Associate Director - Enrollment Management

Kate studied abroad with The Education Abroad Network at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia where her passion for international education and travel was ignited. Her study abroad experience impacted her so much that upon her return stateside, she became a TEAN Student Ambassador at The University of Iowa while completing her degree in Communication Studies. After graduation, she returned to Melbourne for a year where she worked for a university on the Marketing and Student Recruitment team. Kate has since lived in New Zealand for a year, and is currently TEAN’s New Zealand and Fiji Programs Manager and team lead.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Q&A

Tell us a little about what you do at TEAN?
I currently work on our New Zealand, Fiji, Japan and Southeast Asia programs. My role as team lead and Program Manager is to make sure everything on these programs is running smoothly working with our team. It includes everything from making sure students have pre-departure information on time to making sure they submit all of the items they need to study abroad (i.e. transcripts, courses, contracts, arrival details, payments, visa confirmations).

Where did you study abroad?
I studied with TEAN in Melbourne, Australia at Deakin University. It’s a more traditional campus, just outside the city but being able to live in the city and commute gave me the best of both worlds. Honestly, Melbourne has something for everyone – think sporting events, art, music, theatre, comedy, laneway cafes/restaurants/bars, shopping, the list goes on. Melbourne is consistently ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities, so why wouldn’t you choose to study there? If you’re looking for a Melbourne equivalent in New Zealand, check out Wellington known as the coolest little capital in the world. It’s a smaller city, but that makes it an easy city to get around by foot. It’s a very accessible city for study abroad students.

What brought you back to Melbourne to live and work after graduation?
When I graduated, I knew I wanted to return to Australia. My time studying abroad had given me that exposure to living abroad and I wanted to spend more time there as a professional. For my career, It was great to gain work experience at a university abroad. I’m so glad I went down this path or I might not have ended up at TEAN today!

Packing for study abroad is always a challenge and popular topic, as a frequent flyer – what insider tips do you have for someone packing for the semester?
I’ve become pretty good at packing light over the years since there have been so many times earlier on where I’ve overpacked. I took half of my closet and never touched the majority of it. You will hear the advice – pack everything you think you’ll need then take half of it – and it’s so true. My other advice is to pack articles of clothing you can mix and match to create different outfits to help reduce items. Also try to keep the shoe situation under control, they take up a lot of room. Bring a couple pairs that are super versatile (and comfortable).

If you were going to study abroad tomorrow on a TEAN program where would you go?
I’m biased, but I would study on one of our New Zealand programs. Since working with our TEAN New Zealand students, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand several times and have visited all program locations. I also recently lived in New Zealand for a year based out of Auckland. I love the idea of going for a semester, joining a tramping club on campus and getting out into the beauty of New Zealand in my free time!

Kristen Jackson

Director - Enrollment Management

Kristen’s passion for study abroad began after her first trip overseas to Spain in high school and she has been a travel nut ever since. She is originally from Wisconsin, studied at the University of Minnesota for her undergraduate degree, and DePaul University in Chicago for graduate school. During her undergraduate years, she completed an internship in Sydney and knew she had to go back for a longer stay. She returned to Sydney to work and live for a year before moving back to Chicago. Kristen has nearly a decade experience in study abroad, and has worked on both on the provider side of the field and in the DePaul University and University of Minnesota study abroad offices. She loves to send students abroad as part of the TEAN team.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Q&A

Where have you traveled and lived in Asia Pacific?
I lived and worked in Sydney for a year. I also had an internship in Sydney in college. I have also traveled to China, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, and New Zealand.

Can you share some of the highlights or lessons from your time living abroad?
The biggest lesson I have learned from my time abroad is adaptability. Living in another country can really bring you out of your comfort zone and force you into situations where you have to go with the flow. I learned to embrace the differences of the different cultures I was experiencing rather than wishing I could have the same things/experiences I was used to back home in the U.S. I loved navigating my way around new places, getting lost and discovering the best places that I just stumbled upon because I was up for whatever came my way.

What are your recommendations for top places to check out in Sydney?
There are so many great suburbs that offer a little something different for everyone. I LOVE Bourke Street Bakery in Surry Hills, specifically their sausage rolls and lemon tart, but everything is amazing. I also recommend enjoying some of the northern beaches as they are much less crowded and gorgeous. People should also do the Manly to Spit Bridge walk as it is stunning!

What do you think makes Singapore an amazing place to study abroad?
Singapore is one of those hidden gems in Southeast Asia. I feel like it is a very misunderstood country as people think everything is just glass highrise buildings and everything is really expensive. There are actually some really great neighborhoods with lots of different cultures represented. Owning a car and buying an apartment are expensive, but for day to day life for a study abroad student, it’s a very affordable study abroad destination.

What is your advice for a student who is on the fence about studying abroad?
I would always tell students who were on the fence about studying abroad that they will never look back and say, I really wish I didn’t spend five months in Australia or wherever they are thinking about going. Studying abroad is such a life-changing experience and even if the first few weeks are tough, you learn so much about yourself and how well you can navigate the unknown.

Craig Jefferson

Regional Director

Craig has always had a passion for experiencing new cultures. His first study abroad opportunity, a week-long exchange with a school in Quebec City, was the culmination of seven years of elementary education at a French immersion school. That sixth-grade experience was the first of many; he has since traveled to a total of 38 countries. He continued his cultural exploration at Frostburg State University, earning dual degrees in Mass Communication and French. In the spring of his junior year he left for Amiens, France to study French literature at the Université de Picardie Jules Verne, and then returned to FSU where he worked as a study abroad ambassador on campus. After all these experiences, a career in international education was inevitable. Craig’s decade-long career in IE includes serving as a Program Officer/ARO for the J-1 Intern/Trainee visa category, on-campus roles supporting the International Centers and Programs at Johns Hopkins University and serving as the Senior Admissions Officer/DSO at the University of Baltimore. Most recently, he served the Mid-Atlantic region as Manager of University Relations with CIEE. In addition to his passion for International Education, Craig is interested in environmental sustainability, hiking with his dog, Molly, and trying to improve his sourdough bread making.

Allison Kelley

Program Manager

Allison was born and raised in Michigan, and attended the University of Michigan before moving to her new home of Chicago. While in college, she traveled to France to complete a summer internship assisting the summer program at HEC Paris, one of Europe’s top business schools. From that experience onward, she set her sights on a career in international education, and began working for TEAN after graduation. Allison is so happy to be able to provide TEAN students with the tools they need to kick-start their own adventures abroad. She has had the opportunity to travel to South Korea several times with TEAN students, and it has become one of her favorite cities in the world (with some of the best food she has ever had!). In her free time she loves walking along the lakefront, going to concerts, and planning out her next travel itinerary.

Sara Kochuba

Regional Director

Sara fell in love with learning about other cultures during her high school French class and then spent a semester in Paris during college. From there, she was hooked on the magic of travel and found her passion: to help others have access to intercultural opportunities. To date, she has spent time in Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America and has led groups of students in France and The Netherlands. To WorldStrides, Sara brings over 10 years of professional experience in study abroad on the higher education side, most recently as a Senior Director of Global Initiatives at Washington & Jefferson College. Her areas of expertise include nurturing partnerships, student advocacy, risk management, health & safety, as well as policy development. Outside of the office, Sara loves cooking, reading, her cats, and prides herself on her packing skills. At home, she can often be found trying out a new recipe or preserving something grown from her husband’s giant garden.

Molly Laycob

Corporate Social Responsibility Manager

Molly’s first international travel experience was when she studied abroad in Valencia, Spain for a semester in college. While there, she completed a Global Pathways Certificate that allowed her to research the relationship between sustainability and studying abroad. Molly completed her undergraduate degree at Florida State University in environmental studies and international affairs and then moved back to her hometown to complete a masters degree in sustainability at Saint Louis University. While getting her masters degree, Molly checked off a travel bucket list item when she traveled to Israel while also completing classwork on the country’s sustainability initiatives. Molly’s passion for inspiring others to study abroad while living their life in a sustainable manner led her to Chicago.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Q&A

What inspired you to pursue your masters degree in Sustainability?
My mom instilled me in from an extremely young age that the natural environment, along with all of the wild species that call it home, are the most important pieces to our ecosystem and that we should respect them deeply. Thankfully, after an academic career based around environmental science, one buzzword kept coming back into my life that encompassed everything that I stood for – sustainability – and I jumped at the opportunity to pursue a masters degree in a field that combines the preservation of our natural environment while also factoring in the needs of human beings.

In what ways is study abroad tied to sustainability?
Studying abroad gives students an opportunity to live their life in an environment which differs from the one in which they were raised. Some students may find themselves in situations where they are very pleased with the pro-environmental initiatives in their host country…or shocked by the lack of. It is an opportunity to understand the reasonings behind the host country’s practices and either take those green initiatives back home with them or to educate yourself more on the obstacles that the host country is facing that perhaps is keeping them from taking their next steps towards a sustainable future.

What are some small and big ways students can Choose Earth while abroad?
The beauty of sustainability is that small-scale efforts are the building blocks to large-scale changes and there are plenty of ways that students can make green choices while studying abroad including; choosing public transportation or walking, using reusable water bottles, grocery bags and utensils instead of single-use items, turning off lights, air conditioning and electrical appliances while not in your housing, making an effort to eat locally-produced foods that are in-season and taking your own reusable food container when ordering food to go, offsetting your airline carbon credits and ensure that any animal or nature preserve visits outside of TEAN’s planned activities are legitimately ethically sound places and not tourist traps that harm animals or the natural environment – do research online and ask around.

What is your favorite travel quote?
“Take only memories, leave only footprints” is a quote that I live by while traveling. To me, fully taking in and appreciating a moment so that I have a solid memory of a trip is more important than any picture or souvenir. It is important to not leave any human impressions on the natural environment that you explore while abroad so future generations of all species can live in harmony with the land.

If you were going to study on a TEAN program tomorrow, where would you go?
I would definitely choose one of the New Zealand programs. I have a huge admiration for the country’s sustainability initiatives and how they are moving at such a fast rate towards cutting their carbon footprint – they are a great example for other countries to follow! I also want to experience its spectacular natural settings and landscapes.

Jeehye Lee

Director - Asia Programs

Jeehye is a native of Seoul, although she spent some of her childhood living in Florida. She completed her undergraduate degree in Business Administration and her Master’s in Management Information Systems at Dongguk University in Seoul. She also received her MBA in Florida. Jeehye has worked for U.S. universities as an admissions advisor, financial aid advisor and marketing manager for the Asia region and enjoys using these skills in her current job.

Laura Louski

Enrollment Associate

Laura was born in Montpellier, France. Having moved a lot as a kid with her family she was quickly influenced by the many cultures and developed a love to learn more about each place. Quickly developing a way to not only interact with their cultures but also learning their languages. Laura graduated with a degree in Tourism and started working in places that will let her interact with others from around the world. Laura enjoys reading books that were based on other countries folklore and myths, drawing and cooking desserts at home.

Zac Macinnes

Director of Campus Partnerships - New England

Zac has served the field of international education for nearly 15 years, and believes deeply in the power of study abroad to create a better, more compassionate world – one student at a time. Zac’s own life was transformed by global education experiences in Peru, Mexico, Spain and Australia, and has since been privileged to visit 75 countries on 6 continents. Zac has presented at dozens of national, state and local conferences, and his professional areas of expertise include forecasting and strategic planning, faculty and cross-campus engagement, the alignment between career development and study abroad, marketing and technology, and matters related to diversity, equity and inclusion. A native of Austin, Texas, Zac holds a Master of Arts in Public Policy degree from Trinity College, and a Bachelor’s in Spanish and International Affairs from Emmanuel College in Boston. Zac started his international education career fresh out of college as a University Relations Representative with ISA in 2009. Zac went on to serve in leadership roles at Trinity College, CIS Abroad and the University of Connecticut, and was thrilled to come “back home” to his ISA roots as Director of Campus Partnerships with WorldStrides Higher Education in 2021. Zac believes in nourishing a sense of adventure, and takes pleasure in exploring new places and trying new things – whether it’s around the corner or across the world. He enjoys hiking, cooking, foreign languages, the occasional Netflix binge at home with his husband,  and – of course – planning his next big adventure.

Kate McSurley

Assistant Director - Health & Safety

Kate first traveled abroad as a participant of TEAN, studying in Australia at the University of Queensland. Her time overseas allowed her to examine English literature from a fresh, new angle and have a proper introduction to Australian literature. Before joining TEAN, Kate also served as a National Admissions Advisor for a fashion & interior design college as well as a technical writer for a sport technology company. Kate holds a BA in English/Communications from Saint Xavier University and earned her M.A. in English at DePaul University, both in Chicago. Since her time at UQ, she has continued her travels throughout Europe and the U.S., but she will always have a soft spot for Australia.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Q&A

What is your favorite part of working with students?
For me, I love the first call with a student who has decided to take the leap and study abroad. They know they want to do it, but the idea of checking off all the steps is overwhelming, scary and seemingly impossible. When they realize we are committed to making this easy for them and I hear that sense of relief at the end of our chat, it always reminds me why I love what I do.

Why should students consider studying abroad in Australia?
Some students underestimate the complexity of Australia and don’t realize that it has vastly different locations and environments, similar to the unique cities and environments you can experience across the U.S. Even though the country may at first seem relatively similar to the U.S. compared to other study abroad destination, studying in Australia certainly doesn’t mean you up on the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of cultural and outdoor experiences. Here students can access rainforests, reefs, deserts, wildlife, cities and dramatically different landscapes, all without having to cross international borders.

As a TEAN alum and now employee, what do you think makes TEAN unique?
Everyone at TEAN is completely committed to encouraging study abroad experiences. It really is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle. As a student, I was taken aback by the level of support and service I received from TEAN staff. Now, I understand the sense of responsibility to ease the burden and shorten the hurdles for our students because there is so much value to studying abroad. We truly believe in what we do.

Where did you study abroad?
After first considering Melbourne for its prestigious reputation and quirky cafe culture, I switched to the University of Queensland in St. Lucia, right outside of Brisbane. I realized I might have a better chance of warm weather for my entire program if I headed for the Sunshine State. Now having traveled to both, I’m confident I would have been happy in either location, but UQ’s campus was the perfect escape from the harsh midwestern winters I was used to in Chicago. I really fell into the laidback Brisbane lifestyle more than anything and quickly understood it’s much more than just great weather. It’s a perfect city for international students because it has the right balance of culture, sport and access to adventure. The twisting Brisbane River gives you front door ferry service to very unique neighborhoods all with their own character and style. The ocean is within easy reach for a weekend jaunt (but spending a night at the manmade beaches of South Bank can be just as breathtaking). The views from Mt. Coot-tha are surreal, especially at sunset, and the city’s a great place for students who want to enjoy both city life and exploring the great outdoors. Brisbane lets you have it all.

Yisel Mengelle

Program Advisor

Born and raised in Merida, Yucatan, Yisel is passionate about science and has a degree in Biotechnology engineering from the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan. When she started college, she began to give tutoring classes to elementary and middle school students, she loves working with them! She also has a passion for different cultures and places, which is why she is very interested in languages, such as Japanese and Korean. She had the chance to participate with students from the U.S. during programs and events at her home university, and that marked her heart – making her want to continue meeting people from all around the world. Yisel also enjoys traveling, which has led her to visit various states of Mexico, always carrying a camera with her to capture each landscape. During her free time, she’s always making art and crafts while listening to music, mostly k-pop!

Dan O’Brien

Associate Vice President - Campus Partnerships

Dan’s interest in people, places, and cultures started at age 13 when his grandfather took him to Austria for a week-long stay. Since that time, Dan has traveled to more than 25 countries, and has more than 16 years experience in education abroad. Dan has a Master of Arts in Intercultural and International Management from the School for International Training. He studied for a semester at the Universidad de Sevilla as an undergraduate student and as a graduate student served as a group leader for the Experiment in International Living – Spain. Dan is passionate about the power of education abroad and the global competencies it provides students.

Q&A

What is your role? Tell us a little about what you do at TEAN?
I serve TEAN as Regional Director and my main duties include maintaining, developing and enhancing TEAN partnership as well as promoting TEAN study abroad and internship programs at campus events such as study abroad fairs and orientations. I have a 13 state region therefore I travel quite often in the fall, the busiest time for our team, as the majority of students study abroad in the Spring semester.

How did you come to work in the field and what path led you to your current role?
My study abroad experience was the main factor in leading me to the field. When I returned from my semester abroad I met a graduate student who was working on her practicum and capstone at my university. I applied to the School for International Training in Vermont and was accepted into the program. After the on-campus portion of my program I did my practicum and capstone at the University of North Dakota. From that experience I stayed on to serve as Study Abroad Coordinator – a perfect first professional job in Education Abroad. From there I moved to Virginia Tech for a position in Education Abroad and had several staff reporting to me. After two and a half years in that role I transitioned to a major international education organization where I served for over 9 years. Those experiences finally led me to TEAN where I now serve as Regional Director.

Where have you been in Asia Pacific and what have been some highlights?
I’ve been to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, and South Korea. I always enjoy meeting new people and learning about the culture(s) of the host country. With that in mind, a few highlights include visiting The Great Wall of China, hiking through the Baku National Forest in Borneo, experimental food tasting in South Korea, visiting marae in New Zealand, attending a football (rugby) match in Auckland, dining at the Sydney Sky tower, and surfing off the shores of the sunshine coast of Australia.

Why would you encourage a student to consider studying abroad in Asia Pacific?
Apart from showcasing unique cultures, food, and languages, the Asia-Pacific region boasts some of the highest quality education in the world. Many of TEAN’s partners are ranked in the top 500 worldwide and students from all majors, from accounting to zoology, can study/intern in this region of the world. Additionally, I often remind students how far away that region is from the U.S. and as a student it’s the perfect time to go. Much of Europe can be seen in just a couple of weeks while on vacation but the Asia-Pacific region is too big for just a 2 week visit. In order to get a full appreciation of what those countries have to offer a full semester or internship program is recommended.

What is your favorite part of your job?
Meeting students at events who think they are unable to participate in education abroad, whether it’s curriculum concerns or financial worries, then advising and guiding them to programs that meet their academic, professional, and financial needs. I also enjoy working with institutional partners to develop strategic programming for their institution.

Colton Oliphant

Regional Director - Campus Partnerships

Colton has been a member of the International Education community for just shy of a decade. He has spent most of that time at the University of Idaho Education Abroad Office, coordinating 22 faculty-led programs each year and sending thousands of students abroad on their programs. He has presented at multiple professional conferences, including NAFSA, ACADA, and LFA—where he taught people how to use creativity as a tool in their professional lives. His international experiences have led him to 24 separate countries over five continents for a combination of work, study, and pleasure. Now, he has taken residence at WorldStrides and looks forward to being a part of their facilitation of student dreams. Exploring the world and expanding minds are his passions, and he’d love to help you do the same!

David Puente, Ph.D.

Associate Dean - Academics

David grew up in Minnesota, looking at maps and reading about faraway places when not busy shoveling snow. After exploring much of the watery part of the world as a Navy officer he decided to write his dissertation about literary works that address what it means to learn from international or cross-cultural experience. This led him from California to Spain, where he found his calling as an international educator, and finally back to Minnesota, where he is raising two daughters who embody many of the ideals of global citizenship that he has written about. David’s zigzag journey has taken him to more than 50 countries and more university campuses than he cares to count. Though he hasn’t been a part of TEAN’s legendary office culture, he does boast many personal connections to the Windy City. His hobbies encompass Americana roots music and political philosophy.

Robin Reliford

Head of Health & Safety

Robin oversees international risk and crisis management, collaborating with staff globally on monitoring world events to mitigate risks, implementing emergency protocols and procedures, and managing student emergencies. She also works closely with executive management on policy development and compliance and presents at local and national conferences on student health and safety issues. A Philadelphia native, Robin attended college in her home state, receiving her B.A. from West Chester University and her J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Now living in Austin, Texas, she is an avid traveler—always ready for her next international experience and hopeful she will one day embrace packing light.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Cristy Sabido

Program Advisor

Born and raised in Merida, Mexico, Cristy has been interested in the English language since she was in kindergarten. She’s had the opportunity to live, work and study abroad twice: first, in Denver, Colorado, and later in Houston, Texas, the city her soul fell in love with; she has also explored multiple cities within Mexico and a few other countries. The different experiences, cultures, and traditions she’s been part of have helped her build her character and grow her love for people. During her free time, she enjoys dancing, singing, cooking, and having a good conversation over a cup of coffee or tea with her friends. Cristy is excited to help you discover the adventure that fits you the best, so you can get the most out of your experience!

msaenz

Michael Saenz

Director - Campus Partnerships

Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri

Michael has been in the field of international education for over 10 years. Before joining Worldstrides, he worked for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) for almost seven years as a Programs Abroad Coordinator and then as Assistant Director. Prior to his time at UTK, he worked for the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS) where his career in international education began. One of Michael’s fondest memories of studying abroad was witnessing the Spanish National Soccer Team win the World Cup while he was studying in Spain. Michael has undergraduate degrees in Business and Spanish and he recently completed his MBA at UTK in 2019. When Michael is not behind his desk working, you can find him traveling domestically or internationally, hanging out with family and friends, exploring the great outdoors, or playing sports.

Paula Rivera Santos

Program Manager

Born and raised in the island of Puerto Rico, Paula’s first experience abroad was when she went on a gastronomic trip in Europe during her junior year in college. Upon her return home, her passion for travel and adventure led her to earn a bachelor’s degree in Hotel Management in the University of Ana G. Mendez in Puerto Rico. With hopes of exploring her options of study abroad she discovered ISA, which presented her with the opportunity to venture off to South Korea as a marketing intern. Having had this life changing adventure, she realized that her eagerness to learn about different cultures had grown bigger and that she wanted to help others achieve their dreams of studying abroad.

Jessie Shen

Accountant

Jessie joined TEAN after graduating from the University of Illinois Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting. While in University she spent a summer studying in Italy, focusing on the study of art and architecture during the Renaissance. Her first international experience was during childhood, spending her summers in Taiwan visiting her family. She is excited to be a part of TEAN and continues to pursue international experiences.

Stuart Shreve

Program Manager

Hi! My name is Stuart but feel free to call me “Stu”, it’s been my nickname ever since I was a kid. I was born in North Miami beach, but I was raised in the city of Pembroke Pines, Florida. When I was a kid, my parents would always take me on trips to Disney World, which first sparked a small flame for hospitality, hotels, and travel of course. Over time, we slowly started to travel to other states, to experience some of our Nation’s beautiful history, people, and landscapes. I have seen the White House and visited Times square. I will always remember attending Derek Jeter’s last game at Fenway Park in Boston, but most of all taking in the view of Grand Canyon was unlike anything I’d seen before. Even so, something was missing. I recently graduated from Florida International University in December ’21 with my bachelor’s in hospitality management and a focus on travel and tourism. In my time at FIU, I wanted to learn about international cultures and people so that I could continue learning about myself as an individual. I achieved this goal when I studied abroad remotely as an intern in Vietnam, and it was the best decision I ever made. It will be my pleasure to assist you along your journey in making this dream a reality.

Jerry Spillane

Program Advisor

Born in New York City, Jerry’s first travel abroad experience came at 14 on a trip to visit relatives in Ireland. He returned to The Emerald Isle every summer in high school, seeing family and taking in the history of the cities and countryside. Following a stint of volunteer social work with impoverished families in the north of Mexico, his academic curiosity moved him to study philosophy, which took him to Spain and Italy. There, he fell head over heels in love with the people, the history, the languages, the art, and the cuisine. Since then, Jerry has taught language and philosophy in schools in Europe and Mexico, with the personal objective of lighting a fire in students’ minds and hearts. In his free time, he enjoys writing, listening to music, investigating history and the evolution of human thought, and having friends over to share good food, robust wine, and spirited conversation.

sswanner

Sarah Swanner

Regional Director - Campus Partnerships

Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri

An American by passport, and a global citizen by heart — Sarah took her first plane ride in 2013 at the impressionable young age of sixteen to Osaka, Japan, where she studied abroad for a year in high school through AFS Intercultural Programs. Although the two cultures and languages were about as similar as sushi and sandwiches, Sarah discovered her passion for breaking down big walls and building strong bridges, so she pursued a degree in Sociology at Oklahoma State University. As a first-generation university student, there were certainly a few challenges, but this did not stop her from studying abroad again in South Korea in 2016 for an academic year. These two experiences were vital in deepening her passion for studying abroad, foreign language acquisition, and getting lost. Sarah enjoys weight-lifting, Minecraft, collecting children’s books in other languages, caring for her baby succulents, and sharing “fun facts.”

Jenna Tantillo

Team Lead - Diversity Equity & Inclusion

Jenna has been active in the field of international education since her first semester in Spain during high school.  She later studied in Chile and holds an MA in International Education Management. While abroad, Jenna loves the opportunity for reinvention as perceptions of themself and the world shift. Jenna is dedicated to personal and community wellness which she supports as a leader on TEAN’s diversity & inclusion initiatives.  In their free time Jenna enjoys frolicking outside, knitting, stretching and breathing, playing the harp, and cuddling her dog Branches.

Photo of TEAN staff Trisha Turner

Trisha Turner

Senior Program Manager

China and Japan

Trisha’s first opportunity to travel outside the U.S. was after graduating from Indiana University, when she was able to pursue her dream of living abroad by working at a resort in Bavaria, Germany. She spent two years traveling extensively across Europe and North Africa, solidifying her passion for experiencing other cultures and seeing more of the world. After returning to the U.S., Trisha joined TEAN to help students get overseas so they can have their own adventures. Trisha has since traveled with TEAN to Australia, South Korea, China, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Her favorite part about working for TEAN is knowing that the work we do truly changes lives.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Sarah Warren

Embedded Office and Senior Regional Director - Campus Partnerships

Growing up in a small town in Kentucky, Sarah always wanted to get involved in international education. She earned a B.A. in German Language, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Kentucky. During her time at UK, she studied abroad outside of Munich, Germany, to improve her language skills and learn about the culture firsthand. Studying abroad not only improved her German but also gave her an appreciation for international cultures and people. She still talks with her host family, even years later. Helping students discover the same things for themselves is something that Sarah is excited to be involved with as part of the WorldStrides team. In her spare time, Sarah likes to write, cook, play video games, and spend time with friends.

Snow White

Regional Director - Campus Partnerships

While growing up, Snow spent every summer traveling around the United States, camping and visiting as many national parks as possible, which sparked her love of travel. A Florida native, Snow attended the University of South Florida (USF), where she earned a bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology and studied abroad twice—a full semester in Melbourne, Australia and a summer in Florence, Italy. She actually began working in international education right after her first study abroad trip, in the USF Education Abroad Office, and continued to work there for five years after graduation while also completing a master’s in business administration. Snow is a passionate advocate of study abroad for all students and loves helping them explore their possibilities. In her free time, she likes to hang out with her two guinea pigs, Muffin and Koala, and plan her future travel adventures.

John Yocum

Senior Director Enrollment Management

John studied Public Relations during his undergrad and Business Administration for his masters. Although he never studied abroad, he has a passion for travel and has spent time in several locations across Asia Pacific with TEAN. In his current role, John helps oversee all students traveling on TEAN programs. Prior to TEAN, John held roles in business development and education advisement.

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Q&A

What journey have you taken to arrive at your current role and working for TEAN?
An indirect one! It took me a while to find a field that interested me. Ultimately it was my passion for travel, restless nature, and a bit of luck that lead me to TEAN. After several years leading our Internship Programs, earning my Masters in Business Administration, learning our company’s processes and coming to know the team that I took on the role of Manager of Enrollment.

You work closely with the program team in Chicago, what makes this team unique?
The specialized knowledge base. I came from a different industry so was not aware that there were people who valued international education and travel so highly. All of the people that I work with are very well traveled, passionate, motivated, and most importantly, experts in the regions in which they manage programs.

Why would you encourage a student to pursue an internship abroad?
An internship was once a point of differentiation. Nowadays, it has become an expectation. An international internship will truly stand out, especially if properly reflected upon so you can convey your experience to future employers. Equally important is an expanded network, personal and professional growth. An internship abroad will give you a greater sense of what it means to be a global citizen.

What have been some highlights or favorite moments from your travels?
Number one highlight is my first international flight, which happened to be 29 hours of travel to Perth, Australia (believe it or not). It got old about half way through but the anticipation and excitement was very memorable.

Overseas Staff

Helen Armitage

Full Degree Program Manager

Helen has been working in the field of International Education for more than 20 years. During her undergraduate degree at Griffith University, she started working in their international office on a part time basis. This became full time after she graduated with a Bachelors in Communications in 1998. Helen worked with study abroad; exchange; full degree and ELICOS students during this time.  Following her role at Griffith she lived in London, England for several years. After returning back to Australia she then worked in the International and Study Abroad teams at Bond University and was responsible for marketing and developing the study abroad and full degree programs in North America and Europe.  This role saw Helen travel extensively throughout these regions for many years. Helen has been the TEAN Queensland Resident Director since 2010 and is also the Program Manager for Full Degree applicants in Australia and New Zealand.

Q&A

What is your role at TEAN?
I am the Resident Director for Queensland and responsible for working with our in-country study abroad students in our schools across this state. My role is to ensure that all students are supported and mentored and experience cultural events relevant to their location. I am the study abroad “mom” to all of my groups and try to ensure they stay focused on their schooling and experience all that their location has to offer. I like to get them to see the value of their study abroad semester and how it will benefit them in the future. I am also the Full Degree Program Manager for TEAN. In this role I work with students who are interested in taking their entire degree program in Australia or New Zealand.

How did you come to this current role?
I have been working in International Education since 1995. I have been involved in the study abroad and international offices at both Griffith University and Bond University on the Gold Coast. While at Bond University I managed the study abroad program for North America and was responsible for building partnerships with programs and U.S. schools. I have travelled extensively through North America and have visited many of our partner schools. I started working with TEAN as the Queensland Resident Director in 2010.

What is your favorite part of your job?
Seeing students grow and become more independent during their semester. Watching students learn to problem solve issues and gain confidence to make decisions on their own. I enjoy getting to know the groups and each group are varied and unique. I like seeing them develop lifelong friendships amongst the groups and enjoy watching them have fun at the various cultural events I arrange. I have met some amazing students over the years, who I am still in touch with today.

How do you work with students who are interested in pursuing their full degree abroad?
I am their go to person from start to finish. I help them narrow down their university choices, submit applications and answer any questions they may have through the process.When offers come in, I then assist them to accept the best option for them and talk them through next steps. This includes who to contact about U.S loans and aid, how to apply for their visa and enrolment. Being in the same time zone as the schools here and it makes it easy for me to follow up. I also have lots of contacts that i can reach out to directly, so it saves them time and stress.

What are some top reasons a student should consider a full degree in Australia or New Zealand?
You will be pursuing a quality education at some of the world’s top ranked universities while enjoying a personalized education. Australia and New Zealand are desirable places to live and attract high quality professors from all over the world. You will also graduate with a competitive advantage – most people don’t study overseas and having an international qualification and living in another country puts you ahead of your peers who stay in the U.S. You will also have gained a new network of international contacts.

Photo of TEAN Staff Dharma Bendersky

Dharma Bendersky

Director of Operations - Australia

Born in Sydney, Dharma studied Environmental Sciences at the University of Wollongong where he lived with many study abroad students and formed life-long friendships. This led to a career in international education and travel, where he has worked for over 20 years at Australian universities, study abroad companies, and leading educational tours around Australia and Asia Pacific. A dual Australian/American citizen, he has lived in and traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe, and is a keen surf and landscape photographer. Dharma has a passion for adventure and new experiences, and enjoys working for TEAN to help others have life-changing intercultural experiences that encourage personal and professional growth.

Q&A

What is your role at TEAN?
Director of Operations in Australia. I oversee all the programs and in-country staff.

What are some must-do activities for a first-time visitor to Sydney?
Doing the Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk, visiting the Blue Mountains, taking a ferry on the harbor and simply enjoying a day spent at any of the city’s amazing beaches.

What is unique about an educational experience in Asia Pacific?
There’s a wide variety of locations and something for everyone. Want a big city? Sydney and Melbourne have you covered. Want to live near the beach? The Gold Coast, Newcastle or Wollongong are for you. Want to try something off the beaten path? Townsville or Perth are amazing. Want to live in paradise? Nothing beats Fiji. Want somewhere laid back and beautiful that has a lot to offer? Anywhere in New Zealand is a great idea. Want to experience Asian culture? Thailand or Singapore offer unique settings and experiences you can’t find anywhere else. TEAN’s partner universities in Asia Pacific also each have excellent education systems with world class academics and facilities, plus a wide variety of institutions and subjects to choose from.

What advice would you give a hesitant, nervous future traveler?
While it can be hard to leave your comfort zone, spending time abroad (regardless of if it’s just one week or an entire year) will change your life for the better. No one ever regrets spending time in another country and culture. As they say, travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer!

You mentioned that you have a passion for photography. What is the most photogenic city you’ve been to?
With its harbor and beaches, Sydney has lots of amazing opportunities to capture great scenic images. I also love Paris for its architecture and style.

Laura Carroll

Resident Director - Sydney & Wollongong

Born and raised in Southern California, Laura went to California State University Long Beach where she studied nutrition and public health. Before beginning a career in international education, Laura worked in hospitality and volunteered in health care clinics. She has always enjoyed working with people from all different backgrounds, which is why she loves now working with international students while based in Sydney! A travel lover, she finds experiencing other cultures a great privilege and appreciates seeing the beautiful differences of each place she visits. You can also find her regularly reading a good book, cooking, hiking, swimming and doing yoga. Moving to Sydney has been a wonderful learning experience for Laura, a fact that helps her further connect to students as she’s able to relate with all the highs, lows and countless discoveries that come with living and studying abroad.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Q&A

What do you do for TEAN and what is the best part of your job?
I am the New South Wales Resident Director working with students who study in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. The best part of my job is watching students grow throughout their study abroad experience!

What should be on every student’s bucket list for a semester in Australia?
There are so many things to pick from!! My absolute favorite thing I have done in Australia was go to Rottnest Island in Western Australia. It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. There are no cars on the island, so you rent bikes and ride around beach hopping. There are amazing snorkeling spots, great beaches to lay out and the quokkas are the absolute cutest!

What are some must-do activities for every Sydney study abroad student?
Everyone should do the Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk. If you do that and love it, then check out the Spit to Manly Coastal Walk. It’s a bit longer but so beautiful! You can also take the ferry to Manly Beach then, once you get to Manly Beach, walk up to Shelly Beach and go snorkeling. I also recommend heading to Newtown for some of the best vegan food around as well as great shopping and nightlife, wandering through Sydney’s amazing markets, like theGlebe and Marrickville markets, and seeing if there are any shows or concerts you’re interested in while you’re in Sydney – there are some really cool old theaters here!

Besides Sydney, what are some of your favorite places in Asia Pacific?
I loved Thailand for its culture – the people were so lovely, the food was amazing and seeing elephants is hard to beat! Of course, the beaches are gorgeous and I loved all the fun shopping too. I would highly recommend visiting Thailand while students are living in Australia. It’s very affordable and it’s so close!

What is the best meal (or food) you’ve had while traveling abroad?
When I was in Bali, I tried this jackfruit curry dish in Ubud. It was unbelievably delicious and the texture was amazing. This introduced me to cooking with jackfruit, which is now a weekly staple at my house. All the food in Bali was so fresh. I loved how you could buy tempe and tofu wrapped in banana leaves on the side of the road!

Euisoo Chang

Resident Director

Born and raised in Seoul, Euisoo knew he wanted to study abroad during college after he experienced traveling to Europe for the first time in high school. Euisoo graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh, majoring in Hospitality Management and participating in the National Student Exchange program in Hilo, Hawaii. After graduation, he went to Tokyo on a Working Holiday visa to discover different Asian cultures and fell in love with the country. He has now visited more than 30 countries and is still eager to explore more of the world! Before working in international education, he worked in hospitality in South Korea and Canada for five years.

Andrea Ciotti

Resident Director - Newcastle

Originally from Tampa, Florida, Andrea attended the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando, where she graduated with a degree in business focusing on marketing and sports management. After working in the NFL and collegiate athletic departments doing marketing, event planning and community outreach, Andrea headed back to university working as a marketing coordinator for  UCF’s on-campus housing department. Always up for an adventure, Andrea lived in North Carolina, Florida and Pennsylvania before falling in love with an Australian and moving to Newcastle, where she has now resided for over five years. As an American abroad in Australia, she’s excited to share Newcastle’s beauty and unique experiences with TEAN students and serve as a bridge between the U.S. and Australia.

Joanna Diradji

Internship Program Manager

Originally from Walla Walla, Washington, Joanna began traveling as soon as she graduated high school – working abroad in Italy, Egypt, and South Korea, and studying abroad in Scotland. She then spent over a decade in New York City working within cultural exchange, international education, and global mobility; followed by a career as an immigration attorney. Having now settled in Melbourne, Australia, Joanna believes life is an adventure – and we should treat it like one. She thoroughly enjoys being able to help students do just that everyday.

Tiani Dun

Resident Director - Townsville

Tiani never enjoyed the cold weather in the city (Melbourne) where she grew up. She left her little bubble when she was 18 to play tennis and attend university in Upstate New York. After graduating with a degree in Psychology, Tiani moved on to Hawaii where she learnt to freedive. She decided to pursue her love for the ocean, a passion which then brought her to Townsville, Queensland, where she completed a Masters in Marine Biology at James Cook University. These days Tiani enjoys spending her time on Magnetic Island, snorkelling, playing music and surfing whenever there’s some cyclone swell. She loves to meet students from around the world and share with them her love of Tropical North Queensland!

Ann Eldridge

Resident Director - Brisbane & Cold Coast

Originally from Boston, Ann has worked in International Education for over 20 years, starting with a year studying abroad in Australia in the 90’s! Upon graduating from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, Ann returned to live in Australia and became the Manager of Study Abroad and Exchange at the University of Queensland. Upon leaving the University to start a family, Ann began working with TEAN as their Queensland Resident Director, where she looked after Study Abroad students in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, as well as being responsible for the Internship Program across Australia. Ann has worked in the student accommodation and arrivals services for the last 10 years, which has honed her expertise in assisting students transitioning to living/studying in Australia. She loves this aspect as she gets to re-live her study abroad experience through the eyes of our students. She is excited to be back with TEAN after all these years.

Medusa Fang

Resident Director - Shanghai

Medusa is a native of Shanghai with over 13 years of experience in international education. Having obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English Language from Fudan University and a Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Hong Kong, her academic background in international cultural exchange has provided a foundation for a career spent working with top-level universities and organizations from around the world. Prior to joining TEAN, Medusa complimented her work with international students by teaching university coursework in English and Chinese Culture and Folklore.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Q&A

How did you come to work in International Education?
Right after my graduation from Fudan University, I started to work in international education at Fudan. I have been working on admission of international students for 13 years. My work at Fudan University was to provide general services to international students. Now I work with TEAN students and help them with everything in-country. I arrange cultural activities to help students get in touch with local people and engage them into local culture.

What about Chinese culture and life in Shanghai most surprises students when they arrive?
I think it is the food here. Near Fudan University, there are so many restaurants and street food that are so tasty and so cheap. I think Chinese people are really creative in making food. Just prepare your stomach, you will love it.

What is your favorite dish in Shanghai that you would encourage every student to try?
My favourite dish is sweet and sour boneless yellow fish. I have loved it ever since childhood. We will have it together during our orientation in the most famous Shanghai restaurant, Lv Bo Lang.

What are some of the not-to-be-missed bucket list items every study abroad student should check off their list during their semester abroad?
I would say trying to speak the local language and holding conversations with locals, eating all the types of food, making as many friends as possible, going to another city without the assistance of anyone and trying to make your way around.

What are some of your favorite Shanghai secret spots that you love but maybe are a bit off the beaten track?
Bus 49 goes through the most beautiful part of Shanghai. It connects the east Bund area with the west French concession area. The cost is only RMB 2 for a single trip. On the way, you can see most beautiful streets and architecture in Shanghai. Try to take the bus in different seasons to see great views.

Rachel Fenton

Resident Director - New Zealand

Rachel has an extensive background in international education student services, marketing and university relations. She spent several years living and working abroad first in Japan on the JET program, then in London, England and Guangzhou, China. On return to New Zealand, Rachel managed the study abroad and student exchange programs at Massey University; her alma mater where she was awarded degrees in Business Administration and Marketing. She is now working at the University of Auckland, as well as representing TEAN as the New Zealand Resident Director.

Abraham Ferreyra

Program Advisor

Born and raised in Progreso, Yucatan. He is very familiar with the notion of international travels since he lives in a port where tourism is one of the main economic activities. When he was in high school, he took the Tourism path and was an outstanding English student because he discovered that’s one of the things he liked the most. Apart from school Abraham always shown interest in knowing other cultures, languages and to discover all the interesting things that are out there. That’s why a couple years later he got his degree in Modern Languages and started working as an English teacher for kids, an experience he really appreciated. He was also an independent tourist guide at Xcambo Archaeological site where he had contact with a lot of people from all around the world, getting to know a little of their different cultures, accents, ways of living and other things he found interesting. He spends his free time watching movies since he is a cinephile, listening to music and making printings with optical illusions.

Allison Ferris

Resident Assistant - Christchurch

Originally from Canada, Allison graduated from the University of New Brunswick in 2010 with a BA and completed her Bachelor of Honors in Elementary Education with a concentration in Inclusion and Special Needs. After graduation, Allison moved to South Korea where she taught at English language academies for three years. In 2014, she moved to New Zealand as an international student, studying towards an MEd in Inclusive and Special Education, and after six months, began working with international students through the campus halls of residence. Allison has worked in international education in Christchurch, New Zealand for five years. She loves showing off new places in Christchurch and visiting pop-up shops, as well as assisting students in acclimatizing to New Zealand’s unique culture and way of life.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Q&A

What are some of the common challenges students have to overcome to study in New Zealand?
Prioritizing why you are here versus all the activities you want to do – there’s so much to see, do and experience in New Zealand but it’s important to keep your focus on your studies as well! For making and maintaining relationships with Kiwis, many students find people here to be very friendly on a surface level but it takes more time to really invest in closer friendships.

Why should a student study abroad in Christchurch for the semester?
Christchurch is the most modern city in New Zealand with heaps of new buildings. It combines the best of a big city (second-biggest in the country) with the natural beauty of surf, ski and mountains. There’s also a very large cafe scene, vegan and vegetarian eateries, pop-up shops and more so there’s always some place new to try out.

Can you share some bucket list items for a semester in Christchurch?
A day at Sumner Beach with a walk up Godley Head and the flower track; Little High Eatery-a modern marketplace with eight different eateries including burgers, sushi and the most amazing milkshakes. Also visit Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, home to one of the country’s rescue and breeding programs for our most famous bird – the kiwi!

What is a must-see spot students need to visit in New Zealand?
Cape Reinga, at the top of the North Island, where you can see across the Pacific Ocean to understand just how far you have come and know that all the adventures lie just beneath your feet.

If you were going on a TEAN program leaving tomorrow, where would you go?
I would go to Seoul, South Korea. I used to teach English in Korea and have not been back for a long time. I would love to go during cherry blossom season (spring) to have the fresh vegetables and fruit and enjoy the divine flowers.

Dianne Fountaine-Cody

Resident Assistant - Palmerston North

Dianne first travelled to Japan on a student exchange in her twenties and was lucky enough to continue working at Massey University in various roles including the International Office for over fifteen years.  Dianne has travelled to more than sixty countries and has vast experience working with people from different cultural backgrounds in paid and volunteer roles.  Dianne and her family have hosted international students in their own home, some for short courses of several weeks to longer periods beyond a year from all over the world.  Dianne now works part-time from home, is a busy mum of a 4 & 8 year old and enjoys working with TEAN students.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Melissa Greenberg

Resident Director - Perth

Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Melissa now calls Perth home after studying abroad at Curtin University and falling in love with Australia in 2015. Melissa graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana with degrees in sociology and musical cultures of the Gulf South but has found her passion in working with international students and helping make their experience abroad memorable and worthwhile. Mel’s love for adventure has taken her all around the world but most recently she has been spending her travels scuba diving and eating across southeast Asia… two of her favorite activities! Mel is always excited to share her love for Perth and show off the beautiful west coast (best coast!) to the students she works with.

Ange Hart

Resident Director - Melbourne

Ange’s love of people and traveling has taken her to parts of Southeast Asia, North, Central and South America, the U.K., Europe, some South Pacific islands, and around much of the huge, gorgeous continent of Australia. A native Melbournian, she feels lucky to call this vibrant, eclectic city her home and get to show her off to her study abroad friends. When she’s not showing people around Melbourne, she is busy dancing, hosting events, being silly on stage or taking adults through deep, emotional processes to re-find their power. She believes that life is full of magic if we just breathe it in, and she chooses to do just that!

Joshua Horrell Profile Picture

Josh Horrell

Resident Assistant - Auckland

Joshua’s appetite for international education and adventure was first discovered during his gap year in England where he worked at a prep school in Sussex. Since then the Wellington native has undertaken a semester abroad in Uppsala, Sweden as well as an internship in Shanghai. All of these experiences have given him the ability to recognize the perspective of an exchange student and the various opportunities/challenges one might face. He also loves to show off Auckland to those lucky enough to visit it!

Niaya Harper Igarashi

Resident Director - Japan

Originally from the United States, but living in Japan for more than a decade, Niaya has been helping study abroad students in Tokyo since 2014. She graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana with a BA in History and Spanish and completed an MA in International Business at Webster University’s London campus, during which she completely fell in love with discovering travel and different cultures. Before moving to Tokyo, she worked in international business development and marketing in London, Houston, and New York. Niaya enjoys hiking and volunteering, and considers herself a lifelong learner – something she shares with students by sharing her love of Japan helping students realize the value of studying abroad both during their journey and afterward!

Wynter Jisu Yun

Student Services Coordinator

Wynter had joined her first international experience when she had a chance to study in the Philippines in her childhood. This made her get more involved in the world and more closely communicate with new people. She had done an internship in her college at Walt Disney World in Florida, and this helped her to achieve intercultural experience and customer service. After graduation, she worked in a local university in Korea and helped international students’ academics, residence, excursions, etc.- assisting their stay in Korea. She is now ready to help students in TEAN and her life-longing experience is still ongoing!

Chowon Kim

Student Services Coordinator - Seoul

Born and raised in Seoul, Chowon has always loved meeting new people who have different cultures and experiences. She decided to start a journey in Seattle, Washington, then moved to Portland, Oregon where she earned a BA in International/Global Studies from Portland State University. So far, the journey has made her experience diverse views of global perspectives. Chowon is very excited to share her experiences and knowledge of Korea with TEAN students.

On Lee Lau

Resident Assistant - Dunedin

On Lee grew up in San Francisco and found her passion for botany and conservation by exploring the Redwood forests in nearby parks. Traveling and studying abroad became an important part of her education as she began traveling extensively throughout the West Coast, which included a summer working in Alaska, and studied abroad in Costa Rica during her time at Reed College in Oregon. She also spent a field season in central Brazil meeting the locals and measuring tropical trees for her Masters research at North Carolina State University. She coordinated an internship program connecting college students with summer opportunities in the US National Parks before moving to New Zealand in 2013. She loves sharing and facilitating adventures in and around Dunedin with TEAN students.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Q&A

What is your role at TEAN?
I’m a Resident Assistant based out of Dunedin, New Zealand. I look after students that study abroad at the University of Otago and help introduce students to New Zealand culture during TEAN Orientations as well as throughout the semester.

What is the best part of your job?
The best part for me is planning group events to do things most students otherwise wouldn’t know about or have the budget to do on their own. I love seeing how newly arrived students react when they walk up to an amazing vista – like in the Otago Peninsula or Queenstown or Milford Sound – that perfectly encapsulates the natural beauty of New Zealand. It’s also fun to see how excited students are to see the All Blacks vs Australia rugby match at our local stadium.

What makes Dunedin a great place to study abroad?
Dunedin is the only place I know where you can see albatross and penguin colonies in amazing nature reserves close to town – it really deserves its reputation as the wildlife capital of New Zealand. Students in Dunedin get the perks of being in a college town, in a place with a rich indigenous and immigrant history, and surrounded by green hills and wild beaches.

What should be on every student’s bucket list for a semester in New Zealand?
Every student in New Zealand should plan to do a Great Walk or at least a part of it. Great Walks are backpacking or boating trails that go through New Zealand’s National Parks managed by the Department of Conservation. I also recommend taking the time to watch kapa haka groups that often perform during community events, and learning about Maori history and culture.

What places would you recommend to someone visiting New Zealand?
I’m a big fan of Te Anau. The town is right near the start of the Kepler Track and is the closest town to Milford Sound. Te Anau tends to have less people compared to Queenstown or Wanaka, but it still has great restaurants and cafes, and a year-round boat tour to otherworldly glow worm caves on the opposite side of the lake.

Photo of TEAN Staff Aleisha Lord

Aleisha Lord

Resident Assistant - Dunedin

Studying economics and languages at the University of Otago, Aleisha has had many opportunities to travel and study abroad, visiting the United States, Chile, Argentina and several European countries. Most recently, she spent six months at the Sorbonne in Paris, working towards her Masters in French. Aleisha was born and raised in Dunedin, a city she adores. She loves sharing the history and culture of Dunedin and New Zealand with others. As a TEAN Resident Assistant, she looks forward to welcoming students to Dunedin, helping them get the most from their study abroad experience. She also works at the Otago Museum, hosting sleepover groups who come to experience their very own Night at the Museum!

Q&A

What is something unique to Dunedin that every student must experience?
The Vogel Street Warehouse Precinct is such a cool part of town to explore. I can’t recommend it enough to visiting students. What used to be the industrial center of town is now a vibrant urban area. Its beautiful Victorian buildings are covered with local street art, and you will find a great selection of cafes and restaurants there, including Good Good, which is a must-try burger experience.

What should be on every student’s bucket list for a semester in New Zealand?
Every student coming to New Zealand needs to visit Central Otago. It doesn’t matter whether it’s winter or summer or somewhere in between, the region is always beautiful and fresh. Central Otago has incredible scenery, with some of the highest mountains and deepest lakes in the country. It’s really the perfect place to take in the stillness and pureness of New Zealand.

What are some hidden gems on the South Island?
The small town of Tekapo is a bit of a hidden gem. It’s nestled in a beautiful alpine region and is only about a three-hour drive from Dunedin. You can unwind in the local hot springs and watch the stars as they appear at night. Definitely the best place I know for stargazing!

What are your tips for students feeling homesick?
If I am ever feeling homesick, I get in touch with a friend or contact that I have made since I’ve been away and try to organize something a bit different to take my mind off things. Sometimes calling people back home to tell them that you miss them makes you miss them even more, but calling someone local and asking them if they want to visit a new place with you or come over to your flat and cook a new recipe is a great way to feel less alone and to remind yourself of the awesome journey you are on.

What makes TEAN unique in your opinion?
We are committed to helping students have the best experience that they can have while abroad, and we will help students find their way through any questions or issues, regardless of their size or complexity, that arise during their exchange. Also, our local staff are incredibly familiar with their cities and regions and are always able to share the best local knowledge with our students.

Photo of Andrea McKenna Brankin

Andrea McKenna Brankin

Resident Director - Singapore

Andrea is an American who has been living in Singapore for seven years. A professional journalist and yoga teacher by trade, Andrea writes about life in Singapore for local publications, blogs and websites and also teaches yoga to adults and kids around town. Her first stint as an expat was in London in 1993 when she was finishing her journalism studies at Boston University. She is married to a financial services executive and has one young daughter, who was born in Singapore. Andrea is a native of Mystic, Connecticut, but had been living in Chicago since 1995 before moving to Singapore in 2012. She is a former field hockey and rugby player, but now prefers walking around the beautiful and numerous Singapore parks. Local claim to fame: Andrea met the first female President of Singapore Halimah Yacob in 2017 for her volunteer work with a girls home. She is also featured in the book, Dear Ms. Expat, which details women’s expat lives in Singapore.

Q&A

What is your role at TEAN and what is the most rewarding part of your job?
I’m the Singapore Resident Director and responsible for welcoming students to Singapore for summer and semester programs. The most rewarding part is getting to know TEAN students, their views, mindsets and goals.

What are some of your favorite foods that you’ve discovered living in Singapore?
Curry chicken noodles, Hainanese chicken rice and nasi lemak (Malaysian-style coconut milk rice with toppings) are some of the most popular dishes in Singapore…everyone loves them!

What are some must-do activities for a first-time visitor to Singapore?
Visit Gardens By The Bay for the Supertrees Grove, Cloud Forest and Flower Dome. The billion-dollar park is incredible. Also, try out all the local food at hawker centres like La Pa Sat, Maxwell Street or Newton Food Centre.

Where else have you traveled in Asia Pacific and what have been some highlights from those travels?
I’ve been all over Southeast Asia as well as to Japan, India, Nepal and Australia. Borneo was very interesting staying with the Iban tribe, Nepal had beautiful trekking, and I love the beaches in Indonesia and Thailand. I also love the jungle and rice fields in Bali, while Japan is an amazingly beautiful country to visit with its stunning parks, gardens, forests and temples.

What is your favorite travel quote and why?
“Not all those who wander are lost” from Tolkien. I know who I am; I travel to learn, to grow and remember what my values are. It strengthens my character.

Andrea Mendez

Outreach Manager

Andrea was born in Mexico City but raised in Vienna, Austria. At the age of 18 she moved back to Mexico City where she studied Graphic Design. After several years of working as a graphic designer for advertising agencies in Mexico City, she moved to the state of Yucatan to start a new life. Her destiny decided to place her with a local DMC. This is how her journey in Tourism started and continued up until today. In 2012 she joined Explorica, WorldStrides and moved to the ISA Higher ed Division in 2017. She has traveled all around Europe with family and friends. And has also visited other places in the U.S., Africa, Australia & Costa Rica, but so far Namibia and Tavanipupu in the Solomon Islands have been her number one favorite adventure destinations outside her home Country, Mexico. She believes that traveling is a life changing experience, that is why she thinks that studying abroad should be on everyone’s bucket list. In her free time, she enjoys, mediation (she is a Kundalini Yoga teacher) and also being in nature while exploring cenotes around the Yucatan.

Cole McLean

Senior Resident Director - Queensland

Originally from Canada, Cole is a graduate of the Bachelor of Communications program at Griffith University’s Gold Coast campus. Cole, just like many others across North America, decided to take his education international and start one of the greatest adventures of his life. Cole has been involved in communities around the globe through work within the Not-For-Profit sector, and in his personal time he enjoys travel throughout South East Asia, meeting people from different walks of life, learning about local cultures, and reading any work by Hunter S. Thompson, finding his work to be mind- strengthening through its creativity and realism. Taking on new challenges is something Cole greatly enjoys and is one of the reasons why he thrives being on the ISA team.

Duc Nguyen

Resident Director - Vietnam

Duc Nguyen was born and raised in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He graduated from RMIT University in Australia with Bachelor of Commerce in 2012 and Master of Business Administration in 2017. He enjoys soccer, basketball and woodworking. Duc is enthusiastic about embracing his own Vietnamese culture and sharing it with his international friends.

Yeseul Park

Resident Director - Busan

While studying Childcare and Family Counseling at Dong-eui University in Busan, Yeseul longed for new adventures outside of South Korea. This longing led her to travel to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the Philippines, and Indonesia. During her last year of university, Yeseul helped Thai exchange students discover more about Korean culture. Yeseul’s superpower is making everyone in any given situation feel comfortable with her friendliness and smile. Passionate about cultural exchange, she is excited to share her country and culture with TEAN students!

Kelly Pihema-Berridge

Director of Operations - New Zealand & Fiji

Kelly was born and raised in Auckland and is of Maori descent. Her passion for international education and foreign languages was first sparked by her experience living overseas as an exchange student in Brazil, Chile, and Italy. Kelly has since traveled throughout Europe, the Americas, Asia, the Pacific region, and Australia. She has also explored the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Kelly has enjoyed working for WorldStrides since 2015. She loves meeting new students and sharing her Maori and kiwi culture with them, and she is grateful to be a part of providing an exciting and culturally enriching experience for TEAN students in the Pacific region.

Xena Profile Picture

Xena Pulliam

Director - Internships

Hailing from Knox, NY, Xena earned her BA in media and society from Hobart & William Smith Colleges where she also completed programs in English, aesthetics, environmental studies and leadership. During her junior year, she studied abroad in London and fell in love with the history, culture and countries she explored throughout Europe. She vowed to never stop traveling the world and has since lived on three different continents. Now based in Melbourne, Xena loves helping students discover the magic that she feels when exploring a new country. She also enjoys reading a good book on the beach, dabbling in creative writing and eating copious amounts of the delicious food that her partner (a chef!) makes.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Q&A

What sparked your interest in studying abroad as an undergraduate?
My university was ranked as having the #1 study abroad program in the country by the Princeton Review for several years in a row so I don’t think there was ever any question on if I was going but where! I was most interested in hybrid programs that had an internship component since I knew that having an internship abroad would give me an advantage once I graduated and was applying for jobs.

What was the transition like moving from the U.S. to Australia?
Easier than you would think! I often think that living in Melbourne is like having the best parts of America and England (where I studied abroad) in one place. The people are lovely, the food is amazing, the weather is great and the accents are always a plus. I did find it a bit difficult to meet people at first, but once I started using things like Facebook Groups, apps and going to various meet-ups, it was like I couldn’t stop meeting people! Now I have a good group of people who I’ve surrounded myself with and Australia feels like a home away from home.

What advice would you give someone who is considering going abroad, but is apprehensive?
Our staff on the ground can help you with literally any situation you could possibly encounter and are happy to do so. There’s nothing that I enjoy more than helping students through the transition of living in Australia since it’s something I went through myself. We want you to love the country and cities as much as we do, so will go above and beyond to make sure that you’re safe, comfortable and having the time of your life!

What kind of value does having an international internship add to your resume?
Having an international internship gives you an advantage over other applicants when you’re applying for a job as you already have extensive experience working with people from different cultures who maybe speak different languages and who think differently than you do. Whatever company you apply with afterward then knows you like a good challenge since you went outside your comfort zone and moved to a new country all by yourself to gain professional experience. To this day, whenever I’ve had an employer look at my resume, my internship abroad is the first thing they ask about.

What one song belongs on your ‘study abroad soundtrack’ and why?
Over and Over by Ben Rector
TEAN Australia Internship Alum Anna Groom showed me the song before she left Australia and, I’m not going to lie, it made me extremely emotional that she was saying she would choose TEAN and Melbourne “over and over again.” I can’t hear that song without thinking about studying abroad and all the amazing students I’ve been able to help now because I would choose them over and over again too.

Shivani Rajan

Resident Assistant - Auckland

Shivani is an AUT University Communications graduate and spent a semester on exchange at Cardiff University. It’s a time still cherished very close to her heart. She loves the opportunity to work alongside international students, and is very passionate about the opportunities that come with studying abroad. Shivani welcomes TEAN students to Auckland and helps them not only learn about themselves but to also make the most of their learning opportunities while in New Zealand.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Alejandra Rodriguez

Program Advisor

Alejandra was born in Mexico City and now lives in Merida Yucatan. Alejandra studies International Relations at the Universidad Anáhuac Mexico, with a passion for history and international affairs, she believes that education as well as the relationship between nations is the key to achieve a sustainable, inclusive, and better social and economic development in a globalized world. She began her interest in education and international affairs when she volunteered in Katmandu Nepal teaching English to Buddhist monks, later she worked in the commercial office at the Israeli Embassy in Mexico, promoting the economic relationship between Mexico and Israel. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, practicing yoga and meeting new people.

Akisi Rokovucago

Resident Director - Fiji

Born and raised in Suva, Akisi studied Tourism and Management & Public Administration at the University of the South Pacific and has been using her degree ever since by working in the tourism industry. Passionate about travel and the local environment, Akisi loves sharing her knowledge with students to help you better understand Fiji’s culture and your experiences in the island nation.

Photo of Ashley Stewart

Ashley Stewart

Resident Assistant - Wellington

Born and raised on the South Island, Ashley studied at the University of Otago in Dunedin where he delved into the worlds of theatre, game design and media studies. While involved with the International Student Department during high school, he discovered a passion for storytelling and New Zealand culture so, following his studies, worked at the Otago Museum and as a Resident Assistant for TEAN in Dunedin. He loves showing new students and travelers from around the world how to make the most of this amazing country and its hidden secrets. He has recently made the move up to Wellington on the North Island, bringing with him his collection of stories, experiences, swords and classic Kiwi humour.

Q&A

What helps set up a student for a successful experience abroad?
An open mind. People in New Zealand love to help each other and we want you to enjoy your time here and understand why our little corner of the world is so special. There will be strange animals, phrases and food all around you and you’ll be able to appreciate it all more if you take it all in with enthusiasm and curiosity.

What makes New Zealand a great place to study or intern abroad?
Almost anywhere in New Zealand, you are only ten minutes away from wildlife or amazing vistas. It can be surprising to feel like you are miles away from civilization and then be back at work or school within the hour but that’s what makes it special. I can almost guarantee that every local has a hidden spot nearby that they like to visit for hiking, fishing, surfing or simply an isolated place with a gorgeous view.

What should every study abroad student have on their bucket list for a semester in New Zealand?
Watch the Lord of the Rings and then see how many locations from the movies you can find. It may take you around the country or to hidden spots around your local city that were carefully picked because of their wondrous feel.

What previous experiences have led to your current role?
Throughout high school, I could be found in the International Department talking with the students coming from around the world. I wanted to know what drove them to come to New Zealand because to me their home countries seemed so much more interesting. They gave me a perspective about their home and my own, and what made each one special, which then led me to start to explore the Pacific a bit more. My studies took me to the Otago Museum, where I shared the history and culture of New Zealand/Polynesia to people from across the world and the passion just hasn’t stopped. TEAN attracts some of the most interesting and driven students I have ever met, and it is an honor exploring my home country with them and helping them bring out their best selves.

What do you love about living in New Zealand?
The passion of the people living here. At my doorstep I can guarantee that there will be exotic birds that were on the brink of extinction only 20 years ago and are now flourishing in this region due to the rapid actions of New Zealanders. We may be small, but we make up for it with our drive and passion. Go to any game of rugby and you will see and feel the energy of thousands of fans celebrating our national sport. Or ask anybody about places to visit and they will tell you about hidden gems around the country ranging from golden beaches to glaciers that are sometimes only an hour away from the city center. With the exception of overnight delivery options from Amazon, there is very little that you can’t find in New Zealand.

Natcha Waisuebkhao

Natcha Waisuebkhao

Resident Director - Thailand

Natcha was born and raised in Chiang Mai, Thailand, what she considers to be the friendliest city in the world. As a cultural exchange student at Walt Disney World during summer break in college, Natcha realized how much she loves making magic and seeing people happy. After this life-changing experience, she moved back to Thailand, finished her degree, and started her career as a sports liaison officer, where she worked with sports teams from around the world. She continued her work with travelers from across the globe as a Program Leader with the Experiment in International Living in Thailand. Natcha especially enjoys meeting new people and learning about different cultural backgrounds.