As we get to know you through the application process to study abroad, it’s only fair that you know a bit about us too! Read on to learn more about the programs team behind all the emails and phone calls and our in-country staff who you will get to know during your time in Australia. And, of course, feel free to contact us anytime if you have questions!
Meet Team ICMS
Kate studied abroad with TEAN at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia where the week was meant for soaking up the culture of the city while the weekends were made for exploring the coast. She has fond memories of dodging flying foxes, riding the City Cat to random stops on the Brisbane River and her first Tim Tam Slam in the Daintree Rainforest. She has been on the other side of the study abroad process for more than six years now as a Senior Program Manager and lead for TEAN Bond and ICMS. Kate also joins Brynne Shannon on “Team Green” to promote sustainability, social justice and cultural perspective assessment for study abroad students. IG: @ktmcsurley
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.
Brynne is a proud TEAN alum! She studied abroad in Thailand and now is part of TEAN’s Team Australia and Team Thailand. Some of the highlights from her time visiting Australia include strolling through the farmers market in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens, snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef and seeing the spectacular light displays at Vivid Sydney. As a coffee lover, she also appreciates that Australia truly knows how to make a mean cup of joe. Brynne is passionate about the value of study abroad and is excited to be a part of your journey. She also works with Kate McSurley in the Sustainability & Assessment role to educate students about the environmental and cultural impact of studying abroad. IG: @bcshann
Where did you study abroad?
I studied abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with TEAN. I wanted to go as far away as I could and experience something totally different than what I had grown up with. I had always been drawn to Asia, and after some research I decided that Thailand was the perfect place for me. I also lived in Lampang, Thailand upon graduating and I’ve traveled to Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia.
What inspired you to teach abroad?
I came back from my semester abroad feeling like my time in Thailand wasn’t finished. I knew I wanted to go back to Thailand after I graduated and the more I spoke to people who had taught English abroad the more I knew it was a good fit for me. I wanted to challenge myself and have an even more culturally immersive experience the second go around, and I also wanted to give something back to a country I fell in love with while studying abroad since it had given so much to me.
What makes Thailand a great place to study abroad?
Thailand is great because it forces students to step out of their comfort zone and learn more about the world and themselves as individuals. Not only are you experiencing a new culture, but you’re learning a new language, alphabet, cuisine, social norms, interactions, ways of life, etc. It seriously puts things into perspective. Thai people are some of the kindest and welcoming people you will ever meet – hands down. They make the experience so special and you can learn so much from them. Living in Thailand teaches you to slow down and enjoy what’s happening in the now and be thankful for what you have and who’s around you.
What should be on every student’s bucket list for a study abroad semester in Thailand?
A hike up to Wat Palad. This temple is on the way to the more famous Wat Doi Suthep, which sits on top of a mountain, but Wat Palad is tucked away in the forest surrounded by trees and a rushing waterfall during the rainy season. Students can hike up to the temple from their housing or hire a songteow to take them up the mountain. It is one of my favorite places in the world because of how quiet and serene it is. To me, it captures the essence of what Buddhism is all about. You can sit on the rocks and dip your toes in the waterfall while looking out at the spectacular view of the city that peeks out between the trees.
What is your favorite travel quote?
It’s not necessarily a travel quote, but one of my favorite Thai expressions I learned was “mai long, mai rue” which means “If you never try, you never know”. It inspired me to just say yes to everything and go for things even if I didn’t know what the outcome would be.
Resident Director - NSW
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.
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!