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!

Program Managers

Molly Laycob

Assistant Program Manager

Molly has a great admiration for Australia because they take sustainability seriously, which makes this country the top of her list for future travel destinations! 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. She is very excited to be a part of Team Australia and feels lucky to help students study abroad in Melbourne since it is such an incredible city!

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.

Kristen Jackson

Director Enrollment Management

Kristen’s love for all things Australia began when she had an internship in Sydney in college. Because she enjoyed her experience so much, she was determined to move back to Australia for a longer period of time so packed her bags in Chicago and jetted off to Sydney for a year! Kristen worked with incoming American study abroad students to show them around Sydney and helped them settle into their new life in Australia. Now back in Chicago, Kristen is excited to work with TEAN students headed to Australia!

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.

Australia Staff

Photo of TEAN Staff Ange Hart

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!

Xena Profile Picture

Xena Pulliam

Program Manager

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.

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.