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 South Korea. And, of course, feel free to contact us anytime if you have questions!

Program Managers

Shannon Diegel Profile Picture

Shannon Diegel

Senior Program Manager

Shannon is the Team Asia lead working on TEAN programs in Singapore, Seoul and Shanghai, and has a special place in her heart for Asia – after graduation she moved to Bangkok to teach English before returning to Chicago to work in study abroad! She has been to Seoul several times and thinks there is something about Korea that makes you want to stay forever. The kind and welcoming locals, the amazing food and user-friendly public transport that makes exploring easy, and allows you to really build a home base away from the U.S. and Shannon loves helping students study in what has become one of her favorite cities.

Q&A

What inspired you to teach abroad in Thailand?
As I was about to graduate from school I knew that I wanted to work in International Education. I spoke with the study abroad office at my school to ask them for advice and they encouraged me to pursue more international experience. I knew I wanted to be challenged everyday and to go someplace very different from my current environment.

What did you learn about yourself living abroad?
Everyday I experienced something new. At first, I found that by not speaking the language I struggled to make new friends, but it pushed me outside of my comfort zone. It was hard for me to feel like myself, but through that I learned that it is okay to feel uncomfortable. I continued to work at making my new city home and eventually, I made some really great friends, developed my own community, and was able to enjoy my new city. When I left Bangkok it was as difficult (if not more difficult then when I left Chicago). Even years later I miss my neighborhood, my friends, and the food almost on a daily basis. I was able to make a home for myself in a completely different place than where I grew up and I learned I am lot more confident than I had given myself credit for.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the field of International Education?
I have found that there are so many people in International Education who are willing to sit down and have a talk with you and give advice. When I decided in college that I wanted to go into the field I met with the Provost of International Programs. Then when I came back from Thailand I met with some people at the University of Minnesota to ask them about their work on a daily basis and they sent me to go and meet with someone who worked at AFS-USA to gather a different perspective. Pretty much everyone that I asked to meet with me not only made the time to talk with me they also introduced me to someone else to speak with. It is from talking with people that I learned about SIT Graduate Institute and decided to apply for their Master’s program in International Education. It was a great environment to meet others who were passionate about the field of International Education and we all came from very different backgrounds which surprised me. So in general my advice is to talk to as many people as you can! While the industry can seem very small, I have found it to be a very friendly and welcoming place – so just do your research and ask someone to coffee.

What destination is next on your travel bucket list?
After working at TEAN, I want to see New Zealand next. I have learned so much about this country from working at TEAN. I am not sure if I would ever have enough courage to do the Nevis Bungee in Queenstown, but I am looking forward to the hikes, views, food, sheep, and wine tasting.

Katie Barrett

Assistant Program Manager

Katie loves being on Team Asia and helping make students’ dreams of studying abroad a reality in Seoul! Her interest in Asia really blossomed when she traveled to Seoul to experience the city first hand. She loved getting lost in Myeong-dong, slowly wandering down alleys in Insadong and singing karaoke in Gangnam. She hopes that students will take full advantage of everything Korea has to offer – from traveling outside of the city, to language immersion with new friends, to delving into Korea’s rich history. Prior to joining TEAN, Katie lived abroad and taught English in Buenos Aires, Argentina. When Katie isn’t helping students, you can find her running, reading or…traveling!

Q&A

What inspired you to teach abroad?
It sounds a little silly, but a Netflix documentary, The Square, about the Arab Spring really inspired me to teach after graduating. After watching it, I felt empowered to go out and make a difference in the world so started researching how to make that difference. I wanted to teach in Argentina because I have been in love with the country since elementary school when I first heard about Eva Perón, los descamisados and la Guerra Sucia. I also looked at it as a chance to improve my Spanish. Argentina was an ultimate bucket list destination for me.

What advice do you have for students returning from abroad?
Be aware of reverse culture shock. I remember when I returned from Argentina, my dad took me to breakfast and I was shocked at how large the portions were. I was overwhelmed by the amount of food on everyone’s plate. Not to mention everyone speaking English. Another piece of advice would be to not get frustrated with people if they don’t understand how much studying abroad has changed you (for the better). Not everyone is lucky enough to study and live abroad so they can’t really understand where you’re coming from from. Be gentle and patient with people.

If you were going to study abroad tomorrow on a TEAN program where would you go?
I would definitely go on our Singapore program with Singapore Management University. I didn’t know much about this location before working at TEAN. Now I’m totally in love with it. I’m fascinated by the intersection of east meets west, love that they have four official languages and the food looks amazing. I can’t wait to visit!

What one song belongs on your ‘study abroad soundtrack’ and why?
“If Only for Memories” by Streetlight Manifesto. It’s a song I really clung to when I moved abroad and drew a lot strength from. The lyrics go, “This is your pain your dilemma. Do you stay in the town where they raised ya? Or will you sail away, pull the anchor and go headed for the come what may. You have to leave ’cause if you don’t, dear, you’ll never see the things you read about in books. You saw the films and you were hooked. But everything you want won’t come to you. You realize now that you’ve gotta go see this through.”

What makes TEAN HQ in Chicago a great place to work?
One of my favorite things about working at TEAN are my coworkers. Everyone works hard and takes pride in what they do – that makes me work harder! I also love our commitment to always Choose Earth, something we really exemplify in our Chicago HQ office by recycling paper, eliminating paper plates/plastic utensils and being responsible energy consumers. We even compost our food scraps.

Allison Kelley

Assistant Program Manager

Allison’s first experience overseas was her internship at a business school in Paris as an undergrad. That experience sparked her love of international education, and she is happy to now work at TEAN’s Chicago office on the Asia team. She loves helping students discover all that Korea has to offer. Allison especially loves the café culture in Seoul, and could explore its hidden alleyways and shops forever. There is so much to see, do, and eat in Seoul—it will never bore you!

Seoul Staff

Sandra Durinick

Resident Director - Seoul

Sandra, a native of San Francisco, has always had a passion for travel. After graduating from UC Berkeley, she decided to pursue that passion and moved to South Korea. In 2015, she spent time traveling the world and lived briefly in South Africa before continuing her studies at Seoul National University. She is currently still residing in Seoul and loves showing off the place she has decided to call home.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Q&A

What first sparked your interest for travel?
It was actually a presentation I watched in third grade. My friend’s grandfather came to school and presented about his life as a scientist in Antarctica. I then decided that at some point in my life I would travel there – I started with big dreams as you can see! Fast forward to now and I have lived in five countries since graduating college.

What led you to living in Seoul?
My father is Japanese so my sister had gone to Japan to work and reunite with that side of the family. I had originally planned to join her in Japan but found Korea to be an interesting place to travel while still being close enough to help her. Soon, however, the country became my home and now I don’t think it will ever be able to get rid of me.

What are some must-do or must-see items for a first time visitor to Seoul?
Of course you need to go to the main attractions, like the palaces and the DMZ, but after that you can really explore your interests. For foodies, there are an unlimited number of restaurants to try and eat your way through Korea. For those interested in art, Anguk is filled with art museums to get lost in. For the KPop addicts, you should head to Coex as a start and then possibly find a cafe or restaurant owned by your favorite celeb. It really depends on the person but there’s something for everyone here.

Where else have you traveled in Asia Pacific?
I’ve been to Japan a ton, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. It changes daily but I think that Mongolia is next up on my travel wish list.

What are some of your favorite Korean foods or dishes?
My all time favorite is called yukhoi, which is basically Korean steak tartare, but it really depends on my mood. I also love gamjatang, naengmyeon, galbi… I think most people know about bibimbap and Korean BBQ, but I would encourage people to try more Korean soups. They’re one of the underappreciated Korean foods. Also, I’ve heard people say they don’t like kimchi but there are HUNDREDS of types of kimchi. Spicy, non-spicy, radish, cabbage, onion root, fish, vegetarian, etc. The kimchi most people know is just a gateway kimchi. Keep trying!