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

Kristen Jackson

Senior Program Manager

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.

Nick Falzone

Program Manager

Nick has been in Chicago nine years and has greatly expanded his travel roster since joining the TEAN team over six years ago. He has a deep love for Australia – everything from meeting the quokkas on Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth to diving the Great Barrier Reef – Nick loves guiding students in planning their studies down under! He is also TEAN’s Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator for all programs.

Q&A

Where have you traveled in Asia Pacific?
I have traveled to numerous places within Australia multiple times on work trips with TEAN. We have a TEAN employee travel incentive program that encourages our team to spend vacation time in the countries where we work and, outside of Australia, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to visit Thailand and Singapore.

What has been a favorite memory from your travels?
One of the best travel memories was taking part in a guided snorkel tour on the outer shelf of the Great Barrier Reef. The outer edge is like an underwater cliff and has many beautiful kinds of fish and coral. You can do the same tour on our new Australian Orientation Excursion in Cairns, as it’s one of the optional reef day activities available, so I hope all of our students get to share in the kind of experience I had.

What is your favorite travel or study abroad quote and why?
It’s some variation on, “Everything you learned while you were abroad doesn’t stay where you studied. You will always have it with you and must apply it to your life back home.” I heard it during an Lessons From Abroad conference re-entry session and it truly was a turning point in getting over my post-program reverse culture shock.

What is your advice for a student who is on the fence about studying abroad?
Just do it. Parts of it may make you uncomfortable, but our most formative changes require a level of discomfort. Studying abroad is still the most productive and transformative thing I’ve done, but you will only get out of it what you put into it. The challenge is getting past your nerves and allowing yourself to embrace the unknown.

What one song belongs on your ‘study abroad soundtrack’ and why?
If I have to give a shout out to only one; I’ll say Ribs by Lorde (who is from Auckland, New Zealand, by the way). The song is hauntingly nostalgic and contemplative around youth and hanging onto precious memories, particularly from childhood. It’s a nod towards the days of being innocent. Studying abroad is akin to that same sentiment because it is a chance to be innocent, and new again, in your adult life. The experiences you have while studying abroad are invaluable and in the shock of it ending all you want is to get them all back to relive on repeat. The lesson is that you’ll never lose them; like childhood memories, they’ll always be with you.

Leslie Johnson

Program Manager

Leslie has always felt a close connection to Australia given that her grandmother is originally from Tasmania. She’s traveled extensively along the country’s east coast visiting family, different universities, the region’s fascinating cities like Melbourne, Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns, and incredible nature hotspots of the Great Barrier Reef, Whitsundays and more. Through her travels, Leslie fell in love with Australia’s people and scenery and now shares her insight with students wanting to study Down Under.

Q&A

What makes TEAN unique in your opinion?
All of the staff are so passionate about their work and everyone has either traveled, lived, worked or studied in our locations, so everyone brings so much personal experience and knowledge to the table.

What is the best part of your job?
I’ve always enjoyed working with students! A lot of the students I work with are much more confident and resourceful than I was in college. Studying abroad made a huge impact on my life and I love having the opportunity to help students make their dreams realities. It’s also wonderful to hear from students when they return!

What should be on the bucket list for those traveling to New Zealand?
I love adventure activities, so I was super excited to try skydiving, bungee jumping and zorbing (you roll down a hill in a big hamster ball!). I understand that it might not be for everyone, but hiking around the area alone is still an amazing experience. Everywhere you go is beautiful!

What is your advice to those nervous to travel abroad?
I had never been out of the country before I studied abroad, so I was definitely very nervous before going. I was also much more reserved and shy than I am now. I made it a goal to talk to a new person or try a new thing everyday and that slowly helped push me out of my comfort zone and helped me become a more confident person.

If you could participate in any one of TEAN’s programs tomorrow, where would you go?
I’ve still never been to Thailand and I think our Tourism, Ethnic Identity and Heritage in Thailand program sounds like a really interesting topic, so that’s where I’d go!

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 Australia team. From the beaches to the wildlife to the laid-back lifestyle, Australia is an incredible place to spend a semester. Allison is excited to be able to help students study abroad in the Land Down Under!

Q&A

Explain a bit about your role at TEAN.
I work on several of our programs, helping advise students throughout the application process and prepare for their semester abroad. I am also on our custom programs team where I coordinate faculty-led programs.

How did your study abroad experience lead to you working at TEAN?
Between working at my school and working closely with my advisors before going abroad, I realized that I really enjoyed interacting with students and wanted to help other people experience the immense personal growth and independence that comes from traveling internationally. TEAN was the perfect fit in terms of its mission and structure, and I’m so happy to have ended up here!

What advice do you give to a student who wants to study abroad but has no idea where they should go?
I think the biggest question you should ask yourself is what you want to gain from the experience. Have you been studying a language your whole life and want an opportunity to use it? Do you want to experience a culture that is completely opposite from how you grew up? Do you want to be surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a big city or do you want to feel like a part of the community in a small town? Starting with these kinds of questions will help narrow down the list.

What makes TEAN HQ in Chicago a great place to work?
The TEAN office has a very positive atmosphere and is filled with people who are passionate about what they do. I look forward to working alongside my colleagues each day! Our office dog, Kora, is also a great addition to the team, and loves to visit our desks or join us in meetings.

What do you like to do in your free time?
Besides traveling, I love spending afternoons in coffee shops, going to concerts and virtually exploring the world on Google Earth street view! My goal this year is to be able to locate every country on a map.

Australia Staff

Laura Carroll

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.

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!

Alice Cooksey

Program Manager

Alice started her career in student services and the legal industry in the UK before embarking on a career in student services in Australia. She studied law and graduated from the University of Exeter in England in 2014. Her interest to work in the industry began with her thorough involvement in the organisation of LAMDA throughout her time in the UK. Alice also has experience teaching in both the UK and America and loves anything arts related. Alice loves to travel and has covered the majority of Europe, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. As a result of her travel experiences, Alice is a lover of languages and speaks English, Welsh and German.  She enjoys sharing her experiences and offering insight into the hidden gems of Australia in order for our students to get the best out of their study abroad and internship experiences.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Q&A

What is your role at TEAN?
I manage our internship programs in Australia, New Zealand and Asia. I work as part of an incredible team and love to find each student the perfect internship opportunity to further their careers.

What are some of the top reasons why students should consider an internship abroad?
Personally, I interned abroad many years ago and my initial reasons for considering an internship were to broaden my experiences as well as gain exposure to a different culture. Along with developing a new skillset, getting introduced to the professional working world and personal growth, you also get to travel! I couldn’t agree more with the saying that travel is one of the only things you can buy that makes you richer. Following an internship abroad, you truly come back from your host country having had the most incredible experience as well as skills for your future career.

What advice can you give for interns to make the most of their time abroad?
I recommend for each intern to make the most of every opportunity that they are given. Time is a valuable thing, don’t waste it! There are so many different experiences and people that they can learn from in Australia, and it’s a great way to be exposed to different ideas, cultural influences and attitudes. The students that excel at their internships are real go getters and make sure that they are always willing to put their hands up for additional tasks. Showing willingness and dedication can lead to some really exciting opportunities and experiences.

What helps set up a student for a successful experience abroad?
A positive attitude and an enthusiasm for the work are the most important tools for success for an internship. Doing what is asked of you and showing an interest in the work will result in being rewarded with an overall positive experience. Initially tasks may seem minor to some students until they realize the overall requisites of each task or how the fit into the bigger picture for the company, but by doing them to the best of their ability and with a positive attitude, an intern will surely find themselves with more meaningful tasks down the line.

What are some of your favorite hidden gems in Sydney?
I love strolling from Chowder Bay to Taronga Zoo. This walk leads you along the coastline and goes past Bradley’s Head Amphitheatre where you can see a skyline view of Sydney’s buildings as well as the harbor. It’s best to do this walk in the afternoon and time it so that you get to the amphitheatre around dusk to see the sunset.

Photo of TEAN Staff Bailey Wilson

Bailey Wilson

Resident Assistant - Sydney

Bailey studied abroad with TEAN at Griffith University in the Gold Coast. She fell in love with all things Australia and knew she would come back at some point to live for a longer period of time. Bailey is a graduate of Azusa Pacific University and now works with TEAN in Sydney. Although her heart will always be in her home state of Oklahoma, Bailey never wants to stop exploring and has traveled to over 24 countries! She has loved every minute of adventure, learning, and watching the sunrise on rooftops and shores all over the world.

Q&A

What are some of your favorite places to visit in Australia?
I’m lucky that I have now been able to call all of my favorite places in Australia from my study abroad experience home. During orientation, I LOVED Cairns. It is such a fun little town next to one of the most beautiful creations I have ever seen – the Great Barrier Reef. I also don’t think you can go to Australia without seeing the Sydney Opera House. It takes your breath away every time you visit and I could sit in the nearby Royal Botanic Garden for days. It was such a fun weekend trip during my time abroad.

What insider tips would you give to a student studying in Australia?
Pay attention at all times. It can be surprisingly easy to start to slack off in class since there are no pop quizzes, weekly tests, etc. Since there typically isn’t regular homework or quizzes, your final exam can be 80% of your grade (!) so it’s important to stay focused and active in class to be prepared for the final.

What is your favorite TEAN cultural event?
Definitely surfing. You cannot go to Australia and not at least try to catch a wave.
I also always enjoy the coffee and dessert catch-up opportunities. Seeing your TEAN friends that you may not have bumped into in a while and getting that comfort of home is always so refreshing.

If you were going to study abroad tomorrow on a TEAN program where would you go?
Anywhere in New Zealand’s South Island. All the programs are incredible – that is the best part about TEAN. We go above and beyond for students. No matter where you end up, your experience and cultural understanding will be one of a kind. I am honored to be part of the team that now delivers that experience.

What advice do you have for a student who wants to study in Australia, but is unsure what school or city within Australia would be the best fit?
One thing I love about the Australian study abroad options is that each university and city is different so anyone can find something suitable for their major, lifestyle preferences and budget. I recommend asking a TEAN alum about their firsthand experience and reaching out to TEAN staff with any questions you may have – no matter how small! Let them know what you plan to get out of the experience and they can help narrow down the perfect location for you. (That said, I can’t help but recommend the Gold Coast, Sydney and Cairns as I have lived in all three places and love them all!)

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.