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 Sydney
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!
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 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.
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 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.