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

Program Managers

Kate Hilby

Senior Program Manager

Kate Hilby (aka Hilby, Hilbs or Hilbo Baggins) is a TEAN alum who studied in Melbourne in 2009 and has been working as a Program Manager for TEAN New Zealand for the last six years. She recently returned from a year living and working from New Zealand based out of Auckland. One of her favorite things about living in New Zealand was the opportunity to get out and explore the vastly different and gorgeous landscapes found throughout the country. Her tip is to take time to visit the amazing National Parks of New Zealand, found on both islands. Two of her favorites include Tongariro National Park and Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park.


Tell us a little about what you do at TEAN?
I currently work on our New Zealand, Fiji, Japan and Southeast Asia programs. My role as team lead and Program Manager is to make sure everything on these programs is running smoothly working with our team. It includes everything from making sure students have pre-departure information on time to making sure they submit all of the items they need to study abroad (i.e. transcripts, courses, contracts, arrival details, payments, visa confirmations).

Where did you study abroad?
I studied with TEAN in Melbourne, Australia at Deakin University. It’s a more traditional campus, just outside the city but being able to live in the city and commute gave me the best of both worlds. Honestly, Melbourne has something for everyone – think sporting events, art, music, theatre, comedy, laneway cafes/restaurants/bars, shopping, the list goes on. Melbourne is consistently ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities, so why wouldn’t you choose to study there? If you’re looking for a Melbourne equivalent in New Zealand, check out Wellington known as the coolest little capital in the world. It’s a smaller city, but that makes it an easy city to get around by foot. It’s a very accessible city for study abroad students.

What brought you back to Melbourne to live and work after graduation?
When I graduated, I knew I wanted to return to Australia. My time studying abroad had given me that exposure to living abroad and I wanted to spend more time there as a professional. For my career, It was great to gain work experience at a university abroad. I’m so glad I went down this path or I might not have ended up at TEAN today!

Packing for study abroad is always a challenge and popular topic, as a frequent flyer – what insider tips do you have for someone packing for the semester?
I’ve become pretty good at packing light over the years since there have been so many times earlier on where I’ve overpacked. I took half of my closet and never touched the majority of it. You will hear the advice – pack everything you think you’ll need then take half of it – and it’s so true. My other advice is to pack articles of clothing you can mix and match to create different outfits to help reduce items. Also try to keep the shoe situation under control, they take up a lot of room. Bring a couple pairs that are super versatile (and comfortable).

If you were going to study abroad tomorrow on a TEAN program where would you go?
I’m biased, but I would study on one of our New Zealand programs. Since working with our TEAN New Zealand students, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand several times and have visited all program locations. I also recently lived in New Zealand for a year based out of Auckland. I love the idea of going for a semester, joining a tramping club on campus and getting out into the beauty of New Zealand in my free time!

Molly Laycob

Assistant Program Manager

Molly has a great admiration for anyone that takes sustainability seriously – especially entire countries, which is why New Zealand is her all-time favorite place to travel to. While visiting New Zealand, she was very impressed with their extensive pro-environmental practices. 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 loves being a part of Team New Zealand and learning so much about such an incredible place!


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.

New Zealand Staff

Photo of Ashley Stewart

Ashley Stewart

Resident Assistant - Wellington

Born and raised on the South Island, Ashley studied at the University of Otago in Dunedin where he delved into the worlds of theatre, game design and media studies. While involved with the International Student Department during high school, he discovered a passion for storytelling and New Zealand culture so, following his studies, worked at the Otago Museum and as a Resident Assistant for TEAN in Dunedin. He loves showing new students and travelers from around the world how to make the most of this amazing country and its hidden secrets. He has recently made the move up to Wellington on the North Island, bringing with him his collection of stories, experiences, swords and classic Kiwi humour.


What helps set up a student for a successful experience abroad?
An open mind. People in New Zealand love to help each other and we want you to enjoy your time here and understand why our little corner of the world is so special. There will be strange animals, phrases and food all around you and you’ll be able to appreciate it all more if you take it all in with enthusiasm and curiosity.

What makes New Zealand a great place to study or intern abroad?
Almost anywhere in New Zealand, you are only ten minutes away from wildlife or amazing vistas. It can be surprising to feel like you are miles away from civilization and then be back at work or school within the hour but that’s what makes it special. I can almost guarantee that every local has a hidden spot nearby that they like to visit for hiking, fishing, surfing or simply an isolated place with a gorgeous view.

What should every study abroad student have on their bucket list for a semester in New Zealand?
Watch the Lord of the Rings and then see how many locations from the movies you can find. It may take you around the country or to hidden spots around your local city that were carefully picked because of their wondrous feel.

What previous experiences have led to your current role?
Throughout high school, I could be found in the International Department talking with the students coming from around the world. I wanted to know what drove them to come to New Zealand because to me their home countries seemed so much more interesting. They gave me a perspective about their home and my own, and what made each one special, which then led me to start to explore the Pacific a bit more. My studies took me to the Otago Museum, where I shared the history and culture of New Zealand/Polynesia to people from across the world and the passion just hasn’t stopped. TEAN attracts some of the most interesting and driven students I have ever met, and it is an honor exploring my home country with them and helping them bring out their best selves.

What do you love about living in New Zealand?
The passion of the people living here. At my doorstep I can guarantee that there will be exotic birds that were on the brink of extinction only 20 years ago and are now flourishing in this region due to the rapid actions of New Zealanders. We may be small, but we make up for it with our drive and passion. Go to any game of rugby and you will see and feel the energy of thousands of fans celebrating our national sport. Or ask anybody about places to visit and they will tell you about hidden gems around the country ranging from golden beaches to glaciers that are sometimes only an hour away from the city center. With the exception of overnight delivery options from Amazon, there is very little that you can’t find in New Zealand.

Courtney Burns

Resident Assistant - Wellington

Courtney studied abroad with TEAN at Victoria University of Wellington and fell in love with the country and culture. Once she returned to the U.S., she became a TEAN Global Ambassador and also assisted her university’s study abroad office by speaking at student panels, tabling at events, and helping out at pre-departure orientation. After graduating from Emmanuel College last May, with a degree in Counseling and Health Psychology and Mathematics, her passion for traveling brought her back to “Windy Welly.” She loves to help other TEAN students experience all that Wellington and New Zealand have to offer.

Where did you study abroad?
I studied abroad with TEAN at Victoria University of Wellington in the spring of 2016. After months of looking at different schools and cities across Australia and New Zealand, I found that Wellington was just my dream city. It’s a small, quirky capital city that’s right on the water and surrounded by mountains. Plus, it’s in the center of the country, which gave me easy access to anywhere else I’d want to visit – what more could I ask for? VUW offered classes I wanted to take and it was really different in size and atmosphere from the small school I attended back in the States, so it seemed like the perfect challenge!

What inspired you to move back to Wellington after graduation?
There were a lot of factors that encouraged me to head back after I finished school. As I started my senior year of college, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next and I really had no idea but, in my head, New Zealand was the thing I kept coming back to. I’d always wanted to travel more and I wasn’t quite ready to go to grad school or settle down somewhere and get a 9 to 5 job, so I decided to go for it. Ten days after graduation, I was on a plane back to Wellington.

What advice can you give to a recent graduate who is thinking about making a similar move?
Read up on what it’s like to move and live abroad in whatever country you want to go to. Studying abroad somewhere is really different from working and living there, so it’s important you know what you’re getting yourself into! I read a lot of blog posts and the entirety of Moon’s “Living Abroad in New Zealand” guide so I could learn about employee rights, visa options, housing regulations, work culture and everything I may not have thought about while studying abroad.

What do you love about Wellington and what makes it a great place to study abroad?
Wellington has a little bit of everything! Great food and shopping, awesome (usually free) museums and festivals, cool walks, hikes, beaches and parks, and it’s right in the center of New Zealand, so you can easily travel anywhere in or out of the country! It’s also stunningly beautiful – seriously, I could walk along the waterfront everyday and never get sick of it.

Where do you like to take out of town visitors when they visit for the first time?
My first stop would usually be Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand. It’s huge, completely free and will teach you anything you’ve ever wanted to know about the country. Another staple would be the cable car, since it’s in literally every brochure or book written about the city and there’s a cool little light show in the tunnels that no one tells you about. Finally, I’d bring them to Kaffee Eis for some gelato and coffee, because it’s to-die-for and I just discovered that they only have locations in Wellington Central, which is unfortunate for the rest of the country.

Rachel Fenton

Resident Director - New Zealand

Rachel has an extensive background in international education student services, marketing and university relations. She spent several years living and working abroad first in Japan on the JET program, then in London, England and Guangzhou, China. On return to New Zealand, Rachel managed the study abroad and student exchange programs at Massey University; her alma mater where she was awarded degrees in Business Administration and Marketing. She is now working at the University of Auckland, as well as representing TEAN as the New Zealand Resident Director.