Brad Miner - 2013 Program Participant

Hobbit hole in The Shire

Brad sitting on the steps of a hobbit hole in Hobbiton, a.k.a. The Shire

What made you decide to study abroad for a second semester? Why did you choose The Education Abroad Network over your first program provider? 

Although I studied in New Zealand second, it was actually the first study abroad I planned. I chose back-to-back semester abroad programs because I wanted to get two very different experiences and I wanted to avoid the Pennsylvania winter.

I chose The Education Abroad Network (TEAN) because of their organization and marketing outreach. What immediately attracted me to them was their colorful and easy-to-use website and captivating slogan, “An adventure in mind.” That’s exactly what I wanted! TEAN appeared to be on top of their game and they definitely didn’t disappoint.

Why was New Zealand particularly appealing?

New Zealand was always my number one, must-see destination. I knew New Zealand to be full of outdoor activities and I wanted to partake in as many as I could, especially zorbing and bungee jumping. The other appealing aspect that really made me want to study abroad in New Zealand was the fact that Lord of the Rings (LOTR) and The Hobbit movies were filmed there. I’m a little obsessed with anything and everything Middle Earth.

You attended TEAN's pre-semester trip to Fiji. Tell us about that program option and what your experience was like.

Yes! I was dead set on New Zealand and when I found out Fiji was included as part of the program fee, well that was just icing on the cake. The Fiji portion of the trip was five days of pure relaxation and cultural immersion spent on Naviti Island, about a three and half hour ferry ride from the mainland. Our days were spent enjoying the beach life, playing volleyball, trekking around the island, and on one day we were able to hike to a local Fijian village.  

My favorite part about the entire trip was that it allowed me to bond with my fellow TEAN’ers.  I took my first steps on the island not knowing a single soul and when I left I had 60 new best friends. That’s how incredible it was!

Visitors leaving a resort in Fiji

TEAN students leaving the Fijian resort from their pre-semester trip - Photo Courtesy of Brad Miner

What was the best part about studying abroad at Massey University in Palmerston North?

The best part about the campus was that it reminded me a lot of my home university in the United States. Palmerston North (a.k.a. Palmy) is a smaller town, and Massey University is about two miles outside the main city center implanted in the forest. Scattered throughout the university are spacious green fields and ponds, trees grow abundantly, and there are trails that head off into the forest and surrounding farmland. I love nature and being outside, so the campus was a very comforting place to be. 

What was the most useful part of your coursework at Massey University? 

I found that the most useful course I took was a New Zealand literature course in which I had the opportunity to read and analyze various pieces of work from Kiwi authors, including Maori (indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand). Through these various readings I was able to gain further insight into the culture and history of both the Kiwis and the Maori, and have a better appreciation for New Zealand’s culture. 

What do you wish you would have known during your first day in New Zealand? 

I wish I would have known there was so much to do and see! I went to New Zealand with plans to zorb, bungee jump, and see LOTR filming sites, but I quickly realized that there was much more to explore. My downfall was that I wanted to do everything, but financially I was unable to do it all. If I could go back and do it again I would do more research and create a plan that worked better with my timeframe and budget.

What is the most unique thing you did during your time in New Zealand?

I got to play with wild seal pups! On one adventure in New Zealand, some friends and I traveled to Wharariki Beach on the top of the South Island. There on the beach we stumbled upon a bunch of little playful seal pups. While getting closer to take some pictures, a few of the pups came right over to my feet and started nibbling on the shoelaces. I leaned down and managed to pet them; they were so playful and reminded me of little puppy dogs. It was truly a memorable experience.

Seal pup on Wharariki Beach in South Island, New Zealand

Brad playing with a seal pup on Wharariki Beach on New Zealand’s South Island

How did The Education Abroad Network staff help you before, during, and after your time in New Zealand? What kind of orientation, support, and alumni programming do they offer?

The Education Abroad Network staff were extremely helpful before, during, and after my study abroad program. TEAN always has been extremely personal; they are a simple phone call or email away and quick with their responses. TEAN makes you, as a student, feel very important. 

The orientation that TEAN provided upon arrival to New Zealand was one of the best orientations I’ve ever experienced. They provided in-country resident directors and city-specific student assistants to help us throughout our time there. TEAN also organized several cultural events throughout the semester, allowing us to meet up at least once a month.

I participated in several of the alumni and networking programs TEAN offered, such as their Student Blogger Program and Global Ambassador Program. The Global Ambassador program is a great network of recent TEAN Alumni that assist the staff by helping to answer questions and guide prospective TEAN students during the pre-departure stages.

What is the one thing you wish you could change about your experience?

If I could change one thing from my experience it would be to not dislocate my shoulder. I had a little accident while I was on spring break in Queenstown, New Zealand (and I ended up writing about it for one of my TEAN Student Blogger pieces). It wasn’t fun at the time, but looking back it’s quite comical how everything worked out!

What are the primary reasons why you would recommend this program to other students?

  1. TEAN Staff - Simply put, they’re awesome and on top of their game! They have a student-first mindset and are always easy to get in contact with. 
  2. University Options - TEAN offers programs at six different universities all throughout New Zealand, and each offers a different atmosphere. You can’t beat those options!
  3. Orientations & Excursions - The orientations are unrivaled, very in-depth, culturally immersive, and fun. TEAN also offers several cultural events and excursions both in-country and internationally.

Lakefront in Queenstown, New Zealand

Lakefront view in Queenstown, New Zealand, a.k.a. “The Adventure Capital of the World” - Photo Courtesy of Brad Miner

How did your second experience studying abroad lead you to your career in international education? 

My experiences abroad really opened up my eyes to the field of international education; before going abroad I had no clue that was actually a thing! I became so fascinated with travel and extremely grateful for everything I was able to do and see while abroad that I knew I wanted to help others have their own experiences. Upon returning home to the United States, I pursued additional experience in the field by participating in alumni programs with TEAN (and API) and also worked in my home university’s study abroad office. After graduation my work paid off, as I managed to be hired full time as a Study Abroad Coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg!

How have your experiences abroad helped you in your career in international education today?

My experience abroad has helped me in my current role tremendously! It has allowed me to form personal connections and gave me some insight into working with third party providers. I would say the greatest asset my experience has helped me with is being able to speak to students from personal experience. Since I have gone through the study abroad process myself, I am able to easily assist the students I work with now and answer any questions they may have. What is really helpful is when I have students interested in participating on the programs I have done myself. When this happens. I am able to tell them specific information about the provider, universities, country, application process, and am able to give them my own personal recommendations for things to do and see.