Sian Munro is a world traveler. She has worked in international education for 10 years. This field has brought her all over the world, but there has always been a special spot in her heart for New Zealand. Currently based in Dunedin, Sian is the Resident Director of all New Zealand Programs for The Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University (IFSA-Butler). Read on to hear more about the beautiful land of the kiwis!
What brought you to be a Resident Director?
Like many people, I fell into International Education and loved it from the first instant. I have been very fortunate to make a career out of it. I worked at the University of Otago (Dunedin, South Island) for a number of years providing student support to international students. I lived in the UK for 2 years where I worked in a cultural exchange company based in London and traveled in Europe and the US. Then I went to the US and worked at a summer camp in the Pocono Mountains, PA and did a bit more traveling. I joined IFSA-Butler as a Student Services Coordinator for University of Otago students and am now the Resident Director of all 5 of our New Zealand Programmes.
What are some unique aspects of your city and country?
For a country only 1600km long and 450km wide New Zealand is incredibly diverse. You are never far from water and you are never far from breathtaking wide open uninhabited spaces (even if you live in our largest city!)
What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?
Aside from spending time with my family and friends, my favourite pastime is sewing.
What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?
I love working with college age students and as only 1% of study abroad students choose New Zealand as a destination (we would welcome more!), our students tend to be real go-getters who are keen to venture out of their comfort zones. I love to hear their stories of traveling in New Zealand and gushing about how beautiful it is as much as I do. As I have a social anthropology background, I also like to talk to our students at different stages of their time here about their views on our culture and how their study abroad experience has altered the way they see the world.
What are some of the challenges of your job?
It’s challenging when things happen to students while abroad that are out of their control but negatively impact their experience. While I never want anything bad to happen to any of our students, the beauty of IFSA-Butler is that our staff in NZ are here on the ground to offer an extra layer of support on top of university services.
What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?
When our students first arrive a b ig challenge is adapting to the lack of central heating and insulation in our housing- but we tell our students that libraries on campus are always warm! The second is that New Zealanders are friendly but to become friends takes effort on both sides.
What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?
Come to NZ through IFSA-Butler! Our programme is a great way to get into New Zealand culture from the moment you step off the plane. We have an awesome 4 day orientation so that our students get over their jet lag, get to know each other and enjoy some quintessential New Zealand activities. On the final night we stay on a Marae which is a Maori meeting place in a big room altogether, this is a real highlight for our students. My advice once students get to their new cities is to make the most of being in New Zealand and travel when you can, but at the same time try and join a club that has kiwi students in it so that you can get an intercultural experience.
What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?
Being a tiny island nation surrounded by large oceans the weather in New Zealand is extremely changeable. The best things you can pack are layers of clothing for cool and warm temperatures and a 100% waterproof jacket with a hood (which you always carry with you)!
What do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?
A semester abroad will seem like a long time when you are preparing to go but it goes insanely quickly. Much of what you learn on your study abroad experience you won’t have time to reflect on until you return home. If you don’t feel like your study abroad experience has even in a small way changed how you view the world (especially your own culture) then that should be something you reflect on.
To learn more about attending one of Sian’s 5 IFSA- Butler New Zealand programs, follow this link!