featured students

Jessica Simon

Personal Discovery

Jessica participated in the Challenge New Zealand: Leadership Development program before her semester abroad in Australia.


Semester Abroad: Spring 2008
Host University: University of New South Wales
Home University: Chapman University
Academic Major: Leadership and Organizational Skills


Jessica Simon has known for years that studying abroad in Australia was something she had to do. What she didn't expect was to enroll in the Challenge New Zealand Leadership Development Program and have the opportunity to spend 2 amazing weeks in New Zealand before her semester abroad in Australia.

How did you choose to do the Leadership Development Program?

Being that I am a Leadership and Organizational Skills major at Chapman University, the Leadership Development program seemed like an ideal program for me -- and it was. It was in New Zealand (what could get better?!), it was the perfect amount of time (2 weeks), and I was looking for a fresh experience and something I'd never done before. When I showed it to the chair of the Leadership Department at Chapman he could not have been more energetic and supportive of the idea. It was a done deal.

What were your impressions of the Leadership Program?

Doing the Leadership Program was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Because we were a small group of 13, we got to know each other really well. I still keep in touch with some of the kids and feel so close to them because we shared an unexplainable bond by the activities we took part in.

Did you know before you did the Leadership Program that you were interested in doing a semester in Australia?

Yes. My plan to come to Australia for my junior year abroad has been in my head for 5 years now; since I visited this beautiful country I knew had to come back. The Leadership Program was something I just bumped into.

Did you intentionally do one program in New Zealand and one in Australia?

I knew I was doing Australia but New Zealand just fell into place and I knew it would work to my advantage and prepare me for my semester abroad.

Why did you choose UNSW?

I chose UNSW because two of my cousins studied here and could not stop raving about it. I have never heard anyone come back from a study abroad experience saying anything but positives. An experience, good or bad, is an opportunity for growth and a chance to get to know yourself a little bit better. Therefore, it is up to you what you make of it.

What did you do in the time between the Leadership Program ending and your semester abroad commencing?

I had fall semester back at my home university. Once that ended in December I spent the month of January living in Austin, Texas doing an internship at my sister's work. She is a reporter for CBS. It was a great way for me to balance having some quality time with her before I left the country and to see what the news business is all about.

Do you feel the Leadership Program has helped you adjust to your semester abroad program?

Definitely. The New Zealand program was a blueprint for the Australia program. It made my departure a lot easier because I had the confidence that I could go off on my own to a new place, not knowing anyone, yet know that everyone was in the same situation and this would be an adventure for us all.

What are your plans for the semester at UNSW?

My plan for the semester is to do well in school, yet remind myself that I didn't come here to get straight A's. I came here to grow as an individual and educate myself not only inside the classroom but outside. I intend to hang out with the Aussies (hopefully pick up an accent), travel and see as much of this beautiful country as I can, take advantage of all Sydney has to offer, and just enjoy this time period in my life with no commitment.


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