Staff Spotlight: Ashley Mountfort

New Zealand Resident Coordinator, BCA Study Abroad


Ashley, originally from northern New Hampshire, USA, studied abroad at the University of Otago in 2011, where she met her future husband, Peren. After achieving her Bachelor’s Degree at Alma College (MI), she married Peren, and moved to Dunedin to pursue her Master’s Degree at the University of Otago. In the meantime, she aspires to help study abroad students have as wonderful an experience during their semester abroad in New Zealand as she had when she was in their shoes in 2011.

Did YOU study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Ashley: I did study abroad. In 2011, I studied abroad at the University of Otago where I now work. I have a strong Scottish heritage and am also a Highland dancer, which is what initially attracted me to Dunedin, also known as “Edinburgh of the South”.

I was also impressed with the number of outdoor activities such as hiking and camping. More than that, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to travel somewhere I had never been before and through that grow in cultural awareness and understanding.

In the end of that study abroad experience, I gained long-lasting friendships with people from New Zealand as well as other countries around the world. Studying abroad was one of the best decisions I ever made!

What does the future hold for BCA Study Abroad - any exciting new programs to share?

Ashley: The program at the University of Otago in Dunedin is still fairly new. It is a program I wish I would have taken advantage of when I studied abroad. I came independently instead; and because of that I missed out on a lot of essential information for the area, culture and of course great deals on traveling and other experiences around the country!

As the Resident Coordinator for the BCA Study Abroad program in Dunedin, I heavily rely on student feedback, and incorporate it wherever and whenever I can. One of my priorities is to make the semester abroad at Otago as comfortable, exciting and memorable as possible for the students.

I have been in their shoes before; I know the sacrifices involved with studying abroad. Studying abroad is an experience of a lifetime. It’s their time, so I do what I can in my part to make it count.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Ashley: I have learned a lot about organizing trips and events to every detail and planning for different scenarios.

I feel like I have grown in professional personality traits, especially with learning how to interact with different personalities. I have also grown as a resident of New Zealand, constantly learning more about the culture I live in and how to respect that and teach others about it.

In addition, I have grown in all areas of communication. Of course, the growing has not stopped; I plan to continue growing and changing as I continue my career. I will never stop learning about my company and this beautiful country that hold endless possibilities.

What was your favorite traveling experience?

Ashley: It is difficult to choose just one top favourite. However, one that springs to mind was a trip to visit a sheep farm with some of the BCA students. This particular farm area can get fairly cold, so I told the students to pack warm clothing.However, the weather that particular weekend was warm and sunny!

During the farm tour, the farmer stopped by a stream where some locals were panning for gold. That was also a spontaneous opportunity for everyone to jump into the cold stream to cool-off. This was a great start for a wonderful and relaxing visit in the country.

On the trip home, we sang along to old tunes from “the high school days”. This came to show it is not just the location and scenery that makes a trip great, but the people who join you who make it happily memorable.

Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of the BCA Study Abroad team.

Ashley: On a recent excursion, some of my students learned that I would be briefly traveling near their homes before Christmas. This initiated a conversation planning for a “BCA Reunion” at one of the student’s homes. I felt especially proud to be part of the BCA Study Abroad team at this time because of the friendships and bonds that come along with being part of BCA.

It’s like a large, extended family. I still keep in touch with some of the students who studied abroad in Dunedin previously as well. While I do all I can to support the students, they have also been supportive to me.

In addition, I have a very supportive professional team at the BCA Study Abroad Office who I am very grateful for. I am very privileged to be part of this caring team.