International Education Week with Natalie Lin

Photo credit JinHee Park.

This week marks the 19th annual International Education Week (IEW), a joint initiative between the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, which celebrates and promotes the benefits of international education and exchange programs worldwide. Initially created so that America could inspire its students to travel abroad, IEW now encourages and supports foreign students interested in making the leap to study in the United States. Today, IEW is celebrated in over 100 countries, including New Zealand.

Join us as we profile kiwi student experiences in America this week. Today we chat with Natalie Lin…

Name: Natalie Lin
Age: 29
University: Rice University
Location: Houston, Texas
Course of Study: Doctor of Musical Arts

What encouraged you to study abroad/study in New Zealand?

Growing up in New Zealand, music and performing was always main focus. Having had a chance to travel and gain international exposure while I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to go overseas for university and to further my musical training.

Describe your school/program socially and academically. How does it differ from your studies in New Zealand?

I am in a graduate program at Rice University, so my experience is quite different to that of the undergraduate students. Being a music student, much of my time on campus is spent at the music school building (Shepherd School of Music), which includes classes taught by professors, lessons with my violin professor, studio classes, rehearsals, and personal practice time. The Shepherd School is a very tight-knit community, and music is inevitably a social activity—whether you are performing for an audience, playing music alongside your colleagues, or receiving critical feedback from your peers or professors. So we are constantly interacting with one another.

Photo credit John Slaby.
Photo credit John Slaby.

What is it like being an international student on campus?

Rice University and the Shepherd School of Music is a very international environment, so it’s a lot of fun to share our cultures and traditions. Even so, it’s rare to come across other kiwis anywhere in the United States, so I get excited even when I come across an Australian! The international office at Rice is also incredibly supportive and constantly provide cultural activities for the whole campus to participate in.

What has been your biggest challenge and biggest highlight since moving to the U.S.?

Even though the language is the same, there are many small cultural differences that made moving to America a challenge—from familiarizing myself with coins, to understanding tipping culture, to adopting American colloquialisms and sports culture. However, I feel fortunate to be in Houston—one of the most diverse metropolitans in the U.S. In that sense, I feel very much at home, because Auckland—where I grew up—is just as vibrantly diverse.

Photo credit JinHee Park.
Photo credit JinHee Park.

What are your plans after the program? How will your time in the U.S. help your career?

With a doctoral degree, I’ll have the option to pursue a career in academia. However, I’m quite happy for the time being to build up my performing and freelancing experience, and return to the educational environment at a later stage.

What advice can you offer to any students hoping to study abroad or go on exchange in the future?

Studying abroad is an incredibly opportunity! New Zealanders have so much talent and unique perspectives to offer and share with the global community.

Finish the sentence: I believe international education is important because…

by sharing our diverse cultures, experiences, and perspectives with the international community, we all gain a richer educational experience.


Follow #IEW2018 to participate in the virtual conversations happening online around International Education Week.

Additionally, are you thinking about studying in America? There are thousands of opportunities for motivated students! Connect with EducationUSA New Zealand on Facebook ( and Twitter (@educationusanz), and be sure to check out our free resources ( available to help you get started!