New Paltz Student Awarded $15,000 to Study in New Zealand

Have you ever watched those TV broadcasts where Steve Harvey knocks on a person’s door and says “you won $1000?” When describing her experience receiving a $15,000 scholarship to study abroad in New Zealand next semester, Ashley Biederman explained “that’s exactly what that was.” 

On Oct. 28, Biederman entered the Center for International Programs assuming she was going to have a regularly scheduled meeting with her study abroad advisor, Samantha Skillman. 

However, she was in for a major surprise when a swarm of people burst into the room announcing “You’re going to New Zealand!” before presenting her with an oversized check. Instead of Steve Harvey, it was the entire study abroad team, members from the Educational Opportunities Program and representatives from GoOverseas, the company who granted Biederman with the scholarship. 

The scholarship is prestigious and a life-changing opportunity for Biederman who entered her meeting with Skillman planning to express concerns about affording the trip, specifically the flight which costs a little over $1,000. Before she could even communicate these worries, the GoOverseas representatives entered the room and presented her with the check, which includes an all-expenses-paid roundtrip flight to New Zealand. 

“There are about 3,000 applicants nationwide and only one recipient of the award,” Skillman said, who orchestrated the entire surprise along with GoOverseas. “It’s a big deal and we wanted to honor her for that.”

Anyone can apply for this scholarship by submitting an essay and a photo. GoOverseas particularly liked Biederman’s essay because of the way she detailed her experiences growing up and how they led to her wanting to travel to New Zealand. 

Biederman’s choice of New Zealand for her study abroad destination was influenced by her childhood. “I grew up watching a lot of documentaries, one of them was about New Zealand, and I had a friend [whose] mom was from [the country],” she explained. “So I think those small little memories led me to look at programs [there].”

Another reason why Biederman was chosen for this scholarship is the creativity of her photo submission, which depicted Biederman taking a picture of a cartoon Kiwi, the New Zealand national bird. The photo has a word bubble that says “Hello Ashley” in the indigenous language of New Zealand. 

As a third-year digital media management and digital media production major, the program perfectly coincides with Biederman’s majors. Biederman will be studying in Wellington, deemed the film capital of New Zealand. 

While there, she has the chance to tour multiple different production facilities, visit the places in which a variety of blockbuster films were produced, such as “Avatar” and “The Hobbit,” and the opportunity to make international connections with people who have the same creative mindset as her. 

“I hope to gain some kind of change in my life that will lead me to want to do something that I didn’t know I could do before,” Biederman added. 

Studying abroad is the perfect way to do just that. Skillman stated that “the Center for International Programs aspires to give students an experience that [helps a student learn] who [they] are as a person, where [they] want to go in life and who [they] are already.”

GoOverseas awards over $100,000 in scholarships to students nationwide every year. For more information please visit