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Petroleum Engineering Student Relishes Opportunity at UW

August 10, 2016
Virginia Rivas Zambrano in a petroleum engineering lab in the College of Engineering and Applied Sci
Virginia Rivas Zambrano in a petroleum engineering lab in the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Virginia Rivas Zambrano has big plans when she is done with her education in the United States.

She is an undergraduate student studying petroleum engineering at the University of Wyoming, planning to graduate in 2018. She came to UW and the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) from Venezuela after she was seeking a quality engineering program in the U.S.

“Back in my country, we have a program linked to the U.S. Embassy,” she says. “They take you through a process and helped me narrow down my options. I’m in petroleum engineering, so, obviously, I was looking for schools that had that major and had that program. UW was one place that popped up. I really liked it, and that’s how I ended up here.”

Zambrano has always had an interest in seeing the world outside Venezuela’s borders, even as a child. She believes the perspective she can gain will help her bring something positive back to her native country.

“I remember being a little kid, and I knew I wanted to get out there and see the world,” she says. “I thought this was a perfect opportunity. My country wasn’t in very good shape when I left it, so, I really wanted to go abroad, get a better education and go back and do something really good for my country.”

Stevee Jones, who serves as a student advising coordinator for the Department of Petroleum Engineering, says Zambrano is a good fit for the program.

 “I do believe that being in a new environment has challenged Virginia to grow, not only as a student, but as an individual,” Jones says. “Her ability to adapt to a new country and people highlight an important characteristic of hers, which is adaptability. As a petroleum engineer you may have to work in various parts of the world that may be culturally different than yours.”

The transition from Venezuela to Laramie was a smooth one, despite the size difference in population. Zambrano came to the Gem City from a city with 3-4 million people.

“I found that I really like it. I love that it feels like a big family,” she says. “Everyone knows each other and because it’s such a small town, everyone is really nice to each other. I love Laramie. The landscapes are beautiful -- absolutely breathtaking. It’s really nice.”

Her plans for the future include enrolling in graduate school and living and working abroad for some time. Zambrano believes her UW connections will open doors and offer opportunities. She also believes UW’s commitment to bringing in international students to its programs as a positive for all students.

“I think it’s great for the university having so many international students to provide diversity,” she says. “Everyone gets to see a little part of the world with every international student we have here. I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from all around the world. In my personal experience, it helps you grow and see beyond what you have right in front of your eyes. It’s a really nice opportunity to learn about others.”

Jones believes Zambrano has the right mindset to be successful in a challenging field.

“Virginia is a passionate and determined student. Her passion for the field feeds her curiosity to learn more and as much as possible about petroleum engineering,” Jones says. “This fuels her determination to not just be an average student, but an excellent student who strives to be competent in the field so that she can one day become a skilled employee. She is open to guidance which is a key factor in succeeding in any area. Virginia communicates with not only me but her professors – whether she has questions or concerns and this is vital for any student to do. She knows that this is a field that requires a lot of time and energy and she prioritizes her studies.”

Zambrano found the process of enrolling in the CEAS simple and welcoming, using resources available to all international students.

“The engineering college is really good at making you feel like you’re home and helping you in the whole process,” she says. “The international office as well -- everyone there was really nice, and they really help you. They’re willing to work with you. I really appreciate them being here for me. I really love the engineering program, specifically the petroleum program. I feel like it’s a good quality education, and I’m really happy with it.”

Zambrano says she would tell prospective students that they are looking in the right direction when considering UW.

“It’s just an amazing university, and I’m really happy to be a part of it. I’m really happy I get to be here,” she adds. “I get the honor to be a student here and graduate from UW.”

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