Skip to Main Navigation. Each navigation link will open a list of sub navigation links.

Skip to Main Content

Apply to the University of Wyoming apply now

Global Resource Navigation

Visit Campus
Download UW Viewbook
Give to UW
Menu

The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of the University of Wyoming


About UWyo

Advertise

Subscribe

UWyo Archives

Contact Us

UWyo Magazine
University of Wyoming
Dept. 3226
1000 East University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071-2000
Phone: 307-766-2379
TTY: 307-766-6729
Email: uwyomag@uwyo.edu

UWyo Magazine

May 2016 | Vol. 17, No. 3

Gaining Career Skills Abroad

Nathan Nicholas, who earned his engineering, law and MBA degrees at UW, studied abroad in China and now works as marketing manager for Laramie-based WellDog, a company that offers cutting-edge technology and technical analysis services to the oil and gas, mining and alternative energy industries.

Gaining Career Skills Abroad

International experiences offer UW graduates expanded career opportunities.

By Micaela Myers

Today, 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States. At home here in Wyoming, careers from oil to tourism require an international perspective. Experiences abroad during college help students gain cultural awareness, language fluency and flexibility—attributes increasingly valuable to employers.

“The skills students learn in terms of study abroad—adaptability, maturity, increased confidence and how to navigate the world—are assets regardless of what their major is or where they’re applying,” says Jo Chytka, director of the University of Wyoming Center for Advising and Career Services.

“My career has always had an international bent to it, and the opportunities I’ve had wouldn’t have come about if I hadn’t studied abroad,” says Nathan Nicholas, who earned his engineering, law and MBA degrees at UW and now works as marketing manager for WellDog, a company that offers cutting-edge technology and technical analysis services to the oil and gas, mining and alternative energy industries. WellDog is based in Laramie, with offices in China and Australia.

“From April until November last year, I made seven overseas trips,” Nicholas says of his international career.

China Calling

“I started studying Chinese at UW and decided I needed to go to China and spend a year,” Nicholas says. “There were very few English speakers there, and the immersion program was great. I learned the foundations of Chinese really well.”

To complete his year in China, he moved to a rural village to teach English to high school students. “That’s where my language skills really exploded in capability,” he says.

Directly after completing his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at UW in 2006, Nicholas was hired at Wolf Robotics. “They hired me specifically for my Chinese skills,” he says. “They had just started selling systems into China and wanted to grow that market. In 2006–07, I spent more than half my time in an office in Shanghai as a sales manager for China.”

In 2009, Nicholas returned to UW to complete his MBA and law degree. Upon graduation, his international experience once again landed him a job.

“After my law degree, I was hired by the governor’s office,” he says of his time at a policy adviser to Gov. Matt Mead. “There’s been a push at the state level to help improve international trade and export more Wyoming products.”

In addition to mastering the Chinese language and gaining cultural understanding, Nicholas says his time abroad taught him many other skills. “When you’re in a country where there’s such a communication barrier, you find yourself being a lot more independent. So at a young age, you’re forcing yourself into uncomfortable situations. It had a big impact in stress management as well as coping skills and problem solving—trying to find solutions to problems you don’t experience in the United States.”

Fellow graduate Cobus Block agrees: “I think one of the main benefits of studying abroad is that it forces you to rethink your version of the world. You end up seeing things in a much different light. I think studying abroad also makes you more versatile and resourceful. Living in a different culture takes a lot of flexibility.”

Block, assistant manager for international business development at the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, graduated in 2012 with a degree in international studies and minors in economics and Chinese. “My first study abroad experience was through the UW Honors Program with Professor Janice Harris. It was a two-week course based in Kobe, Japan,” he says. “The experience was a great one, and I came away wanting more. The next year I was awarded the Chinese Ambassador’s Wyoming Scholarship and spent my junior year in Hangzhou, China, studying Chinese language at Zhejiang University.”

Block stayed in China an additional year taking courses alongside Chinese students at two different universities. “During my senior year, I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to research Chinese trade with Kazakhstan, so after I graduated, I spent a year in Almaty, Kazakhstan,” he says.

These experiences led to Block’s current career. “We work with Nebraska businesses that are looking for opportunities abroad, either for exports or partnership,” he says. “We also work to recruit foreign companies to invest in the state. On top of that, our department is tasked with arranging governor-led trade missions abroad.”

Gaining Career Skills Abroad

Sabrina Sameshima now works as an immigration attorney at Kelly Ryan Law in Denver.

Skills to Last a Lifetime

When Jacqueline Todak chose UW for her master’s in environment and natural resources and international studies, she’d already spent time living abroad, and she knew UW would allow her to continue her international explorations. “I was really involved with Engineers Without Borders at UW, and I was able to work on a project in Guatemala,” she says. “Then as an international studies major, I was able to do my thesis research in Nicaragua. I also took a class where I was able to go to Patagonia, and I visited Argentina and Chile. I also presented at a conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“I’ve been to over 40 countries now, which is something that a lot of people find interesting,” says Todak, who graduated from UW in 2015. “It’s something that makes me stand out to employers.”

Currently based in Redding, Calif., Todak says her international experiences as well as her education at UW helped land her a job as an environmental planner at the environmental and engineering consulting firm CH2M, which has offices in 50 countries.

Although Ian Melchior’s job as vice president of technology at EcoMark Solar in Denver keeps him focused on the Front Range, he says the skills he learned studying abroad still apply.

“Even though I didn’t know where the experience would lead, I knew that signing up to study abroad was a great opportunity and that stepping outside my comfort zone and taking the risk would only lead to more opportunities in the future,” he says of his time in China while pursuing his international studies degree at UW. “Besides the obvious benefit of developing a greater command of the language in a short period of time, there were many other benefits that I hadn’t anticipated. Living among students from China and other foreign students from all across the globe meant exposure to experiences and perspectives that I never would have encountered by staying home.

“The ability to adapt to changes and unfamiliar circumstances is one of most valuable qualities in any person, and I think international experience is one of the most effective ways to hone these traits,” says Melchior, who graduated in 2011.

Experiential Opportunities

With the largest study-abroad scholarship endowment of any U.S. four-year public land-grant university, UW offers unprecedented opportunities for studying abroad. But the opportunities don’t end there.

“I selected UW Law because I wanted a legal career assisting unrepresented communities,” says Sabrina Sameshima, who graduated in 2013 and now works as an immigration attorney at Kelly Ryan Law in Denver. “I searched for educational institutions with a high emphasis on experiential learning, immigration and human rights law courses, as well as tuition costs that I could responsibly afford while representing individuals from humble means.”

At UW, Sameshima discovered the Center for International Human Rights Law and Advocacy. “The human rights clinic, along with quality classmates, made my law school experience,” she says. “As a student in the clinic, I gained so much more than a collection of stamps in my passport. In 2011, I had the privilege of representing a Nepali asylum seeker, alongside a fellow classmate and Professor Suzan Pritchett. I learned the power of active listening and validation. I learned the difficulty of language barriers and patience. Most importantly, I witnessed the strength of the human spirit. My client’s trust motivated me.

“That same year, with the support of a Cheney Study Abroad Grant and Professor Robert Golten, another student, Professor Pritchett and I traveled to Kenya to assist the indigenous Samburu people in a property rights dispute,” Sameshima says. “It was the classic tale of the underdog. The Samburu sued the Kenyan government for the unlawful taking of their land. Their land, like that of many Wyoming ranchers, is their livelihood.

“In 2012, I was appointed as the clinic’s student director,” she continues. “I provided technical assistance to students, represented asylum seekers from multiple African countries, provided support to a victim of human trafficking in the United States and assisted a Wyoming family with their green card applications. Additionally, I assisted with a background paper examining jurisprudence surrounding gender-based violence in conflict for the Asian Regional Women’s Tribunal.

“My immigration law and human rights course went one step beyond the hypotheticals and gave me the opportunity to apply my knowledge to real-world legal issues, in the actual courtrooms and government offices where I now practice. As an immigration attorney, I now assist individuals across the United States and across the world, including Afghanistan, Iran, Mexico, Columbia, Japan, Romania, Sweden and Vietnam.”

Gaining Career Skills Abroad

Steve Farkas, College of Business assistant dean and director of UW’s MBA programs

Seize the Day

The graduates urge current UW students to take advantage of international opportunities.

“There’s never a better opportunity to spend a long period of time immersed in a different culture than there is as a student,” Nicholas says. “You’re growing your career and your education, and you’re getting a cultural experience.”

“The more foreign the destination, the better,” Melchior advises. “And while you’re there, avoid doing things you could do at home. Get as many different experiences and make as many connections as you can during your stay. Get out of the house!”

“It’s the best decision you will ever make,” Block adds. “Don’t let it go to waste. Make sure you maintain focus on what is important to you.” That may be learning the language or seeing new places while you’re there.

Now, as employers themselves, UW alumni often look for international experience in those they hire.

“I just spent two weeks in the hiring process and immediately got rid of anyone without international experience,” Block says of the recent internationally focused position for which he hired.

“Someone with international and language experience always rises to the top, in my opinion,” says Nicholas, who will serve as the next chair of UW’s International Board of Advisors.

Graduates cited UW’s financial support, as well as guidance from individual faculty and staff members, for making their study-abroad experiences easy and affordable.

UW connections also helped Block make career connections. He says, “I can’t say enough about UW’s support for its students and former students.”

International MBA Program

Recognizing the benefits of international experience and perspectives gained, the University of Wyoming launched an international MBA option in partnership with Germany’s Pforzheim University, where students spend a year at each university, earning an MBA from both UW and Pforzheim.

“We are a global economy,” says Steve Farkas, College of Business assistant dean and director of UW’s MBA programs. “Creating access to international experiences prepares our students to enter competitive markets and make immediate contributions to companies operating globally.”

The MBA program already had ties with Pforzheim University, making it a natural first partner for the program. As part of their Capstone Strategy course, MBA students are given a case study to work on collaboratively with Pforzheim students from all over the world. “It culminates with them going to Germany for a week,” Farkas says. In addition to the joint project, they travel around the country, visiting with companies and their executives to gain unique insights into global decision making.

“It allows our students to really broaden their horizons on interpreting business events and looking at situations globally,” Farkas says.

With the first German- and American-based students already completing their initial year in the international MBA program, Farkas is looking ahead to more international partnerships.

“Now that we have somewhat of a template, we should be able to broaden our discussions to other universities and other countries,” Farkas says. The college is also exploring the idea of an undergraduate international marketing degree with Pforzheim University.

“Our pillars of value in the College of Business include creating international opportunities for our students that broaden their experiential learning and, more importantly, broaden the options that are available to them in the marketplace,” he says.

To learn more about the MBA program, visit uwyo.edu/mba.

College of Business MBA Program

College of Business MBA Program

Center for Advising and Career Services

Center for Advising and Career Services

Share This Page:

The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of the University of Wyoming


About UWyo

Advertise

Subscribe

UWyo Archives

Contact Us

UWyo Magazine
University of Wyoming
Dept. 3226
1000 East University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071-2000
Phone: 307-766-2379
TTY: 307-766-6729
Email: uwyomag@uwyo.edu

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
UW Operators (307) 766-1121 | Contact Us | Download Adobe Reader

Twitter Icon Youtube Icon Instagram Icon Facebook Icon

Accreditation | Emergency Preparedness | Employment at UW | Gainful Employment | Privacy Policy | Accessibility Accessibility information icon