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University of Wyoming
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Phone: 307-766-2379
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UWyo Magazine

May 2016 | Vol. 17, No. 3

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.

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.”


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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

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