There are a wide variety of reasons why students from all around the globe choose the colleges they do when making the decision to pursue an international education in the United States. Whether it's a part of the country they want to experience, proximity to certain hubs of industry or perhaps the past experience of a friend or family member, finding that right college takes some careful thinking. After all, the investment of time and resources is no small thing. Where you land makes a difference.
For Alejando Lema, the decision was easy — he wanted a strong business program and a low student-to-faculty ratio where he knew he would get personal attention, and he wanted a place with a close-knit community. He found all that at UW-Eau Claire.
"Taking a close look at the campus and community really influenced my decision," Lema said. "What I'd like other international students to know as they consider colleges is that UWEC is great, and it's lots more than just a great place to study."
Lema came to campus with a plan to pursue a marketing degree and quickly added an analytics emphasis which he felt would give him an edge in a global market. Halfway through his degree plan, Lema added a second major that will help to propel his long-term business goal.
"I added a finance major in my junior year because I eventually want to become an entrepreneur, and it seemed like something that would help me most in the long run. I was doing 18 credits per year, so I was able to double major in four years."
Life as a Blugold
Although he admits that living across the globe from family and friends was not easy, Lema is grateful for some amazing student experiences that helped him feel rooted in activities and work he feels passionate about, which not only enhanced his academic journey but his personal one as well.
"I worked for four campus organizations and offices I am passionate about and was able to learn a lot through them and meet great people," he said.
Lema's first student job on campus was as a marketing and event staff intern with the Student Office of Sustainability. In 2018 his team established the first Earth Claire event, a day to celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day on campus. Twenty campus and community organizations and businesses participated, promoting sustainability through activities for all ages.
Another marketing intern role Lema landed was in the Center for International Education, and as the first person to hold this new position, Lema felt that he learned even more.
"I got to create the position, so I was able to have a high level of independence in deciding how to do everything," he said.
This freedom meant setting up his own deadlines and managing his own work — both rare experiences in student internships.
"I also worked with other international students, which was cool," Lema said.
Two other diverse student jobs that Lema enjoyed were marketing for NOTA, a student art and literature magazine; and a peer diversity educator position in Housing and Residence Life. Both of these roles gave Lema unique ways to interact with students and their work, getting to know a lot of people he hadn't had other chances to meet on campus.
A network of support
Like many students approaching graduation, Lema has been thinking about the people who supported him on his road to his two Blugold degrees and has a few faculty and staff members he would like to thank.
"My academic advisor, Lauren Bach, always made sure that I got the most out of my busy schedule, and she was always there for me if I had questions," he said.
Dr. Kate Kim, assistant professor of management and marketing, was an important connection in the College of Business who made possible a successful double-major plan.
"Dr. Kim is a great teacher and is always interested in giving her students her best. She set up great case competitions with Hormel, brought impressive guest speakers and provided me with a solid base in marketing analytics," he said.
Of course, the Center for International Education is a crucial resource and support for students, which Lema certainly found to be true.
"The CIE office is a great place that helps students like me to make the best out of our time in Eau Claire," he said. "Everyone in the office is passionate about their work, and they help students so much."
Putting his degree to work
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and major industry shifts worldwide, an existing job offer for Lema in Atlanta was rescinded. Luckily for him, his second-year internship experiences proved to be a networking channel that pulled through in a big way.
"I had 2018 marketing internships with Anheuser-Busch and a construction firm called Marienco SRL, both in La Paz, Bolivia," Lema said. "I have accepted a job with Marienco SRL, which specializes in large sales to large clients like mining companies and government agencies. I will be a project manager and an aid to the sales manager, learning more about B2G sales. My internship with them previously thought me a lot about client management, and how complex large sales can get, especially if there is a lot of bureaucracy involved."
Given his determined spirit as a student in a new and unfamiliar place, and the success he found using his passions to drive campus change, we have every faith that Lema will enter his new role in project management with confidence and skill. We look forward to updates from yet another international alumnus!
Top photo caption: Alejandro Lema will be returning to Bolivia to take a new position as a project manager in construction in La Paz, but he leaves UW-Eau Claire knowing that he is welcome back here anytime. Right through that arch, he will always find a home.