Photo caption: UW-Eau Claire student Martin Kocher founded Language 4 Lombok to connect English language resources from Chippewa Valley residents with the Indonesian island.
As an international business student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Martin Kocher has been passionate about exploring different cultures and traditions to prepare to work in a global environment.
Kocher, of St. Paul, Minnesota, was a frequent international flyer while in college, personally sponsoring multiple trips related to his education and career path. He traveled to Germany, Ukraine, Malta, Dubai, Australia, Southeast Asia and Canada. He plans to return to Europe and the Middle East this summer.
After attending a business conference on sustainable management practices in Dubai in 2022, he became “super motivated to develop my career around sustainable development with a global management focus.”
Kocher, who will graduate in May with an international business major with certificates in Chinese and German, is grateful the university “fostered his international ambitions.”
“The UWEC business program is the best international business program you can get for the cost of tuition,” Kocher says. “The faculty are extremely knowledgeable in their field and not only have theoretical expertise but have practical experience working in the industry. I would recommend the program to anyone who is interested in anything international business.”
An international internship in summer 2022 through the study abroad program led indirectly to Kocher starting his own nonprofit organization. After he completed the internship at Australia’s largest domestic supplier of cement, he traveled to the small island of Lombok near Bali, Indonesia, for a recreational trip. He lived on an organic farm for a week harvesting rice, hiking, snorkeling, weaving baskets and learning local customs.
One day Kocher was invited to teach English at a local elementary school. A teacher at the school told Kocher that the English language can empower students and allow them to bridge the cultural gap with people in other parts of the world, but the school lacked the resources.
When he returned to UW-Eau Claire, Kocher founded Language 4 Lombok to connect English language resources from Chippewa Valley residents with the Indonesian island. Books from community book drives are shipped abroad to help children learn English and he frequently collaborates with Indonesians on projects.
“My biggest takeaway from my experience in Indonesia is what it means to be a responsible global citizen,” Kocher says. “My nonprofit strikes an emotional chord with me because my mom is a teacher and I know how hard teachers work on behalf of their students and want to positively impact their lives.”
Dr. Kaishan Kong, an associate professor of languages, instructed Kocher in Chinese classes for two years and saw him become someone who wears many hats as an international business major, multilingual speaker, dedicated language learner, fervent cultural explorer, competitive diver, part-time real estate agent, enthusiastic photographer and writer.
“From the first day I met him, he was very clear with his goals to become a polyglot and a global citizen,” Kong says. “Over the years, I have seen his action in achieving his goals. He was an outstanding learner of the Chinese language, with an exceptional sense of connecting and comparing languages, as well as incredible enthusiasm to apply the language.”
Kocher was drawn to UW-Eau Claire because of its academic reputation and affordability, but also because he could compete on the Blugolds’ swimming and diving team. Kocher’s collegiate diving career shows his high level of discipline and motivation to succeed “in every endeavor he encounters,” says Dr. Longzhu Dong, assistant professor of management and marketing.
“His work ethic does not just mean working hard,” Dong says. “Based on my observation from numerous meetings with him and many in-class team projects, Martin is always respectful of others, honest and professional. He already cultivated a good reputation among his fellow students and professors.”
Drawing on his own experiences, Kocher encouraged college students to travel and to not be afraid to venture internationally alone.
“Traveling by yourself is one of the best investments you can make in yourself,” Kocher says. “You learn how to handle yourself under pressure, be comfortable in your own skin and gain clarity on what you want to do in your life and the impact you want to have.”