Name: Damien Allen
Year of graduation: 2012
Option Track (water/air/EDC…): Water Resources
Current: Master’s degree in Water management at the Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands.
How your time at CU (and specifically in EVEN) set you apart? How has it helped you to succeed?
The Environmental Engineering program provides a very broad skill set compared to more focused engineering disciplines. This made it easier for me to transition between and explore many different interests, both personally and academically (and eventually professionally). Engineering is more about developing problem solving skills and approaches rather than rote memorization of specific topics. Even if I lack knowledge in a certain area, I know how to quickly and efficiently learn how to solve a problem using the resources at my disposal. The EVEN program helped tremendously in the development of such skills.
Additionally, the mandatory humanities credits, while sometimes tedious actually do provide valuable perspectives outside the confines of traditional engineering coursework. Furthermore, the university itself is a well-respected research institution which was certainly taken into consideration during the admissions process for my Master’s program and likely while finding work in the future.
What are you doing right now?
I’m currently finishing my thesis work for my Master’s degree in Water management at the Delft University of Technology which is roughly an hour south of the capital Amsterdam. My research involves creating an algorithm for land and water use maps tailored to applications in water accounting. For example, as input to distributed hydrological models which need detailed land cover information in order to estimate evaporation rates and runoff characteristics. Such models are used to aid policy making in trans-boundary water sheds as well as to monitor water use and agricultural production in areas experiencing water scarcity.
What is your next step moving forward? Do you plan on staying in the Netherlands? Do you want to stay international, or are you planning on returning to the US?
I plan to stay in the Netherlands for the immediate future and my next step is finding a job here. There are good job prospects here for people in the water sector, ranging from large international consulting firms to innovative start-up companies and NGO work. I hope to work on some international projects and spend time abroad.
What inspired you to pursue an advanced degree, and to pursue it abroad? Did you have any international experiences while at CU?
During my junior year at CU I participated in a non-traditional study abroad program called Semester at Sea. Basically, we circumnavigated the global on a small cruise ship while making a number of stop to explore various countries. While at sea, between the countries, we took classes with credits that transferred back home. The Environmental Engineering department at CU was extremely supportive in helping me fit this into my schedule and credit requirements.
Before my semester abroad came to a close I had already decided that I wanted to spend some time living elsewhere in the world, particularly in Europe. I wasn't necessarily looking to continue my studies but most European engineering firms will require a master’s degree so it seemed like the obvious path towards living and working here. I also think a two-year master’s degree is a good opportunity to gauge your interest in research (and staying in the academic environment) without the significant commitment that a PhD entails.
What has been the biggest challenge studying internationally? Have any of your experiences or activities at CU helped you to overcome these challenges?
Moving to and studying in the Netherlands has actually been a fairly smooth transition with few challenges. Life in Northern Europe is relatively similar to the US compared to many places in the world. I have, however, faced difficulties with learning Dutch. People here tend to speak very good English so it’s hard to leave my comfort zone and switch to Dutch.
Academically speaking, I felt well-prepared for my courses in Delft and was able to overcome initial challenges in adapting to a new educational format.
Do you have any advice for students that want to pursue an international career or studies?
If you are considering a career of future studies internationally then definitely take a semester to study abroad while at CU. The university has established many partnerships over the years and I truly think that anyone can find a study abroad program that works for them, but you have to take some initiative to make it happen. If you want more flexibility in where you can go, try to time your credits so that you can fulfill humanities credits while abroad. That will also give you more time to experience the country without worrying about a heavy course load of highly technical subjects.
There are two fairly straightforward paths if you want to live abroad. First, what I choose, is pursuing a graduate degree in the country (or region) in which you’d like to live. Companies actively recruit at local universities and networking becomes a lot easier if you are living near by. Furthermore, many countries give extended visas for recent graduates in order to give time to find a job (one year in the Netherlands). The second option is to work for a company with international offices. After you have spent some time gaining experience, transferring to another office shouldn't be too hard, especially if you tailor you skills to what’s need where you want to move.
I think that perspectives gained from traveling and living internationally are invaluable both in personal and professional development.
Do you wish to share your contact info for students or graduates looking to network?
March 23rd, 2015