The world is our workplace: Recent BYU graduates chase careers across the globe

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Brigham Young University students are told, again and again, that “the world is our campus.” But what happens after graduation? For some BYU graduates, the world is now their workplace.

Spencer Christensen, who works for one of Singapore's sovereign wealth funds, and his wife Channing, who works for Facebook, pose in front of the Cathedral of St. Paul in Macau. The Christensen's have a goal to travel to a new country once a month. (Photo courtesy Spencer Christensen)
Spencer Christensen, who works for one of Singapore’s sovereign wealth funds, and his wife Channing, who works for Facebook, pose in front of the Cathedral of St. Paul in Macau. The Christensens have a goal to travel to a new country once a month. (Photo courtesy Spencer Christensen)

Married couple Spencer and Channing Christensen graduated from BYU in April 2012. Having both served Chinese-speaking missions, Channing in Hong Kong and Spencer in Taiwan, the two were delighted when they were able to secure career opportunities in the southeast-Asian business hub of Singapore.

“We felt that Singapore specifically would be an interesting place to work because it would give us a chance to leverage the language skills we had developed and provide meaningful opportunities that allowed us to ‘ride the wave’ of a rapidly-growing part of the world,” Spencer Christensen said.

Originally from Belmont, Mass., Spencer Christensen majored in economics and is now working for Temasek Holdings, one of Singapore’s sovereign wealth funds. He works specifically in Temasek’s Telecommunications, Media and Technology investment group, where he evaluates potential investments through research and makes recommendations about whether the company should raise or sell down its position.

Channing Christensen, originally from Palo Alto, Calif., majored in bioinformatics and now works at Facebook in Singapore. She works with clients to create and execute advertising campaigns and build applications on the Facebook platform. She currently specializes in gaming clients in the greater China region.

So far, Spencer and Channing have had an overwhelmingly positive experience in Asia. During free time from their demanding careers, the two have made a goal to visit a new country every month, as it is relatively inexpensive and easy to travel all over the region from the island of Singapore.

Though, at times, it has been challenging to acclimate to an alien society, the pair said they have found the experience to be a unifying one.

“Professionally, we feel we’ve gotten opportunities and exposure we would not have otherwise had,” Channing Christensen said. “Personally, being so far from who and what we grew up knowing has led us to rely on one another even more than we would have.”

The couple explained that although they would recommend living overseas to other BYU graduates, it is definitely not for everyone.

“We’re glad that we chose to work overseas, but have seen the choice to work abroad go poorly for some,” Spencer Christensen said. “It’s a decision that certainly merits a great degree of introspection, research and spiritual confirmation ahead of time.”

Chris Rains graduated from BYU’s Marriott School of Management in 2010 with a degree in finance. Originally from San Francisco, Rains now lives and works in Sanaa, Yemen, where he manages the logistics and operations of the United States Embassy there.

Rains said he knew he wanted to work overseas, as he has always had interest in seeing how other people live in different cultures.

“Joining the Foreign Service was as good a way as I could think of to really experience other cultures and explore the world,” he said.

Rains admitted living in Yemen presents various challenges, but he explained “the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.”

“It’s a very high-threat environment,” he said. “So our ability to move about the city is pretty limited. I work with hundreds of Yemenis every day, though, and it has been a fun task to understand how they think and what their lives are like.”

Originally from Murray, Nathan Beck earned an undergraduate degree from BYU in finance in 2008 and then completed the MBA program in 2012. Beck now lives with his wife, Emily, in Bonn, Germany, where he works at DHL Inhouse Consulting. Beck explained that although he did not have an initial interest in working overseas, when the opportunity presented itself to do management consulting internationally, he “had to jump on it.”

Beck described the difficulties with acclimating to German culture in Bonn, particularly with the language barrier, as neither he nor Emily speak German.

“It’s been a great experience both for my career and for my wife and me,” he said. “It definitely hasn’t all been easy. … But we know that we won’t have this opportunity forever so we are really trying to enjoy the experience while we are here.”

For those looking for opportunities overseas, the Christensens recommend first trying an internship abroad to test it out before signing a multiyear contract.

“Even if you’ve done study abroad or served your mission in the area, working locally is very different and an internship will give you the best idea of the work and living environment,” Channing Christensen said. “BYU has excellent resources — both in the form of alumni and its formal counseling centers — to help you get a feel for what opportunities are out there.”

The Christensens said they are grateful for the education they received at BYU and have felt equally prepared, compared to their colleagues from other high-level institutions.

“So many opportunities open up when you tell yourself that you are willing to accept great opportunities wherever they may be,” Beck said. “Go and give your best, and it always works out.”

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