Marshall graduates know their fellow alumni have made a mark not only on the state of West Virginia, but in every state in the U.S. But they may not be as aware that Marshall’s reach extends throughout the world, with graduates living and finding success in many different countries.
Four Marshall alumni currently living abroad credit Marshall for preparing them not only for their careers, but for the adventure of building a life far from Huntington.
Delbarton native Brianne Erwin (2003 graduate) lives with her family in Rabat, Morocco, where her husband is a diplomat with the U.S. Department of State and where she works as the housing coordinator for the U.S. Embassy. In this role, she is part of a team that helps incoming families secure housing in Morocco.
Erwin was a Yeager Scholar who studied psychology, biology and French. She says living in Morocco has been a challenging, yet thrilling, experience. Her time at Marshall helped her prepare for the adventure.
“Studying French was immensely helpful,” she says. “It is widely spoken here. Also, through the Yeager Scholar program, I had the opportunity to study abroad. Having previously experienced negotiating new cities and countries, I felt better prepared to live internationally.”
Erwin says the people of Morocco are genuinely welcoming and kind, making the experience of living abroad enjoyable. She describes Morocco as a wonderful place to live.
“Being this far away from family and ‘home’ is difficult on occasion. I miss the ease of communicating in my native language and being in familiar surroundings. But I am thankful for the opportunity to live abroad and serve my country,” she says.
Jocelyn Eikenburg grew up outside Cleveland, Ohio, and attended Marshall as a Yeager Scholar, graduating summa cum laude in 1999 with a major in environmental biology and minors in chemistry and Spanish. For a total of 12 years, Eikenburg has lived in China, where she now works in Beijing as an editor for the China Daily website.
Eikenburg studied at the University of Granada in Spain for a semester while at Marshall. She returned to the U.S. with a desire to live abroad, but did not expect to end up living in China until she learned about Marshall’s Appalachians program, which sends graduates to teach English there.
“None of my undergraduate education, including language study, had prepared me for China,” says Eikenburg. “But I decided to sign on for a year, thinking it would just be a ‘gap year’ or a chance to travel for a short time while working. Well, one year in China led to many more, as I discovered a passion for Chinese culture and language, and also found job opportunities that allowed me to write. I feel fortunate to have built a wonderful life for myself in this country.”
In addition to providing her the opportunity to become fluent in Chinese, Eikenburg says living in China has given her the opportunity to gain a global perspective.
“Residing abroad, especially in a country where your native language is not widely spoken, is a humbling experience. It helps you understand on a daily basis that the milieu in which you grew up isn’t necessarily universal — that people in other parts of the world speak and live in different ways. If everyone in the world could have the chance to set foot in a foreign country for just a small period of time, even a few hours, it would go a long way toward facilitating more mutual understanding around the globe, leading to a more peaceful earth for all,” she says.
Tyler Webb (2017 graduate), who grew up in Lavalette, tried several majors before realizing she was meant to be an English major. Today, Webb lives in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, about an hour south of Seoul, where she works on Camp Humphreys Army Base as a Department of Defense contractor for TRICARE.
After graduating from Marshall, Webb knew she wanted to pursue a master’s degree. She had studied abroad and decided to return overseas for graduate work. Webb graduated from Yonsei University in Seoul, known as the “Harvard of Korea,” in August 2020 with a master’s degree in English language and literature. She then moved to Pyeongtaek to be closer to her boyfriend at the time, whom she has since married.
Despite missing Huntington icons like Jim’s Spaghetti, Black Sheep Burrito and Brews, and Paula Vega’s Cupcakes, Webb loves the opportunity she has had to learn about South Korea.
“One of the best parts of living overseas is immersing yourself in the culture of the country that you are living in,” she says. “The locals are always excited when they see someone foreign attempting to understand aspects of their culture.”
Webb says she hopes students will realize how fortunate they are to be attending Marshall.
“I did not realize how special Marshall University was until I went to graduate school in a foreign country,” she says. “The professors at Marshall are truly one of a kind and care for their students in and out of the classroom. I really miss that type of learning environment, so students should take advantage of it while they are there!”
Pete Collman (Class of 1996) moved from his hometown of Falls Church, Virginia, to attend Marshall because of its outstanding program in radio and TV journalism. After graduating, he built a career in public relations in Atlanta until the desire to be close to his children led him to relocate to Prague, Czech Republic. He has lived there since 2011.
Collman works as a senior technical mainframe writer for Broadcom Inc., but he also engages in a variety of creative projects inspired by his travels and living abroad, including publishing a book on Czech traditions (“Curious Czech Christmas”) and publishing photographs of his travels on his website, www.collmanphotography. com.
But his passion projects are his podcasts and videos on his YouTube channel: “Past Access.” In these videos, Collman, a wheelchair user, reports on culture, history and his experiences with wheelchair accessibility as he travels. Collman served as an alternate for the 2000 Paralympics wheelchair fencing team, which gave him the opportunity to travel extensively. He hopes to share the confidence he developed through that experience with other people with disabilities.
“I never would have thought I would have the courage or know-how to travel internationally as a wheelchair user. I want to be able to take away that fear of travel some people with disabilities have. I want to let them know they can do it,” he says.
Marshall remains dear to Collman’s heart. He recently shared the story of his alma mater with the world when he produced a podcast episode on the 50th anniversary of the Marshall plane crash, which is among his most downloaded episodes of all time.
Collman says he hopes other graduates will follow in the footsteps of their globetrotting fellow alumni and be open to the adventures and possibilities of living abroad.
“I tried to map out my life and it took so many different forks to get me where I am,” says Collman. “But I would not change it for a thing. I would tell a graduating student to keep the possibilities open, or you may miss some wonderful things.”