How an Auburn Civil Engineering Major from Thailand Landed a Career in Atlanta

Auburn University
Southeast Asia
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By Shorelight Team
Last updated on August 7, 2023

Natcha, a civil engineering major from Thailand, uses her coursework, clubs, and co-op experiences from Auburn University in her role as a highway engineer at Atkins.

NatchaThailandAuburn University

Natcha, an international student from Thailand studying civil engineering, sits on a brick wall on the Auburn University campus

In Spring 2020, Natcha proudly joined the 233,000-strong Auburn University alumni network after earning her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. An international student from Thailand, Natcha’s dream of studying in the US came true when she joined the Auburn Family during the fall semester of 2016. After earning her bachelor’s degree in economics in Thailand, she chose to pursue her second bachelor’s degree in the US because she wanted to broaden her horizons and explore a new field. 

“American education allows for electives,” she says. “No matter what your major is, you can take a course in another area that interests you. Students [have] more room to explore possibilities they may not have considered.”

She added, “American education also encourages students to express their own opinions. From in-class discussions to take-home papers, students are given more room to think. Classes are usually small and incorporate a seminar-style teaching method that allows for discussion.”

When researching different schools in the US, Natcha was drawn to Auburn University because she felt it would provide the perfect environment for her studies — especially its campus facilities, its peaceful location, and Alabama’s weather. 

From the moment Natcha arrived on campus, she felt welcomed by the Auburn Global team: she walked into her dorm to see a freshly made bed, a class schedule that was already set, planned social activities, and more. 

Getting Comfortable — and Involved — at Auburn

Natcha did not waste any time when she arrived on campus. From her first semester, she joined a number of  student clubs and organizations where she met new people and built foundations for lasting friendships.

Natcha joined the International Buddy Program (IBP), a student-led organization that helps connect international students with American students. Throughout the year IBP organizes several group events for members, including a formal dance, game nights, and cultural holiday celebrations where many buddy pairs can come together to make even more friends. Buddy pairs are encouraged to meet face to face at least twice a month to spend time together and nurture their new friendship. Natcha and her buddies took trips, celebrated holidays, and studied together.

Natcha also joined the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), through which she worked on projects and simulations that put into practice the knowledge she gained in the classroom. Her participation in ASCE also helped her to secure sponsorship to attend the ASCE student conference for free, where she had the opportunity to connect with future civil engineers from around the US.  

Research, Internships, and Life after Graduation

Throughout her time at Auburn, Natcha constantly sought opportunities to apply her learnings from the classroom to real-world scenarios, which she was able to do through participation in undergraduate research projects. She worked closely with one of her professors on a study about work zone mobility. The study aimed to discover what attracts drivers’ eyes when they are on the road and the implications of that change in focus. Natcha also was involved in a study to determine the relationship between social networks and travel choices. 

Natcha wanted to make the most of her time at Auburn and gain as much work experience as possible while in the US. Right after completing her sophomore year, Natcha secured a paid co-op through the City of Auburn as traffic engineer. During her co-op, she conducted traffic studies and learned more about traffic procedures and best practices.

After her junior year, Natcha secured another paid internship opportunity in Atlanta with Stantec, a top-10 international consulting firm. As a transportation intern with Stantec, Natcha designed roads in Georgia and South Carolina. 

When we spoke to Natcha back in 2020, she was about to start a new job in Atlanta, working as a highway engineer with Atkins, a top international consulting design firm, with responsibilities including designing roads and drainage systems. Her future plans included continuing her studies and expanding her knowledge of transportation planning in graduate school. 

When Natcha prepared to leave Auburn and begin her job, she reflected on her time on campus: “I am going to miss football games in [the] student section, Dumps Like a Truck food truck, Toomer’s Corner, and the Auburn University Bookstore.”

But, she added, “the most important thing I’ll miss is my friends. Some will work in Atlanta, some will work in another states, some [will] go to grad school. Friendship has been the factor that made my college experience abroad so colorful.”

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