Engineering skills and professional growth: Scott's internship

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Work Exchanges

By Scott Strachan, 2017 Entrepreneurial Scotland Saltire Programme Scholar

Scott traveled to the U.S. as part of the Entrepreneurial Scotland Saltire Scholar Programme. Each year, IST Plus ( in the UK and CIEE in the U.S. work together to facilitate these amazing opportunities allowing the best of Scotland's students to shine in some of the finest U.S. companies. For more information, see and

My name is Scott Strachan and I am a 21 year-old student from Aberdeenshire in the North-East of Scotland, currently studying for a Masters in Mechanical Engineering with Subsea Technologies at the University of Aberdeen, set to graduate in 2019.  I have always had a love for STEM subjects, and so post-school age was driven to study engineering, as I have a real drive for solving big problems.

During the summer of 2017, I interned in the U.S. as part of the Saltire Internship Programme, an internationally recognised program aimed at finding and developing the next generation of Scottish leaders, to make Scotland one of the most entrepreneurial societies in the world.  I was originally driven to apply to the program to develop the professional skills and experience needed to further my future career prospects, and so jumped at the opportunity to intern in the U.S. through the J-1 visa with both hands.  With the U.S. being the world’s economic powerhouse, the prospect to learn and grow my engineering skills in a highly skilled society was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss out on.

All of the Saltire Programme interns who worked in Houston.
Scott and fellow Saltire Programme interns who worked in Houston.

I successfully interned in Houston, Texas at an oil and gas operator named Amplify Energy Corp., an upstream company focused on the acquisition, production and development of oil and gas properties in the U.S.  Working as an Operations Engineer I was involved in the daily operations of the East Texas assets, providing technical excellence support to the field personnel.  My main project afforded me the opportunity to present my findings and results to the senior board members and operational staff.  Being positioned in the operational side of the company allowed for me to interact with and learn from many colleagues from many different backgrounds.  For instance, I had opportunities to interact with the drilling and reservoir engineers, as well as the companies land man and supply chain team.  I learned how drilling schedules are created, how field unit rights are acquired and the importance of having in place a structured supply chain.

Photo for blog post Engineering skills and professional growth: Scott's internship
My first visit to a drilling rig, near Carthage, East Texas

The multicultural environment of the office showed the true diversity and culture of the people of Houston, and the U.S.  People from all walks of life and places, from ‘Houstonians’ to international colleagues – the mix of backgrounds displayed the richness of people in the U.S.  The multicultural aspect of the U.S. is a great source of diverse knowledge and experiences.  Throughout my internship, I was able to share my experiences and culture with my colleagues -  perhaps even teaching the people of the U.S. a few things about Scotland!

Despite only living in the U.S. for a couple of months, this short time showed me just how welcoming and friendly the people of the U.S. are.  Having never visited the U.S. before, I was able to immerse myself in the culture and learn about the history of the U.S. first hand.  During work, everyone was allowed to freely present and contribute his or her ideas in a very broadminded way.  The meetings all flowed freely and allowed for discussion between everyone.  Not only were my colleagues welcoming, but I never once had a bad encounter with any member of the public; the people of the U.S. always had time for me.  It is often said that the people of the U.S. are quite generous, and I found this to be true; everyone I met went beyond in helping and assisting me in any way they could.

Working in the USA, I not only gained an invaluable insight into the ongoing operations of an oil and gas operator, but further experienced the cultural differences and workings of an American organisation.  Based in Houston, I was able to experience large parts of the U.S., from the state capital of Austin in Texas to New Orleans in Louisiana.  I experienced museums, baseball, soccer, the NASA Johnson Space Centre, the 4th of July and much more, all from inside the U.S. itself!  These experiences only added to my feelings of gratitude to all who helped me get to the U.S. and made my time there truly unforgettable.

Photo for blog post Engineering skills and professional growth: Scott's internship
At the Houston Dynamo soccer match, each of us is wearing a different Scottish soccer team kit: Aberdeen, Rangers, and Hibernian (I'm in red for Aberdeen FC!)

I believe that the J-1 visa program is an unbelievable opportunity for international students to work and live in the U.S.  By immersing yourself in a new culture, you learn life lessons and create experiences and memories that will never be forgotten.  The U.S. taught me that your education is never complete, to take each day as new and to always be open to lessons from others.  The memories that I can take away from the program are endless, and I made life long friends.  Not only does the individual gain from the internship program, but so does the U.S. and your own home country.  Through sharing personal stories and your own culture, American citizens gain a better understanding of the people of the world, and upon return home you can share all that the U.S. has to offer both professionally and culturally.

Upon returning home from the program, I was even more energized to be successful than ever before.  The internship program offered me quality, technical experience but further allowed me to grow as an individual through personal development.  Because of this program, I have matured a great deal and feel much more excited about the future.  The program motivated me to reach as high as possible, both terms of my education and future career prospects as an engineer.

After completing the honours year of my degree, I looked to see if the experiences I had gained could be put into practise in the industry in my home country.  After an extensive process, I was selected and offered a position as a Well Engineering Intern at one of the largest multinational supermajor oil companies in the world.  The experience I had gained interning in the U.S. was earmarked as one of the reasons that I stood out amongst the thousands of other candidates – showing just how life changing the program can be!

The exchange program was an eye-opening, life-changing and invaluable experience that I will never forget.  Not only did the program open many new paths for me, but it gave me some of the most unforgettable moments of my life.  I made friends that will last a lifetime, and memories that will last even longer.  The Saltire Internship Programme, supported through the J-1 visa program, sponsored by CIEE, allowed me to grow both as a person and as a professional. The experience that I had interning in the U.S. has without a doubt changed my life, it has not only shaped my future, but left me with a lasting positive impression of the U.S.  I urge anyone who can to get involved with a placement in the U.S. as the opportunities it will provide you with are priceless!