UNC Around the World

Entrepreneurs, social workers, teachers, actors and volunteers are among the 800-plus UNC alumni living and working abroad. Ten graduates share their stories following their life-changing decisions to take their talents to countries spanning the globe.

StephenGlobetrotter Voice Behind International Speedboat Racing

Stephen J. Michael stumbled across a gig as an organ player for a small-time hockey club, the kind that inspired the movie “Slap Shot.”

This was in 1977 — the same year the Paul Newman classic came out — five years after he graduated from UNC with a History degree and a Geography minor (thankfully, he says now).

A flight instructor, Michael attended a hockey game in Lewiston, Maine, with his girlfriend. After the game, he offered to play organ for $10 a game and a free ticket for his girlfriend. He played “Charge” as an audition. He got the gig.

Just six games into the season, the PR guy who hired him asked him if he knew anyone who could broadcast games on the radio. Michael had no experience, but he said he’d try it. They said they were desperate, so why not? And a broadcast career was born.

videoNow, he’s the official voice and television announcer the Union of International Motonautique F1 H2O World Championship Tour, with races broadcast to 80 countries. Super Bowl-sized crowds of 100,000 attend the races featuring catamarans doing 140 mph.

“It makes no sense to us Americans because we hardly ever see this stuff,” he says, “but it’s huge around the world.”

Michael doesn’t live overseas — he makes his home in the southern part of Florida — but he’s visited about 50 countries and has crossed the Atlantic almost 200 times. He typically visits 10 countries a year.

He admits he could make more money doing major-league sports, maybe for a hockey club, a sport he still loves. But he wouldn’t have nearly as many stories.

“Life is short,” he says. “These crazy experiences I’ve had in life are so much more fruitful to me than just going back to Kansas City to see the Royals for the twelfth time this year.” NV

Watch Michael at work at

—Dan England is a Greeley journalist.



• Learn a foreign language — Many get a job simply because they can speak the language over there.

• Get some experience abroad — A stint in the Peace Corps or internship overseas builds the résumé.

• Teach or volunteer — Opportunities abound in those two vocations, even for first-year teachers. If you’re willing to go anywhere, you will get a job, and usually schools will help you with the paperwork.

• Do it — It’s difficult, and the transition, especially at first, will probably be tough. But it’s worth every experience.

• Think outside the box — The jobs available overseas are probably different then in the U.S. But that means opportunity as well. Find a way to combine your skills.

• Go somewhere you didn’t expect to go — Many interviewed for this story wound up in a place they didn’t expect to go but also wound up loving their lives there.

• Use an agency — There are many agencies and opportunities online. Just be careful about which agency you use.

• Understand it’s going to be different — You left the U.S. to experience other cultures, so enjoy the differences and embrace them, even if that means changing the way you dress or act in public. Life overseas is a new adventure. Treat it that way.

—As told to Dan England by graduates
working abroad