Making New Friends in the U.S.

Hello, people!

Where did the first two months of the school year go?! Fall break is over and the second quarter of fall semester is just starting. I thought that it would be a good time to talk to you about the advantages of being an international student at OSU!

I have to admit that when I first arrived at Ohio State, I was not sure that this year would be a year full of new encounters outside of Fisher. I knew that the program was going to be very demanding in terms of time and effort, and I remember questioning myself about how my life outside the classroom would look.

After spending more than four years in the U.S., I can definitely say that the best part of having this international student status is the friendship that you create with people coming from all around the world. Admittedly, grad school is hard and it should be your priority. But you also have to keep in mind that it only lasts for one or two years. Time flies and I honestly would see my experience at such a big and diverse university as a failure if I didn’t meet new people.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am from Belgium and my native language is French. I was told that French-speaking people represent a tiny portion of the student body at OSU, but that person was wrong to some extent. I was lucky to meet a student coming from Montreal about a month ago. The good part about speaking an additional language is that whenever you meet people speaking your native language in a different country, that common factor brings you closer to that individual and it is much easier to build a friendship out of it.

I look forward to sharing more stories soon about my new social life in the U.S.!

Group Projects (and Pushing Yourself) in the Fisher SMF Program

Since the first quarter has come and gone, I want to share one of my “finals week” experiences– and show you how great my classmates in Fisher are. Students here all care about the quality of our work. We are here for a reason and we expect a lot from ourselves. During finals week, there was a take-home case project assigned in one of our classes. My group decided to get together at my apartment and dedicate an evening towards the completion of this assignment.

Projects like this can be stressful due to the large impact on your overall grade, so I wanted to put forth good effort to show my progress thus far. And that’s how everyone is. At Fisher, all students put forth exceptional work. We feed off of each other and our hard work pushes us to continually improve each week. This makes working in groups a much more pleasant experience than at the undergraduate level. Each member brings something to the project. To be able to use everyone’s strengths to improve the overall outcome of the project is something that has real-world applications. Having teammates use their strengths to “fill in the gaps” of the team really improves knowledge obtained from the classrooms.

Our specific project was to analyze a company’s situation that has arisen from economic pressures. The goal was to look over financial reports to make a valuation of the company and provide recommendations for senior management. Having such great classmates makes tasks like these more enjoyable than solo projects. You learn a lot from others… and hopefully, I taught some lessons along the way to my teammates!


Fall Break Reflection

Fall Break marks the halfway point of the first semester, and fall is definitely in the air in Columbus.  I went home to Oklahoma for the break to find 90-degree temperatures and a sunburn waiting for me, but when I stepped off the plane after returning to Columbus I needed to fish my coat out of my backpack to keep from shivering.  The stark change in temperature shocked me into realizing just how much time has gone by since I arrived here in August.  We learned the importance of self-reflection in our leadership class and I will likely use various markers and milestones in the program as opportunities to look back on my coursework– which is why I am here after all.

Professor Pinteris, the SMF program director, always refers to the program as a transformation and it really is true.  It’s easy to see the changes in my classmates from our first day of pre-term until now.  The most noticeable thing for me is how much more comfortable all of my classmates have gotten with speaking the “language” of finance.  I think that this is one of the really big benefits of using the case method in classes.  I personally have benefitted from this method a lot because I actually came into the program after going through an entire undergraduate program speaking rarely in very select courses.  Getting pushed out of one’s comfort zone is never easy, but participating in case discussions (which initially took a lot of willpower to do) became second nature for me by the end of the first round of classes.

Since most of the classes in the SMF Program are offered on a quarterly basis rather than a semester basis, I took finals in all but one of my classes right before fall break.  My return from break brings a new wave of classes, and I am very excited as I will begin coursework in our investments and derivatives classes.  Also, my team will begin work on the core capstone project which allows us to put much of what we learned in the first quarter to work in a relatively unstructured class.  I’m looking forward to the exciting new classwork ahead of me and already reaping the rewards from all that I learned in my previous classes!

Fisher Follies = GOAT (Greatest Organization of All Time)

Confession: I didn’t join any clubs in undergrad.

I recall, as a bright-eyed high school senior on my OSU campus tour, two distinct things about my tour guide:

  1. His advice to “get involved in extracurricular activities!”
  2. His incredible skill at walking backward.

Hearing his advice, I made a commitment to do something productive with all this free time I was sure to have as a college freshman. And then it never happened. Partly because I didn’t know what organizations existed, and partly because my priorities were work, studying, and self-care (a.k.a. watching Grey’s Anatomy reruns in bed).

How does anyone find the time???

This is something I regret from the five years I spent in undergrad—not serving the Ohio State community in some larger way.

Fortunately, grad school gave me a second chance to fulfill this dream. I have many passions—this is typically the problem—and so I sometimes struggle with where to channel all this energy. And admittedly, the result of this is often indecisiveness. But I was determined to find an organization that gave me a sense of purpose and of which I genuinely enjoy being a part.

Well, call it a happy accident or call it destiny: I ended up in Fisher Follies with the goofiest group of dudes around.

At its core, Fisher Follies is a charitable student organization. The mission of the organization is ultimately to support Fisher graduate students in unexpected times of financial crisis. Through a variety of different events, Fisher Follies raises money for the Fisher Follies Fund. When Fisher students are in need (of a plane ticket home to visit a sick relative, help making a car repair payment, an unexpected medical bill– as a few examples), they can apply for funds to help defer some or all of the cost.

 

Well, where does the money come from?

– you ask

 

I guess we clean up pretty nice.

Every fall, Fisher Follies hosts an auction where Fisher graduate students and faculty get all gussied up and head over to the Blackwell Hotel to bid on some silly and some serious items. Each year there are some hot-ticket items like MBA Program Director Shashi Matta’s “California Dreamin’” networking trip to Silicon Valley and some smaller (but dare I say priceless?) items that students donate like shotgun-shooting lessons, a double date with Fisher’s most popular couple, the opportunity to “pie” a Michigan fan in the face, or the power to control one unnamed Fisher student’s Tinder account for an entire day. It’s an event where Fisher faculty, staff, and students donate and bid on each other’s items in the name of raising money to support the Fisher community.

Fisher Follies resident auctioneer Joe Boreman driving up bids and pointing dramatically into the crowd.
Silent Auction bidding wars are not for the faint of heart.

Other events throughout the year include the Fisher Variety Show in the spring, where Fisher students dream up skits and videos to poke fun at each other and business school. My personal favorites include The Art of the Handraise (linked below) and an artful Beatles parody Shashi Matta’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Fisher Follies is also putting on a Murder Mystery Dinner Theater this year (OoooOOOoohhh)– more to come on that later.

Fisher College of Business has a variety of student groups, clubs, and organizations to join to suit nearly every passion. They also give us the opportunity to stretch our leadership muscles by serving on the committees of these organizations throughout our time here. I feel personally connected to the mission of Fisher Follies and love that it pairs such a meaningful cause with the lightness of fun and funny events to keep spirits high here on campus. It reminds us that in spite of the stress of school, exams, job searching, and other commitments, we’re all here to support each other, and that’s what matters most.

First Quarter Comes to a Close

The first seven weeks have flown by in the MAcc program, and finals are now upon us! For those who don’t know the structure of the MAcc program curriculum, this blog will hopefully help you understand it more. The program is broken up into four seven-week quarters (two quarters per semester). During the first two quarters, you will take your 10 credit-hour core classes that are required. However, the remaining 21 credits required to graduate are all electives (five credit hours must be accounting electives and three credit hours must be non-accounting). This structure gives you, the student, the ability to take classes that interest you! You have access to almost any course you can imagine.

When I first realized four quarters meant four sets of finals, I may have freaked out a little bit, but now that I have gone through the process of taking finals, I can assure you there is no need to stress. One benefit of having finals after only seven weeks of class is that all of the material is still very fresh and new in your memory. The professors prepare you and really want to see you succeed in the program. Throughout the year, if you struggle or have any questions, the professors are always available in their offices to help you. I’m happy so say I’ve completed 25% of the MAcc program at this point!

 Hey, My Friends: You Did Great!

This is my fifth year studying in the U.S., so I am more used to living on my own than most students who are here for their first time studying abroad. As I recall my first year in the States, I think about the hardest experience and it wasn’t studying for exams; it was celebrating the holidays and festivals by myself.

In China, people use both the solar calendar, the calendar that the U.S uses, and the lunar calendar, the one that most of the Chinese festivals are based on.

The most recent festival was the Mid-Autumn Festival which was on October 4th (the solar calendar date). The Mid-Autumn Festival is very similar to the Thanksgiving Festival here in the States that all the family members are expected to attend. For this festival, we eat mooncakes and of course, share life stories.

In order to celebrate the festival here and relax from the busy school work, I drove my friends to a local Asian grocery store to buy some mooncakes. The first thing that we noticed was a well-packaged mooncake gift box. The logo name on the box was very appealing. It was named “COME BACK HOME.”

A strange mix of emotion came to us when we saw the box. It was hard to describe the feeling at that moment. On one hand, we were heavy with stress from our different course assignments, projects, and notes to get us ready for the coming exams– and submitting tons of resumes and crossing fingers to get first-round interviews. On the other hand, we saw these bright, golden characters–COME BACK HOME– that reminded us of how far away we are from our families. Just like the needle that bursts a balloon, some of my friends could not hold back their tears.

But I celebrate their journey and all the hard work they’ve done to succeed in this new country. And I want them to know: hey, my dear friends, you did great!

 

How to earn your BSBA and MACC in four years at Ohio State

One of the best opportunities that Ohio State has to offer is the BSBA/MAcc program. What is that, you may ask? Well, the BSBA/MAcc program is exactly as it sounds. You are both an undergraduate and graduate student at the same time; several students and I are are currently fourth-year students enrolled simultaneously in the Masters of Accounting program and undergraduate accounting program at Ohio State. Therefore, once we graduate in May,  we will receive two separate degrees: a master’s degree and bachelor’s degree.

I highly recommend this experience. You need to meet a few criteria to join the program:

  1. You MUST be an Ohio State undergraduate student studying accounting.
  2. By the end of your junior or third year, you must have earned 120 credit hours.
  3. Your GPA must be 3.5 or above.
  4. Once the above criteria is met, you must complete an application during the fall or spring semester of your junior year and apply (be sure to take the GMAT as well).

Also, you do not need to be 100% done with your undergraduate accounting degree before you start in the MAcc. There are a number of undergraduate accounting courses that can be taken as equivalents in the MAcc. This allows maximum flexibility in completing other undergraduate courses and requirements. Here are some examples of course substitutions:

BSBA/MAcc Course Substitutions

I know that I have provided a lot of information, but if you have any questions about my experiences, the BSBA/MAcc program, or life in general, please feel free to reach out and I would love to chat. Overall, my classmates and I have had a great experience so far in the combined program and I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is interested!

A Balancing Act

This week will mark the end of first-quarter classes. It is hard to believe that I’m already 25% done with the MAcc program. With only three exams standing between me and a long-awaited trip home, I admit that I am exhausted. I can’t wait to see my family and my pets.

My favorite stress-reliever, Daisy. I can’t believe I live six hours away from her!

Graduate school is no joke. Between classes and job-hunting, it’s been the craziest seven weeks of my life. I’ve had to make a conscious effort to stay sane at times. So, for your enjoyment, here are my top five strategies for surviving the stress of graduate school:

  1. Yoga and Meditation – There are tons of opportunities around Columbus to do yoga. The RPAC offers free classes to students, and there are studios all over the city. I’ve even seen some in the metro parks. I personally like to pull up a 10-minute yoga video in my apartment when I get too deep into a finance case and need to take a breath. It helps me recharge, and I’m much more productive after the short break.
  2. Exercise – While I haven’t been exercising as much as I should, it is a favorite stress reducer among my class. People play basketball, go to spin class, and are even starting intramural teams. An hour spent exercising is much better than an hour spent stressing. Let’s face it: most of us would probably use that time to watch TV anyway, so it’s not like we’re losing valuable study time. If you don’t feel like you have time to walk to the RPAC, there is a smaller gym near Fisher called NorthRec.
  3. Cooking – One of my favorite stress-reducing activities is cooking. Every Sunday, I cook several large dishes to eat throughout the week. Just last week I tried a new turkey and sweet potato skillet recipe. (My fire alarm and I got to have some bonding time when I didn’t keep a close enough eye on the sweet potatoes.) The graduate student lounge has a fridge and several microwaves, so it’s easy to save some money and pack my lunch. Knowing I have lunch and dinner made for the week and won’t have to go through a drive-thru helps me feel more in control. The one week I forgot to meal prep, I got so sick of fast food– which only added to my stress.
  4. Treat Yourself – Like most college students, I am on a limited budget. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself occasionally. When I was grocery shopping this weekend, I bought the prettiest (cheap) bouquet of sunflowers. Now, when I sit in my living room studying for exams, I can look up and see my favorite flowers. For some people, treating yourself can mean taking a day off from studying. I have an early Sunday morning hike planned in a few weeks to do just that. For others, it might be buying a pint of ice cream. Just keep in mind, the point here is to reduce stress. Overspending will not aid in that endeavor.

    Sunflowers: $3.99
    Smiling every time I see them: Priceless
  5. Turn off the Screens – Finally, I’ve found that turning off my TV, closing my computer, and leaving my phone in another room helps tremendously. I try to turn off all of my screens a few times a week and pick up whatever book I’m reading for pleasure. This helps me take a step back from whatever is stressful (emails, homework, etc) and exist in my own space for an hour.

The MAcc program goes by quickly. There’s always something you need to be working on, and it’s easy to forget that you need to come out on the other side with your sanity intact. In order to manage my stress this semester, I’ve had to reframe that time as a necessary part of my schedule. Graduate school is meant to help you grow as a professional AND an individual. All of the case studies don’t mean anything if you’re having a nervous breakdown every week. Especially if you’re going into public accounting with the dreaded busy seasons, the stress management techniques you develop now will follow you into your career. You might as well figure out what works for you now when the stakes are relatively low.

Experiencing the First Few Weeks

Life as a first-year grad student is no easy task. As a first year MHRM student, the statement “it comes at you fast” is an understatement.

The first six to eight weeks of school has been busy, to say the least. Getting to know my peers, adjusting to the course load, frequent networking events and workshops, Fisher’s Career Fair, student organization activities, and work (if you work also) all have made time management a priority.

I also have been adjusting to life in Columbus. As a New Yorker, I’ve come to appreciate the Columbus. I do miss the more convenient public transportation. However, it’s pretty easy to travel with the COTA Bus. And if you live within 20 minutes of campus, all kinds of shopping and eating establishments are easily accessible. My experience thus far has been a pleasant one and I look forward to experiencing what more Columbus has to offer.

More later! I’m off to study.

Jobs Vs. Grades? You can have BOTH

One of my favorite parts of the MAcc program is its unique program structure. It squeezes so much knowledge into nine months and allows the time to meet recruiters and find a full-time position. Keep reading for some helpful tips!

MAcc follows a semester system which means we have 15 weeks for each semester excluding the finals week and a three-week Christmas in between the two semesters. The interesting part of the MAcc program and some other business-related specialized graduate programs is that within each semester, we have two separate sessions. The idea is that these sessions allow the students to have breadth (choosing from many subjects) and some subjects don’t necessarily require a full semester.

In the MAcc program, most of our courses are case-based and group-based which means you need to invest a lot of time with your group members to come up with a final product. Make sure you can manage time wisely, but leave some time for yourself to relax and search for jobs.

You’ll need it– because recruiting season for accounting starts in the fall. Most of the companies accept resumes in early and mid-September, then start the first round interviews in the late September and second round interviews in mid-October. To prepare yourself, I HIGHLY recommend taking four courses in your first session and five courses in the second session in the fall semester. That way, you’ll have more time to prepare for the interviews and informational sessions held mostly in the first session. Otherwise, you may end up with three interviews and five final exams– all happening in the same week.