Christmas Away From Home

I may not look like it, but I was born in Moscow, Russia. Celebrating Christmas was one of my family’s favorite traditions back then. When we moved back to Vietnam, the atmosphere just wasn’t the same without the snow and the cold (very odd reasons), so we just stopped enjoying the occasion altogether.

When I got the chance to study abroad in Wisconsin, I was very excited to get the opportunities to celebrate Christmas once again with SNOW. However, nothing had prepared me for the AMOUNT OF SNOW that we got. I was overwhelmed at first, but I came to love it and even miss it now that I’m in Columbus, OH. In my opinion, winter should not be one of your concerns about coming to Ohio to study. The weather in Columbus is very pleasant in comparison and I do believe it is treating all of us well so far (I might have jinxed it just now).

Wisconsin really loved me
Wisconsin really loved me

I got to celebrate Christmas during my undergraduate days in Wisconsin but it took a while for me to find the friends that I could spend the holiday with. In a new setting with unfamiliar faces, you might get stressed out or anxious when you don’t have people to do the things you are used to doing. Things take time. Related to what my classmate Namrata wrote about earlier, you will be able to find those who you can call Family and enjoy the holidays with, so don’t rush and take it easy.

Our Christmas Tree
Our Christmas Tree

This winter is a bit more special for me this year because I got to spend it with my brother and sister and celebrate it the way we did back in Russia. We already set up a Christmas tree back at my sister’s apartment and was able to exchange gifts

I hope that you all had an enjoyable holiday and winter break! Now, back to reality and school …

Top Five Things I Learned About Myself

SMF Class after Core Capstone Presentations

As the semester comes to an end, and I prepare myself for an almost 48 hour journey to Mumbai, I can’t help but reflect on the 18 weeks that have passed by (or literally flown by).

Below are five things that I’ve learned about myself over the semester in the SMF program:

  • I’m capable of working with people from different backgrounds and who have different sets of views (hopefully my team will agree!). Working with the same people in every class (eight classes) teaches you a lot about yourself and others.
  • I can survive without mum and dorm life. I lived in dorms for all four years of undergrad, so, I didn’t have to worry about food, bills, etc. Living off-campus as a grad student is a whole new ball game.
  • I love any form of data analysis. After being able to take classes in different fields, I’ve come to the conclusion that I like any form of quantitative analysis (anything that’s connected to Math :P).
  • I can stay up the whole night to play cards, board games, or any game in general. I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent playing some form of a game with my classmates.
  • My liberal arts education has come into use at a business school. This for those pursuing a liberal arts degree and wondering if they can pursue a business/finance master’s degree -a liberal arts degree teaches you how to learn, and that will be helpful anywhere you go. I’ve been able to use my undergraduate education in writing reports, reading long articles quickly (finance classes don’t come anywhere near to our history/English classes in terms of material to read), analyzing critically, and learning new material and being able to utilize it.

Overall, I’ve had a busy semester that has given me many opportunities to learn things academically but also on a personal level. Looking forward to new opportunities in the spring semester!

Happy Holidays!

 

Reuniting with the Fam

This year’s Thanksgiving was a little bit more special than the other four because this year, I got to spend it with my sister, who is currently working for PwC (I’m a very proud little sister) and my brother, who just started his freshman year (also a very proud older sister). After a long, intense, and very rewarding first semester in the Fisher SMF program, this was a welcome occurrence.

First time reuniting in the States
First time reuniting in the States

There are many things that I’m grateful for this year. One of them is having both of my siblings living only 2-hour (by car) away from me. With my sister being able to provide for herself and care for us, I feel like I finally have a place to call “home” in the States.

We don’t usually celebrate Thanksgiving, but this year was an exception. My sister (on a whim) decided to do something different: host a Thanksgiving meal. It took us so much time to cook the turkey, make the mashed potatoes then bake the pumpkin pie… This is just a glimpse of how amazing everything looked!

Our Thanksgiving Meal
Our Thanksgiving Meal

Just kidding… We got most of our food from Bob Evans’ Thanksgiving combo, which is why they turned out so nice and yummy.

It’s easy to get really wrapped up in everything school- and SMF-related – I’m glad I had the opportunity to reconnect with some of my family. As rigorous as grad school is, it’s important to maintain your circle of friends and family. I really did enjoy myself to the fullest this year and am always looking forward to the upcoming ones.

Travelling Across Campus and Around Columbus

Most people use COTA (Central Ohio Transit Authority) to get around the city. For Ohio State students, the bus service is almost free (we pay a small fee at the beginning of each semester). We just swipe our BuckID as the fare when we get onto the bus.

*https://seattletransitblog.com/2018/12/08/transit-report-card-columbus/

I live about twenty minutes away from Fisher. So, on lazy (and/or cold) days, there are a couple of buses that can get me to college – route 1, 2 or 8. These buses come every fifteen or so minutes. Fisher is just a one-minute walk from the bus stop that most of us use (W Lane Ave and Neil Ave).

COTA takes you places other than just Fisher like the zoo, good restaurants, shopping centers, etc. Most of my SMF friends live in University Village. So, by now, I know the last bus from their place to mine, and vice versa (I also know the first bus because we usually miss the last bus :)).

Ohio State students use Campus Area Bus Service (CABS) to travel across campus. There are ten routes that encompasses the whole campus. These buses come every five-ten minutes, and you can look at the bus arrival times via the Ohio State app.

Ohio State App showing Campus Loop North and South routes

When I want to walk a bit (instead of taking the COTA bus), I walk to Ohio Union, and take a CABS bus from there to Fisher. The Campus Loop South bus drops us right outside Mason Hall.

*https://ttm.osu.edu/cabs

If you want to go somewhere across campus or around Columbus, one of these two bus services will get you there!

 

Let’s have a little tour!

I decided to switch things around for the blog this time and give you guys a little sneak peek of some of the places that I regularly visit in Gerlach Hall.

As one of the Graduate Ambassadors for the Specialized Master in Finance program, I spend a lot of my weekly hours in the Graduate Programs Office (GPO). My daily tasks would include going over inquiries emails, reaching out and planning visits for prospective students. Over the semester, I have grown to enjoy working in the office and with the students alongside GAs from other programs (MAcc, MHRM, and MBA).

Graduate Programs Office

Another place that I often spend my hours studying at is the computer lab on the second floor in Gerlach Hall. It’s a great quiet study area where you can get stuff done pretty efficiently if you tend to get distracted quickly like I do. In the lab, you can utilize a lot of different software that you might not be able to run on your PC such as SAS or applications that you don’t normally have access to such as Capital IQ.

Gerlach Lab

The student lounge is probably one of the busiest areas in Gerlach Hall. It is located on the second floor and is a huge open space where students come to have their meals and enjoy their breaks. I spend a lot of my times here chatting with friends and catching up on things during the breaks.

Gerlach Lounge (Another Perspective)

That’s all I have for today’s blog. I will cook up more exciting things to discuss as the break is just around the corner.

Finding Your People

To echo what An spoke about in her post (finding a little piece of home), it is important to have your people when you’re in college, especially as an international student.

As most know, India has many festivals that are celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm and love. Being away from home on such occasions is difficult but the Indian Students Association (ISA) does their best to make you feel at home. ISA celebrated Navratri with a Garba night at RPAC. There was music, food and people – that’s all we need to celebrate any festival. After that event, my friends and I decided we weren’t done for the night. So, we went over to a friend’s place, had tea, and played the game, Mafia till sunrise (literally sunrise)…

Garba Night
Food!

Another big Indian festival, Diwali, was the weekend after Navratri. We planned to celebrate it with dinner, dessert and games. So, we all (somewhat) dressed up, had dinner, played cards and charades, and again hung out till almost sunrise.

All The SMF South Asian Ladies
Almost All The SMF South Asian Men
Trying To Guess (Probably A Made-Up) Hindi Movie
Lots Of Biryani!

When I started this program, I thought I would meet a few people who probably would become my people but I didn’t know so many people would become mine. 

 

 

Just another crossroad

Coming into a graduate program at the age of 21 with little working experience can be frightening at times. You are constantly surrounded by professionals and classmates who, most likely, have better visions of what they would like to do with their additional master’s degrees. While it’s okay to feel intimidated, you should try to look at this from another angle: you can learn just as much or even more from your peers as you do from your professors in many different areas such as selecting your career path.

 

Another close-up on our amazing SMF cohort for the year 2020
Another close-up on our amazing SMF cohort for the year 2020

One of the competitive advantages of the Specialized Master in Finance program at the Fisher College of Business is the opportunities to customize your career path into four different possible tracks: corporate finance, investment management, risk management, and real estate.

The four different career tracks offered by the SMF program

You can see how this might be difficult for someone with little exposure to the working industry to choose. This is where all those professionals and classmates come in and give you sneak peeks on what attracted them to the respective tracks:

“I chose the Investment Management track because of its competitive and lucrative nature. Some of the brightest minds in the world compete in this space.  To be able to compete among them, while providing a valuable service to investors, is something I find fascinating.”
Timothy Morris, Investment Management
“I chose the corporate finance track to prepare myself for a career in investment banking. After learning about corporate finance in my undergraduate classes, I was eager to dive deeper into the subject. I believe that courses in corporate financing, mergers & acquisitions, corporate restructuring & bankruptcy, and similar classes will provide a great foundation for a successful career.”
Domenik Koch, Corporate Finance
“I chose the track in Corporate Finance as I aspire to work in M&A or Corporate Restructuring. As the competition for these positions is very tough I believe that the courses offered in this track match my needs will add value to my skills and will help me stand out among all the applicants. Courses like M&A, Corporate Financing and Capital Restructuring and Bankruptcy will allow me to gain the right perspective and mindset as well as technical skills in order to accomplish my career goals.”
Andrea Depalma, Corporate Finance
I chose the investment track because the field has been an interest of mine since undergrad. After graduation I hope to have an equity or fixed income analyst job in Chicago.

Nikolas Stella, Investment Management

The point of all this is this: don’t be afraid to make use of all the “resources” available for you! You can make up for your lack of working experience through learning from those around you just by asking.

Teamwork!

The SMF program has a pre-term and seven core courses in the autumn semester. At the beginning of pre-term, we were assigned teams that we would be working with for the entire pre-term and all the core courses. We were put in teams on the basis of a variety of factors like academic background, work experience, gender, and race. My team has four students including me. One student has completed all three CFA levels and has work experience, the other two have done their undergraduate degree in finance, and I, as you know from my first post, did my undergraduate degree in math. We have different expertise and ways to contribute to the team. Sometimes, one of us will take the lead on an assignment and the other will work on citations and proofreading. We’ve been working together only for a month or so, but I’ve been able to learn so much from them in terms of academics but also in terms of soft skills.

In my opinion, the assignment that brought us together as a team, was the first assignment in our Financial Software Applications class, an industry and a company analysis. The first half of this course, is focusing on Bloomberg, while the second half will be on Excel.

The first task for this assignment was to choose an industry from the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) sectors. We then, had to research about the industry, and look at the trends, patterns, market share, etc. After that, we had to choose the company (in that industry) who we believed would be the strongest over the next twelve months, and perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. Lastly, we had to compile a report with our analysis of the industry and company. There were two caveats to this assignment – we could only use Bloomberg as our source, and we were not given a page limit for the report. If we wanted to look up some information about the industry’s market share or if we wanted to look at Pepsi’s latest news, we had to use Bloomberg. What this really means is we spent hours and hours in the Bloomberg Lab in Mason Hall.

Bloomberg terminal
Bloomberg terminals

The industry we chose was Beverages in the Consumer Staples sector. We took about nine hours over three days to conduct research on this industry, look at key players in and outside of the U.S, and notice where this industry is moving towards. After that, we “discussed” which company was the strongest according to the data we had on us. We then moved on to actually writing the report that had no page limit. We took about seven hours to do so. Two members started on it during the day, and the third member and I, completed it by the early hours of the next day. And finally, we worked on the presentation we had to give in class (two teams present on every assignment and we were the “lucky ones” to present on the first). Overall, we spent about twenty hours on this assignment, no big deal.

When we were first informed that our teams were going to be the same for the whole semester, I said to myself, “we’re either going to love each other or really not like each other.” I’m glad to realize that after spending so much time with my team over the past couple of days, I’m not going to “really not like” them.

P.S. If anyone was wondering, Coca-Cola was our choice!

Making the most of your days as a grad student

From my previous blog post, I made it seem that the life of an SMF student is just hours and hours of studying and group projects in the Bloomberg Lab. Fortunately, there are many events around Columbus that give us the opportunities to “break free” and enjoy our days to the fullest.

On October 13, my friends managed to drag me out of my apartment after finishing the finals to go to the Chainsmokers with 5 Seconds of Summer and Lennon Stella Concert at the Schottenstein Center.  To be honest, I had one of the most exciting nights in my life watching them performing live. To make it better, I got to spend some quality time with my classmates whom I had only been able to talk with briefly in our core courses together.

My friends and me at the concert

This upcoming Sunday, October 20th, one of my all-time idols, Celine Dion is coming to perform at the Schottenstein Center. If you are in the area and you love her as much as I do, you might want to check out her concert.

At times, life can get so crazy and busy at times that you might forget to live it. It is during those times that you might want to stop, take a deep breath, and enjoy yourself. It doesn’t have to be a concert or a fancy night out. Sometimes, just a night for yourself is all you need. After all, it’s the memories of these nights that you look back on down the road.

Much Needed Break

Session 1 of Autumn semester is over! I can’t believe it’s been over 2 months since the first day of our SMF pre-term.

We finished our finals last on Oct 9 and then got the rest of the week off as fall break. This was our first “actual” break since the start of the program, so as you can imagine, we were very excited.

My housemates and I walk by this pizza place, Adriatico’s everyday on our way home, and always say we should go there. So, that’s what we did Thursday night.

Pepperoni Pizza and Garlic Parmesan Breadsticks

Next evening, a couple of my friends and I went to a Bollywood movie, The Sky is Pink starring Priyanka Chopra and Farhan Akhtar. To no one’s surprise, it was just us in the theater.

The scene when I realized I should click a picture for my blog

Saturday evening, I celebrated my mum’s 50th birthday (from 8067 miles away) by attending mass at a beautiful church and getting game day mini cupcakes!

Happy Birthday Ma!

Finally, Sunday evening, a couple of us went to a South Indian restaurant, Gokul Cafe, and enjoyed pav bhaji. South Indian food is definitely something I miss about being away from home.

Pav (bread) Bhaji (mashed vegetables)

Something that has stuck with me through this short break, is a dialogue from the movie we watched. In a scene, the son gets yelled at by his teacher for coloring the sky pink instead of blue. When he narrates this incident to his mum, she says, “your sky can be any color you want it to be. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise” (loosely translated, sorry).

And, that’s what I’ll end with – your sky can be any color you want it to be.