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.

The life of an SMF Graduate student

After finishing my undergraduate studies, I was very excited to see how drastically my life would change going through the Specialized Master in Finance program (SMF). Today, I can confidently tell you this: there’s not a day goes by where you don’t have something to work on.

During our first session of the Autumn Semester, we are going through the core required courses within our program structure to ease us into customizing our career tracks. Personally, for someone with little work experience, I am very much grateful for these courses as they are providing me with some basic exposure to different fields in the industry, which is helping me in my decision-making process of what to do in the future.

Our beloved Bloomberg Lab

Throughout the program, SMF students get the chance to get acquaintance with different financial software applications through both the core and elective coursework. Learning how to use the Bloomberg terminal was one of the things I was so excited about before coming to the Ohio State University. My first time looking at Bloomberg terminal was like looking at an alien software with so many numbers and so much information that I had trouble analyzing all the data. After spending dozens of hours in the lab and receiving guidance from my peers, I must say that I have gotten quite used to it, but I still have so much more to learn.

Group meeting has become a daily routine

In all of our core courses, we are selected to be in a preassigned team throughout the academic year. Due to the amount of coursework and assignments we have to work on, it is almost impossible to go on a week without meeting up with our respective groups. Through trials and errors, my group became more efficient in delegating duties to best divide the workload while engaging all the members in the process. Because of the diverse backgrounds of the members in the cultures and work experience aspects, I always manage to learn something new every time we meet up.

Up to this point, I can proudly say that I am enjoying every day of the program, and I am always looking forward to what is coming next.

Advice from SMF international students on your application

*theskyisnotthelimit.org

Since our application is now live, I gathered some advice from current SMF students. Since majority of the students are international, I tried getting a student from every country represented in our class.

Here’s the advice they wished they were told as prospective students :

Ruozhao (Adelia) Chen, Chile

Reach out to the Graduate Program Office before applying and speak with the Graduate Assistants (like our amazing Namrata and An!) to get their insights and experiences!

Also, don’t fail the GMAT/GRE 🙂

Arsh Kumar, Pakistan

I cannot emphasize this enough: start early and take a step back to prepare a timeline that includes a handful of key decision and inflection points in your life. Objective is to reflect on why you made certain decisions, and how they shaped your actions and perspectives. This exercise helped me verify my core values, which I used as the guiding points for my short term and long-term goals. I strongly believe that the most effective applications are the ones that are personal and authentic

Abiral Nepal, Nepal

One advice that I wish I were given would definitely be to work more on my resume and essay before submitting the application. The personal essay says a lot about us and what we want to do, and it helps to reflect what we really want. Working thoroughly on this part can help a lot in business school as it helps to set the path ahead.

Fu An (Ann) Chu, Taiwan

As international students, many of us need to take TOEFL test. I would suggest take the test seriously and try your best to prepare for it because you will also need to write and speak in English when you are in the interview.

Don’t hesitate to contact the admissions staff at SMF when you have any problem regarding the application process.

Yuelin (Melody) Huang, China

Apply early because there may not be as many seats or financial aid left, if you apply late.

GMAT and GPA are important, but you also need to focus on your personal statement to make yourself different from others.

Internship experiences are very crucial. They not only help you apply for the program but also help you understand the business courses later in the program.

Darshan Kataria, India

GRE/GMAT is important but you shouldn’t worry about it too much. Because unlike in India, here it’s not the only deciding factor. I’ve given Indian entrance exams as well, and if you don’t get above a certain percentile, you’re not even eligible to apply. That’s not the case with graduate schools in the U.S.

An (Emma) Nguyen, Vietnam

The best advice I have for applicants from my own experience is to stay on top of everything and to get everything in by the first deadline! In order to be competitive, you must not only show the admission committee you are capable of achieving great things coming out of the program but also show that you are passionate, that you know how to plan things ahead of time! A lot of students take this for granted and apply later on in the year (December-January)! As the committee assesses applications on a rolling basis, applying late will not help you stand out but instead get drown out by other applicants who have more polished resumes and higher GMAT/GRE score!

Ignacio A., Godoy Dominguez, Chile

A piece of advice I wish I had gotten whilst going through the application process is to do more background research on the types of jobs you can get by specializing in each track offered by the SMF program. While we have gotten guidance about it now that the program has begun, I feel like having a more general idea on the job spectrum and daily life of a position would have taken away much of the anxiety of having to choose a track after the semester has started.

I think my classmates have covered everything there is to cover! I would just add one thing – it’s going to be okay. The application process is going to be over sooner than you think, and you’re going to do fine!

 

Finding a little piece of home

Homesickness is something that most international students have to deal with during their time abroad. You can never be completely used to it, but there are days where it gets easier in the company of the right people at the right place at the right time.

For countries following the lunar calendar, we have an annual festival called the Full Moon or Mid-Autumn Festival where families and friends gather to give thanks to the moon for our harvests as well as to pray for the upcoming ones. Needless to say, I got rather homesick during this period as my family does have a tradition of celebrating it together. It was thanks to the new friends I had made in the Specialized Master in Finance program here that I managed to find a little piece of home in the states.

This is a picture of us dining at a BBQ restaurant to celebrate the occasion

In addition to us celebrating the festival with bellies filled with BBQ, we got to enjoy a traditional dessert that comes along with this occasion, Mooncake.

The mouthwatering Mooncake that I got to enjoy thanks to my friends.

Indeed, the celebration here can never be completely similar to the ones we might have back home. However, it was certainly more than enough to make our homesickness go away for a short while.

It doesn’t really matter if this is your first year, second year or your fifth year living in the U.S., homesickness is always going to be a bit harder to cope with during special occasions. It is during these times that you should surround yourself with good friends who can help you find that little piece of home just like mine did.

Entering The “Real World”

My last post brought you up to speed about how I reached Columbus. Now that I’m here, the first thing I realized after traveling about 35 hours from Mumbai to Columbus – my life from Mumbai and Bryn Mawr hadn’t traveled with me.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was an undergraduate student at Bryn Mawr College. I stayed on campus for all the four years so I had to deal with very few “adult” things like doing laundry, filing taxes, getting a driver’s license, and buying midnight snacks. Now, I would be dealing with grocery shopping, cooking (wish I had paid more attention when my mum cooked!), vacuuming, doing laundry and paying bills.

The first meal I cooked (okra on the left and potato on the right)

I knew going to grad school right after completing my undergraduate degree would be a jump but I didn’t know how long of a jump it would be. When I landed in Columbus a couple of days before our pre-term, I didn’t have a friend to ride back to Bryn Mawr with. I had to drag my two big suitcases and a small one to the taxi stand, and book myself a cab.

My apartment – the first door on the right with the sliding-door window

I am sharing an apartment with two other grad students, but I was the first to arrive. So, there wasn’t anyone at the apartment either. The next morning, I went to the WiFi store then to Kroger (because WiFi is obviously more important than groceries). I then went to the BMV to renew my driver’s license. At about 4pm that day, I came home to suitcases that desperately needed to be unpacked and a stomach that definitely needed to be fed.

And, after all of that, I had yet to prepare myself to start studying all over again after a two-month break and celebrate my 22nd birthday in a new place with no familiar faces around. In senior year, we counted days to graduation but I hadn’t realized it was a countdown to adulthood too.

Moral of story: When moving to a new city for your graduate program, wherever that may be, I recommend giving yourself a week or two to acclimate yourself to your new surroundings. Get to know the area, settle in, and breathe deeply – you got this!

From a small town girl

Hey there, I’m An Nguyen; a 2020 Specialized Master in Finance candidate and a graduate assistant for this program along with my colleague, Namrata Basu. Interesting enough, I was born in Moscow, Russia before moving back to Vietnam at the age of 5.

My sister and I modeling in our humble apartment in Moscow

Like my title has suggested, I came from a small university up in northern Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Transportation and Logistics; Economics; Business Administration: Finance Concentration. The moral lesson from my undergraduate life: try everything you are interested in – that’s the only way you’ll know what you truly want to dedicate to.

A Memorable Graduation Day

Why Fisher College of Business? Applying to the Specialized Master in Finance program is probably the only decision I have made with 100% certainty. I first visited the Ohio State University back in my Junior year and fell in love with the place immediately. I remember thinking to myself: “Yup, this is it! This is my calling”. Everything from the coursework, the curriculum, to the career tracks, the classrooms just felt so exciting. Finally starting the program last August reassured me about the choice I had made a few years back. I am looking forward to witnessing my own growth under the guidance of the faculties, professors and my peers.