My First Winter Break in the U.S.

So, here I am, 25% through Full-Time MBA and I never felt time fly this quickly before! My first day at Fisher feels like it was just yesterday. Then, I had a three-week long winter break– something that I was absolutely thrilled about…

The highlight of break was a Fisher MBA “Marketing Hop” where first-year and second-year MBA students (myself included) took a trip to Detroit and Chicago to meet and greet major “movers and shakers.” This is an annual event (and not the only event of its kind– students take organized “hops” to other cities).

I had a few hours to pack my bags after my last final exam on the night of December 13th– before heading out the next day. It was extremely cold on that morning when we were supposed to report outside Gerlach Hall a.k.a. our “MBA academic powerhouse building.” A short bus drive away… and we arrived in Detroit for a stop at Ford Motor Company. Then, we were off to the “Windy City.”

We met brilliant people at LinkedIn, Dyson, Groupon, Rise Interactive and a few other digital marketing agencies in Chicago. We also had some fun on the side! The city (even when freezing) was warm enough to me; I got introduced to Giordano’s deep-dish pizza by one of my Brazilian friends studying at the University of Chicago, the security check at Skydeck Chicago was gracious to offer me a free ticket, and I enjoyed mouth-watering paan in Chicago’s Little Pakistan-India neighborhood. I spent two nights in Chicago before I headed to San Francisco to spend the rest of my break with family.

Skydeck with friends

I began the evening of December 16th by landing at SFO, where a group of my friends came to welcome me! After chatting for hours with my friends while roaming around the streets of San Francisco, my family came to pick me up and the day ended with a lot of homemade Indian delicacies, deep conversations with cousins, and wine. The next few days were exhilarating and packed with a lot of action. My cousins had a plan for every single day and when I look back in hindsight, I believe that I couldn’t have lived any of those days better. Highlights include sightseeing San Francisco: walking along the Embarcadero, experiencing the breath-taking views of the bay; biking the Golden Gate bridge with cousins and friends; riding Lombard Street in an SUV (that’s the really curvy, downhill street that you’ve probably seen in pictures), relishing hot chocolate fudge at Ghirardelli Square, and eating the best Thai food with an unforgettable view.

Christmas morning breakfast table at our Airbnb

After just a week, I was enthralled with what California has to offer. The city was dressed in lights as Christmas got closer and the vibe of the holiday season could be felt on every street. Following a last-minute change in the plan, we all decided to visit Yosemite National Park for Christmas. Staying at an Airbnb in the middle of the forest for three nights with no internet connectivity gave me time to reflect and cherish quality time with family. Hiking the Yosemite peak during this time of the year was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I never thought that I could even complete the Upper Yosemite Fall Trail with absolutely no training. What I took back from the visit to Yosemite is a new version of myself. I learned that I can be comfortable with the uncomfortable. The next few days were spent enjoying a lot of New Year’s Eve parties, learning some board games (such as Monopoly, Catan, Ticket to Ride, and playing the lying-bluffing-fib-till-you-win Fibbage), and trying to get better cooking skills some Indian recipes!

Yosemite Christmas Trip
Our trail
Columbia Rock (1/3rd through our trek)

With the onset of the new year and my last week in California wrapping up, I got an opportunity to visit the Apple HQ in Cupertino, California, with our Marketing Professor and Program Director, Dr. Shashi Matta, who (every year) takes a group of students to a road trip in California. I also got a chance to visit GoFundMe, crowdfunding platform to raise money, and Asana, an organization that designs a mobile application to help teams track their work. Plus, I met with Fisher alums while I kept my focus on a summer internship. Lastly, I got to spend my last night in California with some 30 Buckeyes in San Francisco over a meet-and-greet event before leaving for my 12:25am flight back to Columbus.

Dr. Matta, third from the left, and some current Fisher MBA students (myself at extreme right)

California was definitely fun and I took back a bag full of memories that I’ll cherish forever!

Russell Westbrook vs LeBron James

As I’ve posted about in previous blogs, I’m originally from Oklahoma, and because of this, I am a huge Oklahoma City Thunder fan.  Our franchise moved to OKC when I was 13 years old.  I became an instant fan and have supported the team ever since.  Obviously, a large part of the Ohio State experience is attending Buckeye football games.  Another perk for sports fans, though, is being just a two-hour drive away from Cleveland.

In the last few years, Cleveland has benefited from very successful professional baseball and basketball teams – the Indians and the Cavaliers (they’ve also had a very sad professional football franchise, the Browns).  After checking the schedule, I realized that the Thunder would be playing in Cleveland on a Saturday and I would have the opportunity to attend a game.

Right outside of the Cavaliers Arena is a poster of LeBron James, definitely the biggest poster I’ve ever seen

A fellow SMF student, Jared Ablass, is a fan of the Cavaliers and LeBron James and we decided to go together to watch the game. The final score was completely awesome for fans of the Thunder, and getting to watch some of the best players in the NBA (in-person) after such a short drive was an incredible experience.

A view from the cheap seats inside the game!

After the game we finished off a great day by eating a hamburger at Wahlburger’s.  Watching LeBron James play live and taking in the sights and sounds of Cleveland is a must for anyone spending time in Ohio.

Christmas in NYC

This past December, I went to the “Big Apple” to spend a few days admiring the Christmas features. A majority of Hallmark movies and the famous Home Alone 2 took place in New York City, but I can say the movies do not do the city justice! The atmosphere is truly amazing with gorgeous lit trees and decorations throughout the city. The most famous feature everyone wants to see is the tree at Rockefeller. While the tree was enormous and beautiful with an ice skating rink below, my favorite feature was the angels that directly faced the tree pictured below. I was lucky enough that it snowed when I visited to give all features a beautiful dusting of snow.

The angels made this night magical.

I also went to the Empire State building with my parents, as pictured below. If you’re looking for amazing views of the city and wind-blown hair, I highly recommend visiting here!

This sky-high view shows just how big New York is.
Spending time with the family was a nice way to enjoy the break from class.

While there is so much to do in Manhattan, Brooklyn also has amazing features to check out! I specifically went to Dyker Heights in Brooklyn. This is a neighborhood where you can walk around and witness some of the most expensive homes that are decorated with Christmas lights. The average monthly power bill for these homes is estimated to be over $5,000! The photo below is of “Lucy’s house” that started the tradition in Brooklyn. In the beginning, her neighbors complained about the Christmas decorations, so naturally, she added more each year to get the final product seen below. Brooklyn also has amazing local shops such as Brooklyn’s Ice Cream Factory. I must personally say there is nothing better than walking in snow and then getting delicious homemade ice cream– with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge!

Lucy’s House
Ice cream in the winter? Of course.

While, there are so many more beautiful features and things to do in New York, one of the best features is the love shown for Ohio State! Walking down a street in the Theater District, I passed a local bar that had an OSU flag hanging outside. I couldn’t be more proud to be a Buckeye!

Buckeyes truly are almost everywhere in the country– and the world!

 

My Winter Break

It’s always nice to travel back home and see family during breaks. My hometown, as mentioned in the previous post, is located in northeast China which means it’s freezing in winter.

I got several texts from my friends during the break– saying was cold in Columbus. I didn’t text back anything other than this screen grab…

Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang Province, China

Mudanjiang is not the city that I was born; I was just there during the winter break. I know I am crazy. When most people travel to some places warm in order to stay away from the cold winter, I actually stepped into a freezing locale. This city is known as the “snow village”; because of the location of the city, during winter time, it snows almost 24/7. However, I do admit it is very pretty, just like I’m in a fairy tale.

Snow Village

 Harbin, my real hometown, is known for the International Ice and Snow Fest.

Harbin, Heilongjiang, China

 If you are planning to visit, make sure you’re bundled up and your phone is fully charged because when your electronic devices are exposed in such a low temperature, the battery tends to die very quickly–like in 10 mins.

The 5th annual Wells Fargo Investment Thought Leadership Forum

Last December, a handful group of students and I were given the opportunity to assist “The Wells Fargo Investment Thought Leadership Forum” in New York City. The conference, that took place in the prestigious Plaza Hotel, hosted top-notch discussions on market, credit, banking, and the broad economy. The speaker list included several of the world’s most known and successful investors and managers including Howard Marks (Co-Chairman of Oaktree), Larry Fink (Chairman and CEO of BlackRock), Michael Bloomberg (founder of Bloomberg and 108th Mayor of New York City), and Jamie Dimon (Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase & Co). Furthermore, we felt even more privileged knowing that, among the 1,500-member investor audience representing more than $3 trillion in capital, our group represented the only school present at the conference.

The group with Professor Sheridan!

Our trip started on December 6. Myself and Jared Ablass, SMF student from Canada, had to catch our flight to New York at 2 PM. We arrived at LaGuardia around 5:30 PM and went directly to the Airbnb we rented for the two days trip to drop our bags– and off we go we were, already on our way to our first meeting/dinner with an alumnus from the program.

Arriving in NYC!

The day of the conference, we decided to walk to the Plaza hotel. All of us agreed that a morning walk on 5th Avenue could not hurt.

After a quick breakfast in the hotel and a welcome remark by Jonathan Bock, managing director at Wells Fargo and organizer of the conference, we started the day with a word from Howard Marks. The discussion focused on today’s incredibly challenging low-return investment environment. Mr. Marks emphasized his presentation on today’s uncertainty in the macro environment and the fact that this uncertainty might not lead to high prospective returns in the future because of central banks keeping rates low.

Following Howard Marks was a highly anticipated panel (composed of leaders from Wells Fargo, Apollo, BlackRock, and CalPERS) giving their thoughts on some of the most pressing issues facing the economy (from tax cut all the way to technology). Among other things, the panel was explaining that the tax reform is expected to be powerful for cash flow-oriented companies (as they will have more cash in hands) and particularly for investment bankers on expectations of M&A.

The lunch discussion with Michael Bloomberg was, in my opinion, one of the best discussion of the entire conference. I particularly enjoyed listening his point of view on climate change. As mentioned during the discussion, Mr. Bloomberg explained that while the federal government is clearly a part of the environmental solution, it is more important to see both the innovation and environmental improvements coming from corporate and city leaders in response to citizen demand for cleaner air and water.

Finally, the heavily anticipated closing discussion between Jamie Dimon (Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase & Co.) and Mike Mayo (Large Cap Bank Analyst at Wells Fargo Securities) focused on Mr. Dimon’s catalog for success during his time at the head of one of the biggest financial institution in the world.

A discussion with Jamie Dimon!

We closed this great day with an alumni dinner at a fine restaurant in Manhattan. We had the chance to share this meal with a couple of alumni working in the Big Apple.

Alumni Dinner in NYC!

This diverse group of motivated students coming from all around the world (including myself) are extremely grateful for the opportunity that was given to us by Professor Pinteris, Professor Sheridan and Fisher College of Business. In my opinion, an event like this one is what sets the Specialized Master of Finance apart from other programs and gives you the belief that one day, you’ll be in the shoes of those highly successful individuals.

The entire group with Professor Pinteris and Mr. Bock!

 

NYC Trip

Finals are over and just like that, I am halfway through the SMF program.  It’s crazy how quickly pre-term and the first semester went by.  Since Columbus is a lot closer to New York than Oklahoma, my mom and I decided to go on a trip to New York right after finals were over.  I took a bunch of pictures and wanted to include as many as possible.  Here are some of my favorite sights from the trip:

The Statue of Liberty
My mom and I enjoying some New York style pizza
Me with the famous Charging Bull in the Financial District
Downtown Manhattan at sunset from the Empire State Building

Proximity to New York is one of the many perks about being in school at Ohio State.  I know that many of my classmates recently attended an investments conference in New York and it provided them the opportunity to listen to some very knowledgable individuals from the industry and to also network with SMF alumni in the city.  My trip to New York was a blast and I can’t wait to go back!

A Day with Warren Buffett

About 20 Fisher graduate students traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to spend a day with Warren Buffett. The highlight of the trip was a 3.5 hour question and answer session with the Oracle himself.

Our group with Mr. Buffett

Mr. Buffett spent a large amount of time speaking about the importance of family. He said that as we grow older, our relationship with our children, (not how much money we have), will be one of, if not the main, measuring stick defining success.

Mr. Buffett supported this point by claiming, “being rich is over-rated, but if you have the chance, take it.” He explained that ease of air-travel was the only tangible “day to day” advantage he has over others.

These two concepts offered an opportunity for us to reflect on our long-term goals and decide what is truly important. Mr. Buffett serves as a reminder that choices we currently make will impact these goals, and that those of us who prioritize family will not “fail.”

I am thankful for the opportunity to meet and listen to Mr. Buffett. Traveling with our group formed a good bond as we all learned more about each other.

Our gift to Mr. Buffett – to match the Tressel ball he keeps on his desk – Go Bucks!

 

Meeting the legend Warren Buffett in Omaha

Yep– the Buffett you thought! I still cannot believe that I met the man in person!

Last Friday, 19 other Fisher grad students and I had the honor to represent Fisher and have lunch with Mr. Buffett at Anthony’s Steakhouse in Omaha.

During the Q&A session before lunch, Mr. Buffett shared his wisdom of life and investment to us. Well, it was mostly about the power of love.

Here are some key points of his speech that impressed me the most:

a) Thinking about your favorite person and the one you dislike the most, write down their characteristics. Then you will know how to be a better person.

b) Unconditional love is the most precious thing in life which cannot be bought by money. You would get it from your parents or spouse. Love others first, then you will get love from them 1000 times back. He said he would not be the same person without the unconditional love of his wife and father.

c) Being others’ spouse and parent is the most important job in life. You cannot take back your actions or words. There is no replay or delete.

During his speech, Mr. Buffett shared many interesting stories. For example, in early 1990s, Mr. Buffett and Bill Gates and other icons in business and tech sat around a table to discuss how the internet would develop in the next decade (which Buffett said they should have taped) They talked for hours, but they didn’t come up with amazing ideas such as Youtube, Linkedin, or ads in websites– though they had the best business and technology minds in the world.

The most amazing part of meeting Mr. Buffett is that he speaks in a candid manner to students. He’s not arrogant at all– just like a grandfather talking to his grandkids, or even just as one would talk to friends. Moreover, to manage a crowd over 160 people, he only brought two assistants, a secretary and a bodyguard. You would not even sense the existence of the bodyguard until he wandered in the hallway to keep an eye on Mr. Buffett during lunch time. The secretary was so easygoing and elegant. She just sat behind the table, observing the room and monitoring the process during the Q&A session, only interrupting when necessary but in a calm and warm voice. With all the student groups taking pictures, there were a little chaos, but Mr. Buffett still maintained his smile. It was a brief experience, but I am impressed by how efficient and organized his team was and how much he trusted them.

Fisher grad Students meeting with Mr. Buffett

Another treat was the delicious steak, smashed potato, and strawberry cake at the steakhouse. But photos were not allowed to be taken inside the restaurant, so here is our group photo outside. You definitely should visit the place if you ever travel to Omaha!

Anthony’s Steakhouse

After meeting Mr. Buffett, we still had 3.5 hours before our flight back to Columbus. So, three other Fisher students (Lauren, Michelle, and Zainab) joined me and Heidi from the Office of Global Business to rent a car and take a quick tour of Omaha. Thanks to Lauren for this awesome idea and to Heidi for driving us around Omaha– and even to Iowa at one point!

Nebraska Furniture Mart
OMAHA

Last but not least, big thanks and respect to our awesome and calm trip leader Matthew Nordman, who helped us to get to Omaha in time given some flight issues and helped us to transfer on an earlier flight back, so each of us on the trip could finish the journey within 24 hours. Four flights within 24 hours and a return to the same airport is a record of mine now!

MAcc Madness

My March started out with a quick trip to Washington D.C. to see my best friend from undergrad. Though small, the Columbus airport still offers service to a number of destinations around the country. Even better, I was able to snag my round-trip tickets for an incredibly affordable price. It was a wonderful weekend getaway, full of lots of laughs, sightseeing, walking, and delicious food.

I also had the opportunity to jet out west to Salt Lake City and Park City to see family over spring break. I prefer mountains to the beach, so this was definitely my idea of a perfect vacation. In addition to simply hanging out with some of my favorite people, I got to enjoy some rock climbing and yoga while I was out there!

March also marked the start of the Intramural indoor soccer season! I was incredibly nervous about being a part of the team because although soccer was a huge part of my childhood, I had not played for years. While I am certainly not as a fast or in shape as I used to be, joining the “MAccletes” is definitely one of the highlights of my MAcc experience thus far. Continuing on the soccer trend, I also went to my first Columbus Crew game this past weekend where the Crew beat the Portland Timbers 3-2.

Because of how classes are scheduled, there are no Friday classes during the second term of the spring semester. To take advantage of this free day, the MAcc Council has several events planned over the next couple of weeks. This past Friday they hosted the MAcc Olympics which was an afternoon of fun and games. We played basketball, volleyball, dodgeball, and kickball. It should come as no surprise that there was definitely some friendly competition on the playing field!

I have also made it a point to take advantage of the warmer temps to get back out on the trails. I went to Clear Creek Metro Park this past Saturday and am looking forward to going back this upcoming weekend. I am also going to try to get to Hocking Hills this weekend as well, weather permitting.

Looking into April, there are plenty of other activities on the calendar. MAcc Gives Back, a day of community service, is scheduled for the morning of April 7th. That same day, we have Fisher Formal in the evening. I am really looking forward to spending some time giving back to the Columbus community and Formal is sure to be a blast – I love any excuse to get dressed up!

It is hard to believe that graduation is just a few short weeks away. While I am looking forward to the next chapter of my life, it is bittersweet to think that my time at the Fisher College of Business is quickly coming to an end. I did not know what to expect when I started my MAcc experience, but it is safe to say that the past year has been amazing and I have so many wonderful memories that I will forever cherish.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

The end of the school year is near, with spring break still fresh in our minds. While I went to Florida and spent time with family and friends at the beach, here are some testimonials of what a few other MAcc students did during their well-deserved break.

Haoyuan (Eva) Li – Road Trip

“During the spring break, we went on a road trip. The experience was awesome since we drove through seven states and visited five cities.  Each city is different and has its own special thing. As I have never been to any of those cities, I got to experience different culture and try all kinds of delicious food.

One of the most impressive experiences during the trip was to see colonial Williamsburg. The buildings are classic and historic. You can see people dress up in different roles from the 18th century. They are from a variety of backgrounds, and under the tour guidance, you get to learn how their choices impacted their families and community.

Colonial Williamsburg

Another highlight is that we visited several well-known universities during the trip. We spent a lot of time in their business schools and libraries. Each school has its own unique qualities; some have great facilities, some have great architecture design, and some have a really good vibe. We did the “O-H-I-O” gesture in front of each business school as the proof of our ‘conquering’ of the area. The whole trip was fascinating and was a great travel experience with other MAcc people!”

Showing school spirit across the country
Nick Sampsel – Washington D.C.

“Over Spring Break, I took a few days to go to Washington D.C. As I was notifying a few of my classmates that my hotel had CCTV, I discovered that there were others going to D.C. as well! We visited a bunch of the different Smithsonian museums, like the Museum of American History and the Museum of Natural History, and saw all of the different monuments. As MAcc students, it was absolutely necessary to get our picture taken in front of the IRS as well! Overall, it was a nice getaway and a pleasant surprise to see a few of my friends on vacation.”

Is it tax season yet?
Yajie (RJ) Liu – Global Business Expedition to Israel

Global Business Expeditions (GBEs) are short-term, high-intensity global programs offered during Spring Semester. Each program is designed by our Fisher College of Business faculty to integrate industry expertise with a global context. For full cultural and business immersion, students travel during 2017 Spring Break on a private tour of globally successful, multi-national companies and the must-see historical sites of the region.”

MAcc and MBA students pose for a picture at the Western Wall

Students have the option of attending a week long program in Germany, Spain, or Israel. Israel focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship, giving students viable insight into multinational business dealings. These programs are not only limited to MAcc students, but also open to all graduate business students. Prior to traveling, students participate in a 7-week multinational business course. While in Israel, students partake in cultural tours and business meetings with several multinational entities. Program brochure can be found here.

Buckeyes at The Dead Sea