This story is a journey of one’s life. It is this journey and our experiences which define who we are today and who we will become in the future. Like everyone else, I have a story. I went into my senior year of high school with the goal of being accepted into my dream school: the University of Georgia.
Toward the end of my senior year, I was accepted into UGA and, in May 2011, I graduated from Brookwood High School. These were some of my fondest moments. I grew up in a very sheltered home, where I did not have as much freedom as other teenagers my age. It made growing up difficult and made me “hate” my parents. It is safe to say I did not have a good relationship with my parents when I was a teenager because they were so controlling and overprotective, which is why being accepted into college, away from home, was something to look forward to.
As move-in day approached in August 2011, I was not excited about moving into a dorm and transitioning into the college world. I knew it was not because I didn’t want to leave home and my parents, but because I did not want to pack. I did not feel ready to embark on a journey I had been waiting for my entire life. Move in day came and my parents and my brothers helped me move into my dorm. While I unpacked a few things on my own, they went out and bought me a futon for my dorm room. After they came back, my brothers and my dad assembled my futon.
After they finished assembling the futon, they were ready to leave. As I said goodbye to them I got teary-eyed. However, I quickly tried to get over it so that it did not seem like I was going to miss my parents. From that evening on, I quickly adjusted to the college life and did not want to turn back. I enjoyed spending time with my roommate, my first friend in college. We wanted to try everything together.
The very first night I moved in, we heard there was a house party and we both wanted to go, mostly because we never went to “parties” while growing up, and we wanted to go for the experience. Although it turned out to be lame, we agreed the next time there was a legitimate party at a bar or club in Athens, we would go. Then, the Thursday of the first week of school we heard about a party hosted by a sorority at a club called Sideways, and it was the best “real college party” my roommate and I went to. My roommate and I did not drink that night, but we had so much fun dancing to good music, going to Waffle House afterwards, and hanging out with friends in our dorm room until 7:00 am the next morning.
Aside from the fun aspect of college, I came into college undecided on my major. It was a scary place to be. While I was growing up, I never knew what I wanted to become in life. My brothers knew what they had interests in since they were five years old. I used to wonder what was wrong with me. Why did I not have the passion for something that others had? I spent the first semester of college taking the core classes everyone needed to take and spent the mean time figuring out what I wanted to major in.
Eventually, my dad influenced my choice in a major. He suggested I study business, but particularly finance. He told me there are so many opportunities in finance. I remembered thinking, “what is business?” I literally had no concept or understanding of what business was, yet alone finance. Then, the second semester of freshman year came along, and I officially declared finance as my major. I did this mostly because I was tired of telling others I did not know what I wanted to do with my life.
Boy was I wrong! Before I could officially claim finance to be my major, Terry College of Business needed to accept me into the finance major program. I thought this was odd because most people just begin their major when they get into college. I soon learned the Terry College of Business is one of the top ranked business schools in the U.S. and students had to apply to get in because it was so competitive. I spent my entire sophomore year taking all the Terry entrance classes.
During my first semester of sophomore year, I took Accounting I with the infamous Swati. Everyone told me to take Accounting I at another school where it would be easier to make a good grade because Swati’s class was “terrible”. However, I figured it could not be as bad as people say and as long as I worked hard and studied a harder, I would be fine. I figured I would challenge myself to take Swati’s class. I bombed my first Accounting I exam. I had never done so badly on a test in my entire life. I figured now that I know what to expect I can prepare myself for the second exam. The second exam came around and I remembered leaving from the test around 9:00pm and crying all the way back to my dorm.
I dreaded checking the grade after it was posted a few days later. The moment I checked my grade I cried my eyes out and immediately called my dad to tell him I was going to fail at life and I wanted to change my major because I could not handle my accounting class. However, he was not letting me give up like that. I ended up dropping the class and retaking Accounting I at Georgia Perimeter College.
However, those pitfalls are not a reason to give up and run away from the problem but tackle the issue head on. At the end of the day, everything will be fine. I was getting through my last set of Terry entrance classes and was beginning to apply to the business school. I was not as worried about getting into the business school because I had made A’s and B’s in the entrance courses. However, applicants were required to take a standardized test, called the ETS exam, to qualify as an applicant for the business college. I knew I was terrible at taking standardized tests. Students are only allowed to take the ETS exam a maximum of two times.
The first time I took the exam, I bombed it. I was nowhere near the acceptable score range for a finance major. I remembered calling home and crying about what happened to my parents. They told me to find a way to prepare for the ETS exam and to pray about it. I come from a family where my parents were devout Christians and I was raised to go to church every Sunday and praying in the evening together as a family. However, I just did all these things for the sake of my parents, not because I felt like I needed God in my life. I remember when my mom encouraged me to pray about the ETS exam, I actually pulled my Bible out, read from it, and prayed about the exam. I took the ETS exam and scored exactly the score I needed in order to qualify as a student who wanted to major in finance.
I sent in my application for the Terry College of Business in September 2013 and got accepted into the Terry College of Business with a major in Finance and a Co-Major in International Business in October 2013. This was my next greatest achievement. I was so excited to share the wonderful news with my family and friends. That night I celebrated by going to bars in downtown Athens and had an enjoyable night with my friends who supported me along the way.
December 2013 I secured an internship at the Gwinnett Tax Commissioner’s Office for summer 2014. This internship opportunity was provided for me through an old friend. Considering that we live in in such a competitive world, I realized there is so much power in building a network, especially in the world of business. January 2014 I knew I needed to grow personally and professionally. Now that I was accepted into the finance major program, I knew my classes would be tough and it would have been nice to have help along the way. My close friends were not business majors so I knew they would not be able to help me in my classes.
I decided to join the professional business fraternity on campus, Delta Sigma Pi. Joining DSP was one of the best decisions I made in college. More than having friends in my finance classes or a network, I had the opportunity to meet diverse individuals of different backgrounds and experiences. DSP also allowed me to build friendships with some amazing people. Spring 2014, I was pledging for DSP and taking the Terry cohort classes (a set of classes all Terry students take upon entry into the business school regardless of major).
One of the best classes I took that semester was MGMT 3000 with Christopher Hanks. Christopher Hanks began the entrepreneurship program at UGA. Although his class was unorganized, I enjoyed his class because he was a wonderful speaker. He preached entrepreneurship and always had great insight to offer.
I find this quote, although short, to carry so much meaning. Hanks was right, life really does begin where our comfort zone ends. Life is about stepping out of our comfortable bubble and taking risks. We cannot achieve what we truly desire in life without doing so. It is okay if we fall, fail, or look stupid. We just have to pick ourselves back up and keep fighting for our desires. Life is about making mistakes and learning from them. “Life begins where your comfort zone ends.”
I literally live by this quote every day and encourage those around me to do the same. May of 2014 I went to India to visit my grandparents. I usually went to India every 2 to 3 years ever since I was born just to visit my grandparents. Ever since I started college, I never thought I would never have the opportunity to visit my grandparents between summer classes and internships. By the grace of God, I was able to go to India three weeks after school ended that year. Immediately after I got back from India I interned at the Gwinnett County Office of the Tax Commissioner.
August 2014 kicked off my senior year. Over the summer prior to beginning classes, I was very nervous about senior year because I knew it was going to be the hardest and busiest year in my college career because I would be taking all of my upper level courses for finance and international business. My Corporate Finance class defined the fall semester of 2014 with Professor Lu. Professor Lu was a very brilliant man. He graduated from China with a degree in engineering, received his Master’s degree in economics from Duke, and his PhD in finance from Columbia. Shortly after receiving his PhD, he started his teaching career at UGA.
Professor Lu taught our finance class as it were a master’s program course. I walked out of every single test in his class not feeling good about them. I wanted to drop his class at midpoint but my goal was to graduate the following spring, so dropping his class was not an option for me. My friends and I struggled through his class together and survived. After I took my finals in December 2014, I went on an alternative winter break trip with about 20 other UGA students.
Going on this trip was a way of stepping out of my comfort zone and going on a week-long service trip to Savannah, Georgia with 20 random UGA students right before the holidays. The trip was a great experience and I had the opportunity to meet some amazing individuals while serving the rural and homeless community of Savannah. I reached home in time for the holidays and it was a chance for me to really reflect on where I was in life.
Fall semester of senior year I only focused on making good grades in my classes and barely made the effort to look for a full time job upon graduation. I was disappointed in myself after knowing someone who had five job offers, many of those who accepted their offers, and there I was with no offers. The pressure to obtain a full time job in time for graduation was on. January 2015 approached and I told myself I am going to get a job offer from a company no matter how many sacrifices I would have to make.
In January, an acquaintance of mine came with the Global IT Services team from Ernst & Young for campus recruiting. I talked to her before attending the meeting and she encouraged me to attend the meeting even though the meeting was catered to Management Information Systems & Technology and Computer Science majors. I attended this meeting and realized I was eligible to apply for one of the positions. At the end of the meeting, I spoke with the experienced recruiters at Ernst & Young and they quickly grew very fond of me because of my acquaintance.
February 2015, I interviewed every week with 1 to 2 companies per week for a full time position. I never prayed so much in my life until February 2015. I even asked my parents to pray for me whenever I had an interview. I made it to Round 2 interviews with Ernst & Young. By that point, I knew this was the best company I had ever interviewed with and I needed to successfully get through Round 2, because I had not made it to Round 2 or gotten offers from any other company.
I put school and life on hold and asked a handful of my friends inside and outside of DSP to help me prepare for all aspects of my interviews. March 4, I had my Round 2 interviews at the EY office in Alpharetta. March 5, the campus recruiter called me and told me I had gotten an offer from EY. March 7, I accepted my offer from EY. Praise God! Without the never-ending prayers and support from my family and friends, this would not have been possible.
I went into spring break feeling so relieved and happy. It was the first time in the longest time I had genuinely felt so happy in life. All that was left to do now was to get back on track with my finance classes and graduate. After accepting a job offer and knowing graduation was so close, I was losing motivation to work hard in my classes. The only way I was able to get myself to concentrate was to “live” at the Miller Learning Center.
I remember being there on Friday nights studying when the building was practically deserted. But I did whatever I needed to do in order to finish strong. The most challenging class in the history of my undergraduate career at UGA was Applied Corporate Finance with Blasko. My graduation was contingent on me passing this class. The night before the final exam, a group of friends and I spent the night at the MLC studying for Blasko’s final and took his exam the following morning at 8:00am.
I ended up passing his class and graduated this past May 2015. I owe it all to my mom and dad. They gave me one of the greatest gifts of all, an education. Without their constant, never-ending love, prayers, and support I would not have made it. I moved back home shortly after graduation and I am glad I did. There really is no place like home. Going off to college made me learn to value and respect my parents. More than earning an education and accepting a job offer, I gained a stronger relationship with my mom, dad, and my brothers. I would not trade it for anything in the world. Post-graduation, I began my career at Ernst & Young on June 1, 2015.
I have completed two full weeks at the firm and have already met so many wonderful people. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for me now. I have learned, experienced, and grown so much in the past four years and I hope and pray I will only continue to learn, experience, and grow for the better.