By Alexander X. Liu
I feel truly honored to be offered the opportunity to study as an exchange student at Miami University this fall semester. This experience, I'm sure, would totally change my life during college.
When I first entered the campus of Miami University, I was deeply impressed by its beauty and harmony. Thousands and thousands of American students start chasing their dreams from here - this is a place where legends are being created.
Here I wish to share my experiences and stories from three different aspects.
This semester I chose three advanced finance courses and one capstone management course. Since I am a junior, I felt really pressured in class because the majority of students with whom I'm taking the courses are seniors. Therefore I have to work very hard to maintain a good grade. Before I came to U.S., one of my friends told me American students tend to be not as competitive as Asian students. However, I found that students here, especially those in the business school are just as ambitious and are very intelligent. I enjoyed listening to their perspectives on different issues in class and the fierce debate they conducted with professors. Students here are free to talk about anything related to the course and can speak up whenever they encounter questions in class. In order to accomplish a group project, team members would be extremely diligent, and I was impressed by their strong sense of time management. Every time when I was involved in a group project, we always met our own deadlines that we set in the beginning. Everyone seems to be so passionate about what they're doing.
As for the courses, I feel they are really helpful compared to what we learned in China. These courses are highly correlated to the real world, rather than just theories. Take an illustration of the course FIN 401: we were required to conduct valuation of one company and determine the appropriate stock price to be traded publicly based on the Discounted Cash Flow Model we learned on class. Actually the skill on valuation is highly required by any investment bank as the analysts inside those companies are doing this every day. Therefore, the assignments are pragmatic to cultivate students' real-case ability and analytical thinking.
However, I feel highly pressured facing so many assignments and exams. The frequency of exams is higher than that in China, which requires us to review all the materials we learned on class within short interval. But I think that's the genuine essence of study!
One interesting thing that I noticed is that American students really value physical exercise. It's obvious that boys are proud of their sound body and muscles, while girls are really good at running. Actually I went to the Recreational Center about three times every week. I was impressed by the tenacity of girls running on the treadmills. One time I felt hard of breath after running for 20 minutes, while the girl beside me had kept running for over 40 minutes. This made me determined to workout more frequently and consistently. It's true that we cannot work under huge pressures and long hours without a sound body. There's a saying that every banker working at Wall Street were athletes when they were in college. This really makes sense!
This exchange experience also offered me a great horizon based on what we saw and experienced. People here are extremely nice: they're willing to help you any time; they will say hello and wave at you when you're walking on the road even if you don't know each other; they're always so warm and enthusiastic. I feel delighted to be in such a joyful atmosphere. Besides, talking with different students enables me to think and analyze issues from various perspectives. Students here are absolutely hard-working, which confirmed my assumptions from when I was in China. One time when I was surfing the internet at my Miami dormitory, my roommate asked me, "Hey Alex, how many hours do Chinese college students study every day?" "Three to four hours, I think." Actually I overestimated this figure. While he was astonished to say, "Are you serious? You only study four hours each day?" I should say his reply astonished me a lot. The fact is that my roommate won't sleep until 1 or 2 am every night. His hard work is rewarded by his high GPA and other successes, which sends me a strong signal: we need to change our lifestyle so that we can compete with elite international students.
In October, I participated in the Second Annual Miami University Investment Banking Case Competition. As our team leader, although I wasn't able to lead my team to enter the final competition, I did learn a lot during the process of making our case proposal and from the feedback of the judges. I should present my best thanks to Professor David Shrider, who is my FIN 401 professor and I have to say his enthusiasm and professionalism deeply influenced me.
Opportunities always come for those people with substantial preparation. I've made concrete plans for my coming year of 2010, and I am grateful to all the people I met here. Thank you, my friends! Thank you, Miami University!
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