March 18, 2014
The sun was back in business after an especially cold and extended winter and I was lying on the grass outside the library. I felt tired but productive because I had just executed a sizable chunk of assignments. I was thinking about all the stark changes my life and I went through in the past one year.
Working at a restaurant funded my application process to targeted business schools. Whilst working at the restaurant, I would occasionally feel like giving in to the temptation of returning to my hometown. I would then gather myself and think about how temporary the situation was and how I would cherish those moments of hard work and learning in the not so distant future.
I used to try and live as efficiently and thriftily as I could, which meant that I couldn't eat out and had to stay at least a mile away from the very inviting restaurants. Any transaction involving denominations more than $10 required me to reconsider my priorities and decide. One such decision was whether to attend a meeting at Rotary Club of Wall Street (RCWS) because the fees for the guests was worth $25. I have been associated with Rotary international since 2007 and was eager in attending the meeting of RCWS and meeting with the fellow Rotarians. I have always appreciated the community service that the Rotarians engage in and looked forward to meet the then president Mr. Thomas Rudy. It was decided that the $25 be forsaken.
I researched about and visited renowned business schools such as Stern, Columbia, Pace and Baruch in my after hours. I wanted to understand the schools and their admission criteria better. My sister encouraged me to take TOEFL while I was still in the planning phase. I had already taken the GRE before and the scores were still valid, fortunately. I took the TOEFL and proceeded with the process. I got a chance to visit an event called QS World MBA Tour.
At the QS World MBA Tour, I met Hofstra University's Full Time Day MBA Program Director, Dr. Andrew Forman. I expressed my interest of attending a graduate business program and studying finance. He took a look at my resume and told me that it was good enough for the school to accept, looking at past trends. He also told me that the application fees were waived for applicants who attended the seminar; the meeting couldn’t have gotten any better. I thanked my judgment for deciding to attend the Wall Street event because I had just saved more money than I spent on such necessary expenses.
Another month spent at serving tables, I got an email that congratulated me for being accepted at Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of business with a decent scholarship amount. The news filled my sister and myself with joy. All those months of hard work and sacrifices had ultimately resulted in fruition. It was an important day for my family.
My classes started in September and I tried to engage myself in as many extra curricular activities on campus as I could. I already had an on campus job offer as Graduate Assistant to Finance Department. I joined Hofstra Investment Banking Association (HIBA) and Hofstra Indian Students' Association (HISA) one month in the semester. I gelled and made friends with my classmates and teachers. I also got in touch with teachers who didn’t teach me because you always learn a thing or twenty from almost everybody.
I was invited to be graduate student representative for the Zarb Executive Committee. I was completely clueless about the purpose of this committee and I asked my sister about it, who is a graduate from NYU’s school of dentistry herself. She briefed that the executive committee is responsible for major decisions at the school. I liked the thought of being the students’ representative once again and gladly accepted the opportunity. I representated students in my undergraduate university too, as the south campus chairman of Students' Organisation of Panjab University(SOPU).
The semester was just over a couple months old when my education loan got rejected and another major obstacle confronted me. I was stressed and spoke it out with two of my close friends, Snehal and Apurv. Continuing with my education at Hofstra seemed impossible without a divine intervention. I also spoke with my marketing professor and the Dean. Our relationships were forged in classrooms and in executive committee meetings. They said that they would talk with my sponsor, the CV Starr foundation and initiate it to reconsider my scholarship. And it did. My scholarship was raised and my pursuit did not halt. My belief of "giving your best and leaving the rest" was reinforced.
I had a chance to meet Ms. Annabelle Libeau, a student of French Origin at Columbia University. She was an RCWS sponsored student pursuing Masters in Public Administration (MPA) and the intention of the meeting was to share and benefit from each others experiences as international students. She had passed 2 levels of CFA certification exam and encouraged me to take level 1; I was unsure about the certification then. She persuaded me and told me how level 1 was a basic exam. A person without finance background, like me, could study on his/her own and could pass the exam. I was somewhat convinced and slept over it. I talked about the certification with my friend Shobhit, who also was studying at Columbia University. He made me take a look at the study materials and then asked me to decide. The vast pastures of financial information got me hooked and I decided to do it. I studied the books over the winter break while my friends were away on vacation. I learned so many things over the period that I feel the books should be read even if one doesn’t want to go for the certification.
Semester one ended on a happy note with an attractive and a well deserved GPA. I now am in the second semester and still preparing for the 1st level of CFA. I feel much better prepared for it now. I am loving, and enjoying my experience at this wonderful institution and in this great country.
Next target: finding an internship for the summer break.
March 15, 2014
It was a usual day and I was studying Quantitative Methods for my CFA certification. I got a call from Mr. Ron Sidhu at 6:20 pm and he asked me to meet with him in NYC at around 7 pm. He wanted to introduce me to a person from Citi group. My estimation reflected that I’d need at least two hours to make the commute. Mr. Sidhu and his friend would be meeting for an hour or so, which meant that they would be together till only around 8:15.
Mr. Sidhu advised me to try and make it ASAP. It was a moment where I had to make a decision and act on my feet and I said to myself, "It’s now or never". I hung up and got ready in 10 minutes. It was 6:35 pm then. The next major hurdle was getting to the train station, which is about 4 miles away from my residence and the rather windy evening added to my list of troubles. The nearest place from where I could take a ride to the train station was my grad school (Frank G. Zarb school of business, Hofstra University), which has hourly shuttles to the train station. Hofstra is a mile away from my house and running was the only option left. My attire didn’t fit the occasion and neither did the weather. Running for a mile after many years was a task and I’m not athletically built, physically. The walk usually takes 25 minutes but I beat my own time by 10 whole minutes because the situation so required. My watch said it was 6:50 pm and the guests were to disperse in an hour and fifteen minutes.
The receptionist directed me towards the next shuttle, which was supposed to leave campus at 7:07 pm. I calculated, and concluded that I would reach the train station by 7:35 pm and the next train was supposed to leave at 7:45, which meant I would reach the diners by 9. I needed transportation much before the scheduled 7:07 pm shuttle.
I requested the receptionist to arrange a ride for me to the station as I had an urgent interview to attend at 8 pm in the city. The gentleman was empathetic enough to call the campus Public Safety office and ask them to drive me to the station. The Public Safety SUV arrived 10 minutes after; the watch read 6:57 pm. I expressed my concern to the driver that I had to make it to the city in time, else the world would be over for me. He made every possible legal attempt to make it to the train station ASAP. We managed to reach the train station at 7:12 pm. I thanked him and flew towards the ticket dispenser.
The next train was to arrive at 7:14 pm. I felt euphoric, as if I had attained the biggest goal of my life. The train reached Penn station at 8 pm (I had 15 minutes and one mile between me and my destination, which was 27th, Park Ave.) I sprinted again from Penn and made it to the destination in time. Mr. Sidhu and his friend were kind and considerate in waiting for me; I silently congratulated myself for making possible the impossible. Mr. Sidhu also appreciated my endeavor and my drive for being not too late.
After his friend had left, Mr. Sidhu and I discussed about Mortgage Backed Securities(MBS), Collateralized Debt Obligations(CDOs), Credit Default Swaps(CDSs), Monte Carlo Simulation and many more financial instruments and tools. I believe I learned a lot from that long conversation.
Traveling hassles and the Polar vortex seem trivial compared to my desire of learning.