Dual Degree Student Profiles

student-profile-banner-lennart.jpg

Why did you want to study abroad? How did you decide to come to UVic?

As I want to work internationally it made sense to me to also study internationally. The choice to come to Canada and more specifically UVIC was influenced by my goal to perfect my English skills and Victoria/ Vancouver Island just being a beautiful place to live.

What are the biggest differences you see between the university experience in Witten/Herdecke and Gustavson?

The biggest difference between the universities has to be the different amount of freedom during the study. Academically there is no set program in Witten/Herdecke and most classes graded by a paper that student independently write. UVIC is on the opposite side of that spectrum with a set program and mostly exams consisting of multiple choice and short answer questions. But that clear structure also comes with a lot more assistance at UVIC. There are a lot more people in all parts of the program administration that are ready to assist any student running into some issues.

You did your second co-op in Canada and Germany; how was that? What challenges did you face? How did you overcome them?

As my work was exclusively with a German company my main difficulty was transferring data that I needed and working remotely. Especially to implement changes and investigate information that was not formalized yet required me to be in the office.

During the BCom program, what experience did you bring to be able to “bridge the gap” between cultures?

Even though it may not be exactly what is meant by cultural differences, the language has proven to be an limiting factor in some teams. As some international students are not as comfortable with the English language teams sometimes need to find way to work around that limitation. Another issue more related to the implication of cultural differences is the communication within teams and presentations in front of the whole class. I found that I naturally am more direct in my communication, especially criticizing than it would be usual in Canada or Asia for example. Presentations in front of the entire class tended to be especially difficult for Asian students in my experience. Creating the need for the team to create an environment as comfortable as possible for the struggling team members.

Feel free to list any other observations about life in Canada that you feel will benefit incoming Dual Degree students.

First and foremost Canadians in my experience are very welcoming to foreigners and willing to help out. That goes even more so for everybody working at the university, so incoming students should not hesitate to ask for help. Secondly Vancouver Island is beautiful. Dual Degree students should not let themselves be too consumed by the university and find time to enjoy the beauty around them.

student-profile-banner2.jpg

How did you decide to come to UVic? What were the biggest differences between the university experience in China and Canada?

My original plan was to get more exposure to English environment, and that’s it. Back at the time when I need to decide which “2+2” degree university to choose, I only have 3 options. Two was in UK and
only UVic in Canada. As I prefer North America, I chose UVic. The biggest differences is language and Co-op term. I need to use English everyday here for sure. I need to do 3 Co-op term at Gustavson, which is not mandatory at Sun Yat-sen.

You did three of your co-op terms in Canada; how was that? What challenges did you face at that time? How did you overcome them?

They are great as they gave me work experience, and of course, salary. English should be the biggest challenge. But I got imporved by practicing more, and hanging out with your colleagues after work!

How did you become a professional accountant at KPMG? What is a typical day in the office like for you?

Three months after coming to Canada, I realized that finding a part-time job is beneficial for finding a co-op later. H&R Block gave me an offer, and I took the tax courses with them. This job gave me the opportunity to find my second co-op – a small local accounting firm. With more accounting exposure, I found another accounting related job at FICOM, and from there I got an interview from KPMG. In all, having the relevant working experience is important. I don’t typically work in the office. As I am in the group of audit, which means that I have to go to clients’ office. Basically, we will arrive there in the morning, get laptops, network and everything set up. I would go straight to ask the client about questions if I don’t understand something. The work hour would be long during busy season, but it is okay in the summer.

What specific skills do you think they were considering when they hired you?

  • Accounting related working experience
  • Strong attention to detail / hardworking, that’s something might not be related to grades
  • Strong time management skills will be needed during the busy season

What are your top three tips for recent Dual Degree graduates who are looking to land their first job?

  • Networking, asking for coffee chat.
  • Just apply for jobs, as many as possible. Don’t slack.
  • Target at jobs you are interested in or most confident in.

student-profile-banner-susan.jpg

How did you decide to come to UVic? What did you expect to learn from here? And what is the most valuable part of the BCom Program?

I’ve planned to study overseas since high school. When I was admitted by Beijing Jiaotong University, I applied to enroll into the international program. My home University has a lot of dual degree partners in US, Canada and Australia. I chose UVic because of its good reputation, the co-op program and the safety issue. I expected the dual degree program could add value to my degree, improve my English skills and make more friends around the world. The cross-cultural teamwork, case-based and project-based study and exchange experience are the most valuable parts for me. It developed my global awareness, cross-culture communication and problem-solving skills. I’ve learned the key to bridging the cultural gaps is to build trust and to create shared value in a diverse team. Through the case study, I gained knowledge of how those international companies adopt different strategies in a global market, which can be applied flexibly for my projects.

Would you like to tell us something about your exchange term?

I like to explore new things. The exchange term gave me a unique way to see the world differently. The four months in Sweden, I studied basic Swedish and gained a deeper understanding of many local brands and companies; have learned that Sweden is the most gender-friendly countries, it is very common for Swedish fathers stay home to take care of their children; got to know that the long distance bus in Sweden is more useful than the train because the harsh climate in winter is more likely to cause the train delay.

During the term break, I travelled to the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, and France. In Prague, I took the deepest subway in Europe. In Paris, I drank the most delicious hot chocolate in front of the Louvre. After the exchange semester, I did not go back home immediately, and continued to travel to Greece, Italy and Denmark. Before going to Greece, I saw lots of negative comments about Greece on different travel blog sites. I came to Athens with the bias, but I was so surprised by everything I saw and experienced there! I lived in the district of “Old Athens” where nearby most of the tourist attractions. I didn’t have any feeling of dangerous, on the contrary, Greece gave me a sense of holy and peaceful. The historic sites bathed in the sun’s rays as if the clock stopped at Ancient Greece period. The Café and restaurants with tables on their terraces were hidden in the alleyways where tourists and locals were enjoying their cheerful talk. I do believe if I did not go to Greece, I must keep the bias for that country for a long time. My exchange experience taught me the best way to learn a country is to visit there in person. I really enjoy the way to draw the picture of the world based on my personal experience instead of the comment from others.

Overall your time of being an MGB student, what did you learn from your Master degree?

I became more objective and brave to make friends around the world! I learned about the cultural differences both inside and outside the classroom. My classmates are from different districts and countries, Canada, South Korea, France, Mainland China, Taiwan, Sweden, Egypt, India, Iran, Palestine, Ghana, and Nigeria. We studied, travelled and had fun together during the past year. The program established a family tie between us. Even now, we are doing the internship in different places, but the distance doesn’t stop our relationship. Culture matters in Business! I have learned a lot of cultural theories to help me understand masculine and feminine society; the direct or indirect communication style; and differing cultural sensitivities to hierarchy. I learned how to use the right strategy to handle cross-cultural business negotiations. Additionally, it also provided a great opportunity for me to deepen my self-reflection to understand my own maternal culture. The living experience in Victoria, Montpellier and Seoul gave me a comprehensive understanding of the comparative socio-economic environment of North America, Asian and Europe.

How the BCom and MGB program improve your professional development?

The BCom and MGB program provided me with the skills to understand business issues on a global market. Especially the MGB program, which gives me the chance to study and work in France, South Korea and Canada. The two international consulting projects in South Korea was a tremendous learning experience. Not only did I have a more practical understanding of being a professional consultant, but I also exercised my ability to work effectively with individuals and organizations from different parts of the world.

In the first two weeks in Seoul, I worked with four colleagues to develop a global pricing strategy for a small and medium-sized skin care company. I need to overcome the 8-hour time difference quickly, but I also need to overcome cultural barriers and understand customer needs as soon as possible. Everything is like the feeling of racing against time. My second consulting client is “LG household & healthcare,” one of the largest cosmetics companies in Korea. I worked with 11 colleagues to develop a marketing strategy for clients to improve the performance of their core products in the US market. We were invited to visit the headquarters and meet with the supervisor, and reported directly to the divisional leadership team. I have got enough time for this project, but things usually come up that I didn’t anticipate. A large multinational company usually has a well-developed global mindset, so the client would especially ask my team and I to work out of the box. Sometimes, I had to deal with the problems caused by different cultures between colleagues, professors and client. It provided me with the opportunity to apply the cross-cultural management theory that I learned from the classroom to the real workplace. I believe that my BCom and MGB program experience played a key role in landing my current job at UVic.

What’s your advice to students who are planning to study abroad?

What makes me grow is not time, but the experience! My advice would be enjoying every moment during your exchange term, whether it is happiness or sadness. And don’t let challenges and un-knowing stop you exploring the rest of the world.

image 

Why did you want to study abroad and how you decided to come to UVIC?

I always wanted to have a master’s degree abroad not only for degree purposes, but also to experience
different culture, master another language and gain different perspectives to look at things. When this 2+2 opportunity coming up, I discussed with my parents and consulted my cousin who was working in US and finally decided to take this chance to move my preplanned agenda up two years.

During the BCom program, did you find that you sometimes had to “bridge the gap” between cultures? If so, do you have any examples of this?

In my experience, it is usually the life experience that makes the difference. When one party is unfamiliar with the topic, there will be a gap between the conversation in terms ofunderstanding each other. The best way to bridge the gap is to try more, experience more and talk more.

Can you describe your co-op experience?

The related co-op I had with my current job is my second and third co-op when I had seven -month fulltime work experience in a small-size accounting firm in Vancouver. To me, the biggest challenge during work is how to have conversation with clients in English confidently. Eventually my way to address this was to practice before I give the call, ask collogues for advice and of course, having the strong support from my lovely co-workers and supervisors. As for how to prepare for the co-op term, my suggestion in general would be to use your time wisely and be proactive. Work hard, play hard. More importantly, always believe in yourself.

How you become a professional accountant after graduate? Does the co-op experience benefit you to get this job offer?

Everything seems to be in order becoming a professional accountant with me having an
accounting major and two co-op terms in public practice accounting industry. The co-op
definitely helped me land the job with experience in this industry and relatively deeper understanding at an early career stage.

What is a typical day in the office like for you? And what do you like best about your job?

Typically, I go to the office around 9am, sort out the file I will work on for the day and then quickly get into the work status. Around 1pm, I usually have my lunch break. Sometimes, our group out for lunch together. During the day, there are usually meetings scheduled for different purposes (training, planning etc.) I really enjoy the exposure to different industries, fast-paced work environment and the learning curve I have at work.

What was the most beneficial thing you learned and experience you had while in Business School? How do you use this in your current role?

The most beneficial thing would be the experience interacting with people from different background. Be curious, be hardworking and be interesting are the three things I learned from business school and still the best status at every role in my opinion.

What are your top three tips for recent dual degree grads looking to land their first job?

  1. Be proactive. No matter what you want, action is always the best solution.
  2. Use the time wisely and efficiently. Time is limited and use it on the things that you want to spend on most.
  3. Be confident in yourself.

Shusuke Takamizawa

Meiji University

Can you please tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Shusuke Takamizawa. I majored in Business Administration at Meiji University and I am taking a BCom degree at UVic. I am currently getting work experience in the financial industry through the Gustavson coop internship program to search for potential jobs not only in Japan but also in North America and Europe.

Why did you want to study abroad and what attracted you to apply for the Dual Degree Program at UVic?

With experience, I knew that programs that force me to leave my own home and country will promise me some hardship, but also great growth. When I was in elementary school, I stayed in England for about three years and during high school, I studied abroad in America. By only looking at the experience, it may seem luxurious, but I used to be afraid to speak English in elementary school and would refuse to go to school. Even in high school, I would have days where I got homesick and wanted to go home. But as Einstein said, “The chance is in the midst of hardships”, and I had a sudden turning point. Because the turning point was so sudden, I can’t say what the exact reason was for how myhardships disappeared, but to say the least, ever since this turning point, I can remember that I had no hesitation to converse in English. From this experience, I remembered the satisfaction of getting over hardship while receiving a sense of accomplishment at the same time.  The reason I applied for UVic’s dual degree programs was to improve my academic English skills from high school into the business level. The program was a relatively long 2 and a half years and to graduate, work experience of four months done three times was a necessary. I was expecting some distress to take place during this time but was also expecting a better sense of accomplishment from what I have experienced in the past. I also longed to see and make sure how the subject I learned for 2 years in English were used in an actual work setting by getting the work experience directly.

What are the biggest differences you see between the experience at Meiji University and Gustavson?

The two major differences are that there was time for discussion during classes that improved and prepared the students knowledge on the subject, and there was extra support for students who had a hard time following in class. In the Canadian classroom, unlike Japan where the student’s only job is to listen to the teacher, the students become more actively involved through the many discussions and group work they have to do. In most of the course outlines, there is a column for each week’s discussion themes and other articles that relate to them. By reading these articles before the lessons, the students have a deeper understanding and their own opinion, which improves their discussion qualities.

For example, in the COM410 Business Leadership class, students will use a four-month-long semester to categorize and analyze the active leader’s personalities from each industry into 4 parts. At the beginning of the class, the professor interlaces the contents of recent news and throws the students the question, “Where would you put so-and-so that is active in this industry within the four categories?” The students are required to understand what these four categories are to answer the question. Since the professors provide examples and articles relating to these categories, if properly prepared, it’s easy to speak your opinion. 10-20% of the student's grade is based on participation and attendance, so many students actively take part in these discussions. This may seem like a difficult task, but the professors are not expecting complicated and excellent opinions. “I didn’t quite understand, but I think so-and-so,” would be an acceptable answer. The important part is that the students actively take part and can learn to form their own opinion clearly.

In Canada, the teachers and the students have a much closer relationship than in Japan. Because
I was not used to these types of discussions and different format of classes, I would often go to
the professor's office. One time I told the professor that “I can’t understand what the reports say,
I don’t really understand the content of the lessons and I need explanation.” The professor was
glad to help and explained everything. When you ask the professors for help even when you
don’t understand why you’re struggling, I experienced that there can still be a big change and
professors would even evaluate and commend you for trying.

What was the big challenges you faced during the BCom program? How did you overcome them?

The first problem I faced was the group work. Besides the finances and accounting course subject, it was normal to do classes in groups of four-five people. Since Gustavson valued diversity, the teams were formed according to gender or nationality. My first team members came from Switzerland, Canada, and China. To make it more interesting, the group members would all end up receiving the same grade for everything we do together such as reports and presentations, further bonding the team. Even if only one person from the group slacked off, it is still seen as the other members responsibility who must motivate the other members. For the team to accomplish the same goal, I figured out that I have to accept each member's different motivations and figure out a way to get close to the other members using that motivation. One of our members wanted to apply for graduate school after graduation, so he was focused on getting a good score in the class. Another member had large student loans and so had to balance his studies with his work schedule. The best way to solve these problems together as a group is to talk it out and figure out a solution together. That is point of teamwork. Each person should be able to take on 25% of the group's work, but since there were unique circumstances, one offered to shoulder 35% and the other way able to drop down to 15%. Everyone's needs and situation were accommodated and we got the grade we wanted by working as a team.

What are the best things about our Dual Degree Program?

You can broaden your horizons, that is the best part of the dual degree program. For example, if you attend Japanese university only, it can be very difficult to get an offer from a foreign company right after graduation. This is because most new graduates don't have the language level or cultural intelligence needed to work overseas. Not only are interviews conducted entirely in English, but you need to be able to sell your skills and give them a reason to hire you, and this is not the Japanese way of thinking. Not only will graduating from the BCom give you a foreign degree, but you can also earn valuable overseas working experience, which can make the difference when looking for a job. For students like me who are thinking of working in the North American financial industry, this is a huge advantage for my future. I am only in 4th year but have already received two offers from US banks and one from a financial company.

Chao Wang

University of International Business and Economics

Why did you choose Canada as the destination for taking the Dual Degree program from UIBE? How did you get to know about UVic?

I learned about this dual degree program through UIBE School of International Trade and Economics. I was excited to walk out of my comfort zone and try something different in my life at that time. The three mandatory co-op terms in the program caught my attention right away. I was considering working overseas after graduation so the co-op terms could be a huge help if I want to find full time jobs afterwards. The program gives me a chance to experience two different flavors of education from two reputable schools as well as earning two degrees (one economics, one business degree).

During the BCom program, what experience did you bring to “bridge the gap” between cultures?

Yes, I see myself become the bridge between two cultures naturally. Especially when our group projects
are about doing business abroad. From leaning the gift giving culture in Asia countries to net neutrality, I can bring extended background knowledge and facts to the group project. I also know that dual degree students got hired because of their intercultural communication skills.

How were your academic studies and co-op experiences? What was the biggest challenge you faced? What is your advice to young Dual Degree students?

My UIBE and my UVIC experience complement each other. My two years at UIBE gave me a solid background in Economics and Statistics. My two years at UVIC is more like a combination of business class and workplace training. I had multiple chances to get involved into local community events, representing UVIC in business competition in JDC West (largest undergraduate business competition in Western Canada). I have done a four-month co-op and an eight-month co-op with two companies in Victoria.

My biggest challenges are understanding Canadian work culture and negotiation skills. As an international student without work experience in Canada, there is a learning process on workplace collaboration and relationship development.

My advice is to get involved in community events and part-time jobs prior to the co-op term. It is always hard at the first step. The more Canadian experience you have, the easier you will find when it comes to co-op job hunting. Volunteer or part-time work experience not only help develop your understanding of the work culture but also gives you a higher chance to getting hired! My second advice is to be open minded to adventures! There is no right or wrong, good or bad about difference. As long as you stay adventurous, life will be give lots of surprises!