Ricky from Beijing tells his U.S. education story

Ricky from Beijing tells his U.S. education story

Ricky currently holds a Bachelor's Degree in Statistics and Economics (he completed a double major program in these subjects) and is working toward obtaining his Master's Degree in Computational Finance and Risk Management, both from the University of Washington. His planned graduation date: Fall of 2013.

Ricky grew up in Beijing and plans to return there after receiving his MBA degree and gaining U.S. work experience through an internship. He's a multi-talented, hard-working, smart and very articulate guy. In his preparation for choosing a U.S. university, Ricky visited the United States in 2007 with his parents and two family friends. They rented a car and visited 28 states! He says he enjoyed the road trip very much and has since taken another cross-country trip with a friend from school.

[caption id="attachment_1374" align="aligncenter" width="415"] Ricky's second US road trip[/caption]

After exploring the East Coast and the Midwestern states, Ricky chose to live in Seattle because he wanted to try out "the slower pace of life on the West Coast. New York is more like Beijing," he said.

I wanted to try something different."

Ricky says what he misses most about China, apart from his parents and the food in Beijing, are the "deep relationships with people" he is able to develop with people of his own culture.

Cool facts about Ricky: he can play the guitar, the saxophone, the piano and the xylophone. He now focusses on guitar, inspired by U.S. folk music and the fact that "it takes longer to learn guitar." The guy likes a challenge. He also became a certified Zumba instructor last year. Why? "I found the regular Zumba classes in the U.S. to be too easy, so I decided to take instructor courses."

It was a lot of fun talking with Ricky. We met on a rainy January afternoon at a table overlooking the bustling cafe of PACCAR Hall at UW's Foster School of Business. With his beanie pulled down over his ears, he sipped iced coffee throughout our interview. I asked him about his experiences as an international student living in Seattle and attending the University of Washington.

Study in the USA: When did you begin your U.S. studies?

Ricky: Since 2008 as a freshman at University of Washington.

Study in the USA: When did you graduate?

Ricky: On June 9, 2012. And, luckily, my parents were able to attend my graduation ceremony. Study in the USA: Very cool. And why did you decide to attend a US school? Ricky: Chinese students finishing high school have to take a college entrance examination. I heard the exam is tricky and to prepare the exam is time consuming. Each student can only be accepted by one college, as the college education resource is limited in China. On the other hand, applying to the college in the U.S. allows me to have more choice. In fact, I applied to 10 colleges in U.S and got 5 offers (from the University of Illinois - Chicago, Penn State, the University of Wisconsin - Madison, Perdue University and the University of Washington.) Study in the USA: What attracted you to this particular school? Ricky: The location. Life is so convenient in Seattle. I had been living in Beijing, the capital city of China, for 19 years and I did not believe I would enjoy the life in the countryside, say Illinois. Safety is another reason. People in Seattle are wealthy and educated. At UW  they warn us to be careful and watch out for campus crime, but I haven't seen any or heard of them happening to my friends. My parents will never worry about my life here. Also, the Statistics Department at University of Washington is in the top 5 in the U.S. rankings. Study in the USA: What was your first day of school in the US like? Ricky: I did not have too much surprise. I did an International Baccalaureate or IB program in China, where I obtained the benefit of a bilingual education before studying abroad. Most of the IB teachers are from North America.
Study in the USA: What did you like best about your program of study?
  Ricky: The atmosphere is so warm in my Master's Program. When you walk in the CF&RM  [Computational Finance and Risk Management] department, people say hi to you. This is not the case when I was in Economics and Statistics department, when I was undergraduate. Students and professors in CF&RM department are working and studying in the Lewis Hall together, which makes us like a family. Although the professors try to make their courses challenging, most of them are willing to help you once you walk into their office. Study in the USA: Did you enjoy your educational experiences? Ricky: My life is good until the 3rd year after I get into the Statistics Department. The Statistics Major Course is really difficult and the professors were tough to communicate with. But if the TA (teaching assistant) of the current quarter is helpful, we will be fine. Study in the USA: What was your biggest surprise about US life? Ricky: Cars are less expensive in U.S. than in China. Study in the USA: How did you handle finances? Ricky: All of my tuition and apartment rent are from support by my parents. I believe most of my friends have the same situation as I do. I used to work on campus, but soon I figured out it is not worth it to spend one hour and get $8. I prefer spend more time on study and get a good grade. I believe I can make more money after I graduate. Study in the USA: What is your living situation like? Ricky: I rent an apartment with 2 roommates this year.
I love to cook traditional Chinese food for myself and prefer to have a quiet room to sleep, so I share an apartment with my roommates since I was a freshman."
Study in the USA: How did you handle adjusting to a different educational system? Ricky: In the U.S., there is a degree of freedom to register for the courses. At the University of Washington, for example, we are allowed to choose which quarter, which section or even online or not, for  a certain course. After a new quarter starts, we only have to attend 3 hours of lectures per day on average, so we have a plenty of spare time. Some students go to the gym, while others join the student organization they like. Most of the students declare their major in junior year, so we have 2 years to think of our intended major and what we want to do after we graduate. Some advanced level courses do not have prerequisites, so if we feel we are smart enough, once we get the permission from the professor, we can take the course in the upcoming quarter. Waiving is good news for smart students, because they can graduate sooner. However it is a poor choice to average students, as they may feel their knowledge foundation is not solid enough to catch up with the advanced course. On the other hand, in China, student's majors are predetermined before they attend their college. Sometimes, students are not old or experienced enough to plan their future in the high school, so they may want to follow the suggestions given by their parents, relatives or high school teachers. After they get into the college, some students do not have a strong motivation to study. Their major may lead them to a good future but it may not be in a field they are interested in. Their mandatory work load is heavier than the students in the U.S. Usually they spend 8 hours on the courses registered by their department instead of themselves. At night they still have 1 or 2 hours of self-study in the classroom. As a result, they have to follow the education plan made by the department, but the good news is most of the students are able to graduate with a strong and solid education background.
In a nutshell, college students in China do not have much freedom in making their education plan, but they graduate with a solid education background. Whereas, college students in the U.S. are allowed to make their own education plan, but they have to pay the price for their own choice."
Study in the USA: What are your favorite non-school activities? Ricky: Folk guitar, singing, dancing, photography, road trips, badminton, snowboarding and roller skating. Study in the USA: Was it easy or difficult to make friends? Ricky: It’s easy to make friends, but not easy to make close friends with American students. I guess it is due to the cultural differences. I rarely read the same novels, listen to the same advertisements or watch the same TV shows as American students do. Study in the USA: What did you miss about home? Ricky: Food. Compared with the food in China, the food here is so boring. You know, in Beijing, there is a street which we call a “ghost street”. On the 2 sides of the street, if you change the restaurant after every meal, you will never eat the same thing for a month! [caption id="attachment_1367" align="aligncenter" width="389"]pgoh13.com_ghost_street ghost street: Beijing (pgoh13.com)[/caption] Study in the USA: How relevant has your US education been to your personal goals so far? Ricky:
US education perfectly matches my goals."
Right now I have a Bachelor's Degree in Science (Statistics and Economics) and expect to get a Master's Degree  (Computational Finance and Risk Management) at the end of this year. The major is what I like and I do not doubt I can find a decent job in the future to start my career in China. The reason I chose computational finance is that it is a combination of statistics and economics. I wanted to choose a more advanced course and see how statistics can apply to economics and finance. Study in the USA: Will you apply for internships after you receive your Master's Degree? Ricky: Or maybe before. I plan to finish my degree at the end of this year, but I plan to apply for internships for this summer. Study in the USA: What kinds of companies are you looking at? Ricky: For the most part I'm applying to consulting companies and investment banks or hedge fund and mutual fund companies - companies that relate to finance or banking. Study in the USA: How long do you plan to intern at a U.S. company? Ricky: One year or, at the most, two years. Then I will go back to China because my parents will miss me. And, since they are bankers, I think they can provide knowledgable help to me. Study in the USA: How has studying in the US changed you and your outlook on the world and the United States? Ricky: Studying and living in the U.S. allows me to become emotionally independent. I learned how to be responsible for my life and for others. I also learned how to respect and accept different culture. I realize how important my family and my parents are. I will never have learned those things if I studied in my home country. Study in the USA: What is your advice to other students who are considering a US education? Ricky:
Go your own way and choose your own dream."
Up next on Study Life USA:  Sherry - a University of Phoenix student from Shanghai.