The Student Experience

2015-2016 Issue 2

DaviOlusemi ‘Davi’ Akapo is just one of over 300 new students at the School this semester, but his story is one that many can relate to. He’s new to Montreal, and it’s been five years since he last spent time in a classroom.

Akapo has an undergraduate degree in business administration, and he’s enrolled as a part-time student in the Diploma in Accounting to prepare for a career in accounting or finance. He says there were “a couple of factors” involved in his decision to go back to school. “I wanted to bolster my skills to improve my job search in the current economy,” says Akapo. “Secondly, both my parents eventually went on to get advanced degrees, and part of me always felt that this was a path I should take too. This will help me do that.”

We asked Akapo to share his experiences on returning to the classroom, exploring the School’s services, and beginning the next step of his journey.

 

SEMESTER 1
Week 1

Coming off a helpful orientation session I attended the evening before, I’m feeling confident about how this year will play out. My first class this semester is Concepts of Financial Accounting. I’m really a morning person, so evening classes will be a challenge. And although I’m Canadian now I grew up overseas, so the deep chill of winter doesn’t make it any easier.

The classroom setting is familiar: students in the back, professor up front. Some faces are vacant, some distracted, others absorbed in their tasks. However, something is different this time – I am. This is my second venture in post-secondary education, but after five years away I am still trying to decide where my future lies. This time, however, I’m completely committed to learning for my own personal growth, both in and outside the classroom. The pedantries of earning an A+ or a C seem less important now. Okay fine, an A-.

Our instructor has a good sense of humour, and soon you can feel the class relax and open up. I’m happy to be here, and look forward to meeting and making new friends and acquaintances.

Week 2

I think the biggest surprise has been the diversity of students in my program – there’s a range of ages and nationalities. Some are looking to polish their skills, others have found it difficult in the current job market and have returned to school hoping to improve their prospects. One student I spoke to is a McGill Arts graduate. There’s a lot to relate to in these stories, and though most of us are quite busy, I hope to get to know more of them.

For personal curiosity, I made an appointment with the McGill Writing Centre. The MWC helps students with their writing skills and offers guidance on how to improve their work. It has been a while since I’ve written academic papers, so I wanted to get feedback on my weaknesses and a feel for McGill standards. The service is open to everyone, so it would be an oversight not to use it. Registering is a painless affair done online, my tutor was helpful, and I was on my way after just 30 minutes. Perhaps the most agreeable aspect of the experience was observing someone else unpack my thoughts and noting the gaps in my work.

I visited the MACES building this week as well. With the snow streaking past, its bright red door looked like a portal to Narnia. It’s a pleasant enough place tucked away from the bustle of main campus. It did take me a second look to realize my McGill card served as a key; don’t forget to bring that along. MACES is currently preparing for executive elections, and I think I might be interested. We’ll see how that goes.

 

Week 3

This week went pretty well. I had my first quiz in my accounting course. Although the course load has been light, the quiz was tougher than I expected. This is where people start struggling, and you start to have second thoughts. Now I have a better idea of how to prepare for this class. After the quiz I started rethinking my approach, and proactively trying to get ahead of the class. I plan to take more courses in the summer semester, so how am I going to handle it without feeling overwhelmed?

This week we discussed accounting ethics, and implementing financial controls to prevent abuse. We’ve already covered the basics, such as assets, liability, and equity. We’ve focused on the textbook, and our instructor showed us some software. I’m still meeting students in my course – one student from China earned a master’s and a PhD in the U.S., while others are from Colombia and Spain. It’s not just people coming from McGill undergrad.

I’m still thinking of running for a MACES position, but I haven’t submitted my application yet. I didn’t get involved in student government during my undergraduate years and I feel like I missed out the first time around – that’s why I’m interested. If I’m disciplined, I can handle the responsibilities of both classwork and the executive. I also imagine it’s a great way to socially integrate myself into the School. I’m interested in running for VP Finance – I am studying accounting, after all.

 

Week 4

One month down, and it’s going pretty fast. Mid-terms are coming up in two weeks, and the instructor seems pleased by how far we’ve gotten. I haven’t received last week’s quiz results yet, so I don’t know how I did. I get the impression that a lot of people struggled with it, and that it’s going to be tough going forward. When a few people didn’t show up this week, I wasn’t sure if it was because of the quiz or the chilly weather.

I’m getting to know the students in my class a bit better. I submitted my nomination for MACES executive elections, so I asked the professor if I could quickly introduce myself to the class as a nominee for VP Finance. One of my classmates is also considering running for a MACES position as VP Academic Affairs. We talked a bit about it, and what the executive might look like.

Our instructor is great, and has a lot to offer. You can tell he has industry experience, because he provides real-life examples. He’s also very engaging, which is hopefully keeping people’s interest. But it is different from undergraduate studies. There you could lean on the professor to get you through your course; now it’s more on you to get a handle on what you’re doing. For long-term goals, I’m still focused on either the finance or the GCPA program. I’m sure some of the courses are the same, so I have some time to plan with my academic advisor. Either way, I’m looking forward to whatever comes down the pipeline.

 

SEMESTER 2

I spent this past summer, the season of carefree afternoons, taking a Business Economics course – and I liked it. Strange therapy indeed.

Setting the tone was instructor Ken Matziorinis, an affable economist keen on translating the material into something relatable. By all accounts it was still dense material, but based on the extended conversations he held with students after class, I think he succeeded.

I appreciated the solid macroeconomic background the course provided, especially in contextualizing economic events that have taken place since the 2008 recession. It was certainly a conversation that I would like to keep going, and I hope to stay in touch with Mr. Matziorinis.

 

SEMESTER 3

With still one pre-requisite left in my program – which I’m hoping to forgo using the Exemption by Examination option – I decided to enroll in the Financial Accounting 1 course this fall.

What appears at a glance to retread familiar ground from my first course is in fact a deep dive into the fundamentals of accounting. The aim isn’t merely to test your bookkeeping knowledge, but to see how well you can synthesize information from different parts of the accounting equation to solve problems.

My first two courses at McGill, while demanding, did not push me out of my comfort zone. This course, however, was my wake-up call to avoid complacency. More than ever, striking the right balance between life, work and education will be important going forward.

The Fall back-to-school season is typically hectic, with a lot of events and social opportunities available. Perhaps the most rewarding for me has been the Career Advising and Transition Services’ Newcomers Workshop Series, a wonderful series of seminars hosted by Maia Korotkina. One of the challenges for a newcomer (or indeed even an out-of-province Canadian) is preparing for a job search in Quebec’s labour market. Mrs. Korotkina has created a great venue to help you place yourself in that context and start equipping yourself to succeed professionally beyond McGill.

I’m really enjoying it so far because there’s such a wide range of participants and nationalities represented – from folks who’ve run their own business, to others who’ve been tasked with establishing a university, to new arrivals from Syria. I’m eager hear their stories.

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