My road to a finance major in New York.

I remember my childhood in Russia. It was the early nineties, and our society had witnessed a change in our social and political system, with the introduction of private business enterprises. I remember as a child, seeing my mother managing a business, selling garments to our community. She bought cosmetics and ladies’ garments in Moscow and transported it to our city for resale in the local markets and stores. I recall how her efforts helped put food on our table, clothes on our backs and books in our school bags. She managed her business very well, and we all watched it grow, and my brother and I benefited from her tireless efforts. But through it all, it was her understanding of business principles that enabled her to manage her business. She watched it grow while supporting her family all by herself.
I remember when I was 12 years old, I asked my mother for a cell phone, and she asked me why it was so important for me to have one. I could not think of anything to say other than “because it’s cool to have one”! She took me aside and explained how material objects will never make me cool but will always leave me asking for more. She told me that it was my heart and mind that would make me cool. It was hard to understand her at that time, and I remember throwing a tantrum. I couldn’t understand why I should be denied such an important social symbol when all the successful parents gave their kids cell phones. I wept and felt denied, but I understand my Mother’s decision today. I understand the value of money as someone who is earning and helping to support my family back home in Russia, just as my mother did throughout my childhood.
At 17, my mother and I decided it was time for me to start my own adventure. I knew nothing beyond my elder brother and my mother and our home in Orenburg. At home, I felt loved and secure. I felt cared for and never feared anything in life. But as I grew older, and through my teens, I learned that the limitations in our community did not suit my personality. Life in our town saw girls getting married to their high school sweethearts, getting pregnant, having children and forever being confined to our city limits without any independence or career. I did not see myself as a stereotype and wanted to see more and experience life beyond the safety of my home. I was ready for this adventure and ready to leave the sanctity of my mother’s care and start a life and career. I knew even then, that understanding finance and commerce was vital for me to succeed in business. But little did I know the level of sacrifices I would have to make to start this new chapter in my life.
I decided to travel to the United States was one of the lucky ones to be granted a J1 visa. This permitted me to study and also be lawfully employed, so I could earn my way through my studies and support myself. I was one of the lucky ones to make it here. I remember this one candidate who appeared for his interview just before me and he was denied. I remember his expression to this day as if he was sitting in front of me. He was heartbroken, and I felt very sad for him. His situation was particularly heartbreaking, as he was half African and grew up in Siberia where he felt the intolerance in society to foreign races. He dreamt of a better life and prospects in the United States, where he imagined his color and appearance would be accepted, and he would have a chance to live out his life’s true potential. But he was denied and felt forever condemned to a life of prejudice and hopelessness. I was scared when I saw his expression, I felt lost and hopeless. I was number 5 in the list of applicants and 3 people before me were rejected for reasons I did not know. My heart was racing. I felt dejected and felt my dreams slowly drift away. But somehow I managed to find strength and determination. It was my turn. I picked myself up and somehow found the strength to face my destiny with courage.
They say fortune favors the brave. I was asked just two simple questions. “Have you ever been to the United States?” he asked with a serious expression. ”Yes”, I answered. “Do you have any employment secured during your stay?”. “Yes, I do. I have an offer to work at a stall selling beauty products in a Mall”, I said with a great deal of confidence. “Thank you. That will be all.”
That was it! I succeeded.
With my visa in hand, I landed in a strange but wonderful city as an 18-year-old student. I arrived at JFK on a cold and wet evening. I was very nervous but determined to make this place my new home. I fought back all stereotypes and prejudices and worked diligently as I settled into my new home. I learned through experiences, some good and some bad. I never lost faith and always picked myself up and looked forward to a better life. I made friends, some of whom will remain my lifelong companions. I call them “my girls”. We all have similar stories to share. We have all learned to cope with and adapt to this new environment in our early 20s. We all faced many challenges and helped each other cope and recover from any misfortunes. My girls are my family in New York City. They help make this greatest of cities my home.
Having worked and saved for the past 7 years, I find myself in a position where I can finally support my dream to go back to my studies. I want to qualify with a degree in finance, so I can start my own business one day. I learned the importance of finance as a child through my Mother’s example, and I now find myself in the financial capital of the world. I have worked from within both the service and fashion industries, and I have always kept an eye on the business end of affairs. I have learned from my colleagues and my bosses. I now want to understand the academic elements of finance to compliment my practical knowledge.
With all of this knowledge in hand, I hope to be able to apply this expertise practically as I enter the financial services industry. I want to be able to understand businesses and be in a position to help them. I want to be able to provide solutions for sustainable growth and stability. I want to help clients and friends, when able. In the end, I want to be able to establish my own business, with my experience and expertise. Knowledge is the greatest tool I can ever hope to have in order to succeed. I strongly believe that a degree in Finance is the key to this knowledge.
New York City has such a wealth of financial institutions. We are spoilt for choices. So many places and so many people, with so much knowledge and experience. I want to learn and benefit from everything my environment has to offer. Finance is the backbone of every successful business or idea. I live in the capital of the industry. I want to be part of this success story. I want to write my own success story, and let finance be a tool which enables my success. I want my girls, my brother, and all my friends, past present and future to be proud.
Most of all, I want my mother to be proud! From her I understood very early in my life the importance of managing money. Not being careless but spending responsibly. I had a sense of financial discipline built into me through my mother’s wonderful example. We never felt denied of anything, yet we were never spoilt. I am lucky to be here. So many of us had tried and failed. So many were heartbroken and have been left behind. I am grateful for my opportunity and am determined to make sure I make the most of it. My finance major will give me the platform I need to realize my dream…my American Dream!

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