Archives for May 2020

Halah Nelson: Semester Abroad in Leon, Spain

It’s May, in the middle of the pandemic. I am in my childhood room drinking watered down iced coffee with a stack of GRE flashcards sitting next to me. Having been forced to return early from my semester abroad trip to Leon, Spain, I’m disappointed. But to be frank, I met every goal I had set out for myself. I wanted to learn more Spanish and actually feel confident speaking it. Check. I wanted to feel immersed in Spanish culture. Check. Lastly, I wanted to meet and interview students I met about their personal experience with language acquisition for my thesis. Check. It’s been a real bummer, but I’ve truly learned that I really don’t hold the reins of my life. I can plan and work and I can even meet my goals against all odds, but that does not mean that I have control. My proposal was incredibly realistic, and that’s probably the only way that I was able to meet these goals. I am happy with what I planned to do, and I’m happy with how I accomplished it.

If you’re thinking about studying abroad, it might be helpful to hear how one person made that happen. The spring 2020 semester wasn’t anything like I expected it to be. I had been planning to study abroad in a Spanish speaking country since I was a junior in high school. My sister had taken a trip abroad over the summer and told me that, economically speaking, I could probably get a better experience abroad if I did an entire semester – granted, of course, that I receive the same full ride scholarship from UCA that she had. That’s when the dream began. I had visited Mexico four times on medical mission trips and had decided that I was tired of my “mierda” Spanish and that I really wanted to be able to speak the language. College was the perfect time to learn; my high school classes had been a joke and being bilingual would make me more hirable. It only made sense to minor in Spanish. I knew that I would be unable to apply for a TAG grant until I had completed my sophomore year, and I wanted to have my senior year at UCA so that I could apply to grad school without the hassle of being across the globe. Junior year was it. I decided to go during the spring semester because it meant doing two trimesters in Spain for the price of one– no brainer. At the end of my sophomore year I went to talk to one of my Spanish professors about the trip, and for the first time, I found out how selective it was. UCA generally only sent 2-4 students. He told me that majors had priority and that although I could probably go to another country, I might want to become a Spanish major in order to guarantee myself a spot. I am a HUGE suckup, so I immediately emailed my advisor and had her look at my classes, and once she told me it was possible, I filled out all the information to add the major. This meant that to graduate on time with a double major in psychology and Spanish, a minor in honors, and all of the prerequisites for OT school, I would have to do an 18 hour semester and some summer courses. This didn’t phase me a bit. I love lectures and I love school and my favorite thing is to come home to my roommates and tell them all about what I learned that day. I stayed busy but determined.

Flash forward to the end of the fall semester my junior year. I kept up with paperwork for the trip, completed all my OT prerequisites and had done my best to ensure that once I returned home, if any of my credits didn’t transfer, I wouldn’t have to take any more than 18 hours a semester to graduate. As the trip inched closer, I started getting scared and realized I would actually be away from my friends and living in a country where I had barely any confidence in the language. The shower became my place to cry when I got too overwhelmed, but that didn’t compare to the fear I faced after traveling to Houston and being denied my student visa. Eventually, I was able to send in my missing documents and received it. I was going!

Sure, I wish a pandemic hadn’t stomping on my long awaited trip, but what can you do? I’m very proud of myself for all of the work I put in to get here and all of the work that I did on the trip as well. I pushed myself and found a version of myself that was more brave than any of the past versions of myself that I had encountered. I made friends with people across the globe and lived with people who I could barely understand. I almost got a tattoo and I said yes to every new experience I could. And sure, there have been tears, there have been sleepless nights, there have been relationships that I had to tape up with whatever I could find left in myself. However, I wouldn’t trade my situation for anything. Who else gets to tell a story this exciting for the rest of their life?


Brandon Locknar: Accounting Internship with BKD Little Rock

                In the beginning of March, news broke that Elon Musk claimed, “College isn’t for learning.” This thought shocked me. All my life, all I ever heard was how college is where you go for higher education, to set yourself up to succeed in the workforce after graduation. This past semester, I was given the opportunity to be a full-time audit intern with BKD in Little Rock. There were countless times that I questioned whether the Accounting concepts I had learned in school were even relevant to the audit work that I was doing. Honestly, it was difficult at times to see the connection between classes and work, but the more I progressed through my job and began looking for it, I saw that it had been there all along. I also saw that college had taught me lots of other invaluable skills that made me perform better, and thus set me up to receive a full-time job offer upon graduation.

For those of you unaware of what auditing is, it is essentially a review and verification of the accounting records kept by a company before financial statements are issued and an assessment of their risks. The job is crucial because unaddressed risks or misrepresentation of these financial statements can cause investors and lenders to inappropriately gauge their ability to offer a return on investment. While I was working, I spent most of my time trying to figure out how to recreate what my company did the year before to test the accounting records. This allowed me to accurately and effectively complete the job. However, when I stopped and tried to understand what I was doing, I could clearly see how all of the long journal entry examples we had done in my classes were directly related to my audit procedures. As an auditor, I am not making the journal entries, but rather reviewing the support that leads to these entries and ensuring that the client made them correct and the balances reflected on their financial statements are accurate. I have to understand how and why certain entries are made to complete my job accurately, and then be able to explain it to my supervisors and the client so that they can do it better the next time. Those were technical skills I gained through practice in the classroom.

Generally speaking, I was able to figure out my classes with relative ease; however, I never felt more lost than when I did not have the previous year’s work to refer to in my internship. I thought because I had little trouble in classes, I would be able to succeed in my work without assistance. A main pillar of public accounting is integrity, so I had to learn when to ask my supervisors for help rather than come up with something to make the numbers work. There were several times that I realized about halfway through a big project that I was incorrectly performing audit procedures, and had to go back and start from the beginning to ensure I completed my work appropriately. I realized that signing your name off on incorrect work in college gives you a bad grade, but it loses your job in the real world. I had to budget my time much more strictly to prevent myself from spending too much time on one project and not wrapping up all of my assignments by the due date.

All of these were skills I had learned in college, albeit mostly indirectly. Most of the technical accounting knowledge I learned in school was foundational for the audit procedures I completed. They were much harder to identify, but if I did not have them built in to my brain from countless exercises in class, I no doubt would have been making simple errors repeatedly. My professors offer multiple times to just come talk to them if we have problems understanding concepts. Their friendliness and willingness to explain an example problem to me built my confidence in asking for help when I was unsure of something. Managing my classes workload and being an involved student meant that I had to manage my time to meet deadlines and keep good grades. Most of these skills were not taught straight out of a textbook, but I definitely learned them at college. I have to disagree with Elon Musk’s assessment of a college education’s value. Without the increased expectations that college faculty have for work, I would not have been set up to succeed in my internship.