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Wendi Zhao: Predicting the future with finance
"I like to say I have three families here, from my three co-op work terms," says Wendi Zhao. Before she started in the commerce program, Zhao had never been to Canada, but now she feels connected to people here. Originally, she chose Halifax because its coastal location reminded her of Dalian, her home city in China, and her Canadian English teacher had left her with the impression that "Canadians are really friendly and welcoming." Now she's graduating with a job in Halifax (operations analyst for CITCO), and plans to stay permanently.
Zhao started out in accounting, but decided that she wanted to major in finance because, she says, "it's more about predicting the future, and I'm more of an adventurous person." She's also an outgoing person, and part of what interests her about finance is the people it allows her to meet. Her overall career goals include working one on one with clients—this kind of personal interaction, she says, was the best part about the co-op term she did at Scotiabank.
One of her favourite Dal memories, a "life-changing experience", is the Israel Exchange Program where Dalhousie students join students from Israel to learn about business by travelling in Canada and Israel. "If you want to know a country really well, you have to go for yourself and put yourself in that culture," Zhao says. In addition to learning from the Israeli students who participated, she got to know Canadian culture better because she was travelling with a mix of Canadian and international students. "It's broadened my horizons," she says. "I want to go back." The group became very close, and is planning a reunion in Toronto next year. Zhao also plans to meet up with a group of Rowe students who will travel to Beijing for a similar experience through the Emerging Markets Program when she visits her family in China this spring.
Another highlight for Zhao was the real-world experience that is part of a Rowe degree. In the marketing strategy course, Zhao and some of her classmates got to work with McInnes Cooper on a project that will be launched soon. They helped to accelerate the launch process, identify potential issues, and advise on how the company can promote the project and maximize profit. "I really liked that we got to work for a real company and provide real strategic advice and plans. We had access to more information than in case studies. I don't think a lot of universities give that kind of experience."
Zhao advises new students to get involved as much as possible. "There are so many different opportunities here at the Rowe. It's important in second year for getting a co-op position and fourth year for getting a job." She's certainly taken her own advice: in her time here she's been a peer mentor in the International Student Success Program, competed in the International Student Case Competition and been the international student rep for the Commerce Society. She was also involved in DALIS, where students have access to the Rowe's Bloomberg terminals to manipulate financial data. "It was really useful: we learned about events happening around the world and how they affect investments, and we got a chance to experiment." Based on her involvement here at Dal, it's clear that wherever Zhao goes she'll be seizing opportunities and connecting with new people.
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