MS in Accounting Blog

An M.S in Accounting After an MBA as an International Student: My Experience

Deborah Okai, a current student ambassador in the M.S. in Accounting Program, offers her perspective and tips for success as an MBA and an international student at McIntire.

Deborah Okai in an M.S. in Accounting class. Photo by Amanda Maglione Photography.

By Deborah Okai (M.S. in Accounting ’24)

The Journey Continues…

Having always aspired to be a Management Consultant, I obtained a B.Sc. in Business Administration and subsequently an MBA. During my MBA, I realized that to make strategic decisions for firms, I needed an understanding of both financial and managerial perspectives. Thus, I decided to get a master’s in Accounting to gain the 150 credit hours required to sit for the CPA. McIntire’s M.S. in Accounting Program came up during my search not only because it had admirable ranking, small class sizes, and great CPA pass rates but also because of its emphasis on the holistic development of an accountant.

My admission process was quite hectic since I was fully engaged in a master’s program and also working to cover my living expenses, prompting me to consider a deferral. However, the Admissions Committee at McIntire was very supportive and encouraged me to pursue my dream. They diligently walked me through the process and helped me take a step closer to achieving it. This is why I decided to volunteer and pay it forward as a student ambassador. A special thanks and shout-out to Georgette Msambo and Cathy Fox!

MSA after an MBA?

I was often questioned about my decision to pursue an MSA after an MBA rather than vice versa. Simple, it is never too late to rekindle a passion. As a student without an undergraduate degree in Accounting, I think following through with the M.S. in Accounting Program here is still very plausible. I got to meet students fresh out of undergrad, some with a few years of work experience, as well as a rich international community that provides a great learning opportunity due to the uniqueness of the class profiles. It is never too late to get a master’s in Accounting, even after work and graduate school, as it also firms up one’s problem-solving, critical-thinking, and analytical skills. The professional focus of this program and its practical relevance are intentionally designed to support the growth of young professionals. A CPA and a deep understanding of administration and management make one stand out as a corporate executive due to the insights and different lenses one has.

Next, let’s consider my experience as an international student!

Tips as a Two-Time International Student

First, arrive a few days before your scheduled international student orientation. This will give you time to acclimate to your new environment, as it can help you adjust to the time zone, buy the appropriate clothing for the weather, and explore before school kicks off.

Second, reach out to recent alumni or ambassadors of your program before or upon arrival. You can do this through LinkedIn or the GroupMe chat assigned to your year group. Alumni and ambassadors can help you navigate housing options and the local environment of Charlottesville. Also, ask the Admissions team if other people are coming from your country or region and if they can connect you with them.

Third, always keep the School in the loop should you encounter problems like visa issues or academic, family, or even financial challenges. This way, McIntire can assist you to the best of its ability. I have experienced this firsthand. I recently experienced an emergency situation, and the combined efforts of my professors and the student affairs department, after I confided in my program director, provided me invaluable support. This bolstered me with the courage to face the challenge and keep up academically, especially as an international student. The assurance that I was not alone in the situation has never left me.

Fourth, as an international student, the benefits of building one’s social capital cannot be overemphasized. Meeting your professors outside of class for professional advice, and keeping up with events with classmates, not just with people similar to you, is very useful in helping one come out of one’s comfort zone. Being intentional about bringing nuances to the conversation in this setting by providing unique perspectives based on one’s background and experiences is highly encouraged.

Deborah’s Ohio MBA teammates.

Feeling at home, away from home, is essential to feel a sense of belonging. Meeting other students from your country, region, or continent provides that sense of belonging and community. The international student dinner and orientation are great avenues to meet students whose paths you may not ordinarily cross due to differences in classes and individual colleges. Affinity groups on Grounds are also a great avenue to find community.

Want to be embraced by a new community in a beautiful academic setting? Check out the M.S. in Accounting Program.

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