Over spring break, I traveled with 17 other McIntire students to London to explore the world of accounting and finance in the United Kingdom. The trip was the culmination of a spring term course titled Accounting, Finance, & Financial Management in Europe with Professor Roger Martin where we took an in-depth, first-hand look at the work and lives of accountants across the pond. Over the course of a week, we visited 7 companies, explored the city, and connected with a thriving UVA alumni community.
An inside look at some of the UK’s top firms
This course leveraged UVA’s employer and alumni network in London to offer unparalleled experiences inside some of the United Kingdom’s top firms. Nearly all of our visits were led by McIntire alumni who treated us like family and gave us the inside scoop on everything from market insights to the best local pubs. Companies included:
- Millennium Capital
- JP Morgan
- PwC (CMAAS)
- KPMG (Audit)
- Deloitte (Tax)
- AB InBev
AB InBev hosted us at their corporate bar and showed us how they brought Bud Light to the UK. We met with marketers, engineers, and data scientists at Google who explained how they sell and protect their data. Analysts at Millennium Capital discussed the excitement and challenges of working with international teams. PwC pointed out trends in IPO and M&A activity connected to the uncertainty of Brexit. KPMG walked us through how auditing International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) requires greater use of professional judgement than Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).
I was personally impressed with the alumni who took time to meet with us, including a former audit partner and SEC fellow, a distressed debt and former Enron lawyer, and a personal financial advisor to one of the UK’s wealthiest families. They imparted their technical and professional expertise along with frank conversations about expat life, career advice, and fond memories of UVA.
I never had the opportunity to study international accounting before this course, so it was eye-opening to see the numerous opportunities my UVA M.S. in Accounting degree could give me. The trip offered once-in-a-lifetime experiences and provided me with the opportunity to grow my network on a global scale.
Every day we also had time to explore London with planned group activities and free time. The trip started with a Sunday roast at a pub in Kensington. Between or after company visits, we visited Westminster Abbey, toured the British Museum, rode the London Eye, and had afternoon tea next to Buckingham Palace. My favorite activity was a tour of Borough Market where we had the best fish and chips, donuts, sticky toffee pudding, and many more culinary treats. I really enjoy sports, so I loved winding the day down with my classmates at pubs in different neighborhoods and watching football or rugby matches with locals. I also had the opportunity to explore London’s shopping, from the extravagant, jaw-dropping Harrods to the grungy, underground thrift stores of Camden.
Biggest Takeaways from the Course
While every alum had a unique story and perspective, they all echoed key pieces of advice:
1. Say yes to opportunities that may push you outside your comfort zone. Most of the people we met with hadn’t planned to work abroad and sometimes not even in the field where they are now. However, they were incredibly thankful they had taken a leap of faith and kept an open mind toward their future.
2. Never stop learning. Everyone found ways to pursue their passions and interests outside of work and stressed the importance of always learning new things even after graduate school.
3. Develop a global mindset no matter where you end up working. Whether or not you work abroad, it’s incredibly important to understand how other cultures do business. You will eventually work with people from different countries even if you are based in the U.S., so start developing a global mindset now!
4. The best way to get the job you want is to do the one you have well. Several of our hosts expressed how they wouldn’t have landed that international rotation or that promotion if they hadn’t focused on making the most of their current jobs first. The relationships they built, connections made, and lessons learned in previous positions ultimately opened the door to where they are today.
I’m so grateful for this course because it inspired me to not only learn about global business but to live it, even if only for a week! I escaped the comfortable world of U.S. GAAP and Charlottesville, Virginia, to challenge any preconceived ideas on what a career in accounting might look like. I now feel like I have the knowledge, connections, and confidence to work abroad if I choose to do so.
I’d like to give a special shout out to Professor Martin and Sally Armentrout, Assistant Dean for Student Services, for putting together our unforgettable, fun-packed, tea-filled trip! Also, thank you to my classmates for sharing many Tube rides, pints, and memories with me.