BBA 2012 (Accounting)
Beta Alpha Psi member and officer
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) tax preparer
PwC xACT Team competitor
After living her whole life in Shijazhuang, China (near Beijing) and studying accounting for two years at Hunan University, Yi Zhang followed the advice of her parents. She boarded a plane and traveled to the United States. Her final destination was Iowa City where she would transfer into the accounting program at the Tippie College of Business.
“I wanted to see the outside world and my parents emphasized that I should go and experience another kind of life that is totally different from what I have been living for the past 20 years,” she explains.
With her mind made up to transfer to an American university&mdashlan entire country littered with academic institutions—why did Yi select the University of Iowa?
“The accounting program here has a really good reputation and I had heard Iowa City is a small town, which is very different from where I come from. I thought a small community would help me focus on my studies,” she explains.
“Iowa was relatively cheaper than other Big Ten schools, especially for international students, so I felt it was going to be a good fit for me.”
Yi settled into a new city, submersed in a new culture and a new language. She had studied English since fourth grade and further developed her language skills by watching television shows like Friends. (She grew to enjoy the program so much she has viewed the entire series three times.) So language hasn’t been an issue for Yi.
She found part-time work at the University Bookstore where she worked as a sales associate interacting with a variety of people every day. Yi was finding her acclimatization to Iowa City to be a comfortable experience. And she especially embraced the Iowa weather in August. She was not overwhelmed by Iowa winters since Iowa is the same latitude as her hometown.
When classes began she was most challenged by a tax course because the US tax system is radically different than China’s.
“It was totally a new subject for me. I devoted a lot of time and practice to it compared to my other classes, but it was actually fun,” she says.
She enjoyed tax so much so, she eagerly took part in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program where she helped prepare tax returns for qualifying resident in Johnson County.
“Every person’s tax return is different, so we have to work to get the perfect answer for them. It was really a learning experience and I got to help people who needed it. I hope it helped to make their lives easier,” she says.
Yi became a member of Beta Alpha Psi, the international honorary accounting organization, and accepted a leadership role as assistant vice president of reporting. She is responsible for the minutes for members and candidates and reconciling records required by the national Beta Alpha Psi office.
During her first summer in Iowa City she took multiple courses. But during her second summer she gained valuable professional experience by filling an internship position at John Deere’s Treasury Department where she developed detailed repurchasing models using Microsoft Excel to analyze the effectiveness and efficiency of the repurchase program; evaluated individual bank performance and computed potential savings of over $3 million; delivered testing results, assessments, and recommended changes to management; constructed benchmarking company cash levels with other captive finance companies ; and experienced cross-departmental job shadows of internal audit, commercial paper, and foreign exchange transaction.
“The internship helped me to gain the ability to work individually. I learned how to research a topic that I'm not familiar with and build my knowledge. I also strengthened many skills, like Excel skills and communicating. The level of Excel I used in building analysis models is way more complicated than what I learned in school. I've also learned that communication can be a crucial skill in business. Any project requires effective communication to make it work.”
Yi has also participated in academic competitions like the PwC xACT Competition where she was a member of the winning team on campus. She competed against eleven other teams.
After Yi graduates in December she plans to continue her global experience in the US by starting full-time work at Deloitte in their Chicago office where she will fulfill an audit position.