Taking Your Career & Network Abroad: Alumni Spotlights

Most students in the M.S. in Accounting Program plan to start their careers in the United States, though several opt to work abroad. In support of students’ international career searches, UVA offers numerous opportunities for students to study abroad or to apply for internships and jobs in other countries. Having a global experience and mindset can help set you up for opportunities to work abroad in your career. We reached out to two Class of 2013 alums to hear about their experiences—as a U.S. citizen working abroad and as a Chinese citizen working in the United States. Coincidentally, both are in their current positions thanks to M.S. in Accounting classmate referrals.

Laura Carmichael (M.S. in Accounting ’13) studied at The University of Tennessee before attending UVA’s M.S. in Accounting Program, completing the Tax Consulting Track. She is currently a Senior Associate – International Tax in KPMG’s Paris office. We asked Laura about her experiences working abroad and the process to get there:

Laura Carmichael, Class of 2013

Q: What should students consider if they want to work abroad?
A: This is a tricky question, because you need to consider things like your lease or what you’ll do with your car, but you don’t want those things to overcrowd your ultimate decision. I think it’s most important to consider that you are committing to your career—and to yourself—to establish a life abroad. You may not be able to come back for every family event or friend’s wedding, but you’ll get to create new memories!

Q: What was the process of applying to jobs abroad?
A: My experience was different than most and shows the importance of networking and keeping in touch with your McIntire classmates! A friend of mine from the M.S. in Accounting Program was already working abroad in KPMG’s Paris office and knew that I was interested in working abroad. When his Partner (and now my current boss) told him they needed a new Senior Associate with fund experience, he referred his Partner to me, and shortly thereafter I was completing the visa process.

Q: What has been the greatest challenge of working abroad?
A: The two greatest challenges that stand out to me are missing my family and friends and the language difference. I’m fortunate to have a great support system at home, so it is difficult to be away from them for extended periods of time. While most of my colleagues and clients speak English, I had never taken a French class before moving to Paris, so socially it’s a bit challenging!

Q: Is professional certification abroad different from CPA certification in the United States?
A: I am a licensed CPA with the State of Virginia and on rotation from the Tysons Corner office. The requirements to maintain my CPA license are the same for me in Paris as in the United States, so I still have to fulfill my CPE hours, complete renewal paperwork, and ensure that I’m in overall good standing.

Q: How do you feel that UVA helped you to prepare to work abroad in a multinational firm?
A: At McIntire, I met all sorts of people from different backgrounds, countries, and cultures, many of whom I’m still close with today. Being in a program that challenges you to think and problem-solve with people who are different from you is very empowering, and it’s real life. Not only do you learn that your perspective is not the only one, but you also learn to respect other people and the way that they think.

Elvis Zhang (M.S. in Accounting ’13) completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh and is currently a Senior Associate in Deals Advisory at PwC in Chicago. We asked Elvis about his experiences utilizing the McIntire network and his advice for international students who want to work in the United States.

Elvis Zhang, Class of 2013

Q: How was your recruitment experience at UVA?
A: Before I started at UVA, I had already received an offer from a Big Four firm after a summer internship. I decided to participate in the recruiting activities anyway, just to explore the opportunities available to students at UVA, as over 300 companies recruit at McIntire annually. I applied to several banking positions—and received interviews—but ultimately I decided to stay with the Big Four.

Q: How has the UVA network impacted your career?
A: The network supported my transition from EY Audit to PwC Advisory. At the time, PwC Chicago had openings, so I reached out to my UVA classmates and received an internal referral. Soon after, I started working at PwC.

Q: What recommendations do you have for other international students who want to work in the United States?
A: Take advantage of all opportunities available. Applying for jobs while on campus is a given, but I also recommend reaching out to alumni, applying to positions through LinkedIn and other off-campus channels, etc. You’ll be surprised how many responses/interview opportunities you will get as a McIntire student.

The University provides many resources to help students in achieving their career goals, both domestically and abroad. From language and career support to alumni networking programs, UVA’s 98% placement rate is evidence of its successful portfolio of support.

– Sarah Kusher & Adnan Syed, Class of 2018

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