Sonia Lau: Journey to MMS

As a high school senior, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do when I got to college— only a small inkling that I should attempt to take courses under the Markets and Management Studies Certificate like my older sister did.

Come sophomore year first semester, I enrolled in Econ 256: Practical Financial Markets with with zero expectations. Fresh out of dropping my pre-med course load, I was a blank slate sophomore. Ready to explore new academic horizons and career opportunities, I embarked on a tentative walk down Practical Financial Markets. On the first day of class, I opened the doors and was surprised to find myself in a massive lecture hall with 15% of my entire sophomore class. I saw people that I had only once spoken to briefly on the C1 during O-Week freshmen year, people that I recognized from Marketplace lunch, people that tabled on the BC, and people that were my best friends. Rather than being intimidated, I was excited about the opportunity to learn alongside my peers. Our professors introduced themselves— Emma Rasiel and John Caccavale. Both of them discussed their extensive background on Wall Street as well as why we needed to take this course, and then the material promptly began. Meeting for 2.5 hours each week, I assumed class would be grueling and that I would be counting down the minutes from 4:40 until the sweet freedom of 7:10pm. But I did not. I was consistently fascinated by the wealth of information that I had no exposure to before: What are corporate bonds? How do you conduct a discounted cash flow analysis? Why does a company want to perform a leveraged buyout? Each class filled the arsenal of my mind with relevant information to the markets and knowledge I was eager to consume. We heard from finance professionals (proud Duke alums!) in industries like investment banking, sales and trading, and asset management. I had never before in my life even considered finance as an option, and now it is what I am actively pursuing.

Emma and John taught me tons of relevant technical knowledge, but more importantly, they taught me to rediscover the joy behind learning. Practical Financial Markets challenged me constantly in the academic sense, but I also learned how to navigate the world with an open, hungry mind. Now when I find myself in business attire speaking to vice presidents at networking events, I am confident that I can demonstrate my knowledge of an industry I once knew so little about.

With the help of Markets and Management Studies Certificate program, I have been able to accomplish my goal of learning something new in various disciplines. Econ 256 has been hugely important as I continue to navigate the recruiting process, and it has taught me not to be afraid of risk-taking. I highly advise any freshman interested in finance to take a chance with Econ 256. You never know— you might just find yourself in a suit jacket waiting to hear back from multiple banks!