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Updates: Taking FAR, United Airlines

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I just took FAR today, April 10th at noon. Used Becker and Becker covered absolutely everything I saw.

I’m not going to reveal what I saw on the test but I can make some general comments about the level of difficulty that I personally experienced and keep it vague.

Overall, it wasn’t too bad. Not what I expected for sure.

The MCQs were no more than 33 each. The first one was actually pretty straightforward and easy. The second one was a bit more difficult in that it went more towards application and had more calculation problems (which I struggle with). I didn’t have time to doublecheck my answers so that is what I’m worried about.

Then the three testlets were for SIMs. I heard that the exam was harder now and the SIMs were going to be long and complicated with lots of stuff for you to sort through. I kinda pictured sitting in a hot testing room where the computer screen was dim and I was taking the test on Windows 95. But actually, the Prometric I went to had great accommodations and I felt very comfortable. The SIMs were not crushingly difficult, in fact, I got one that shocked me with how simple it was. It was crazy simple and I triple-checked that problem to make sure that I didn’t miss anything.

The second SIMS testlet was harder but it actually wasn’t as bad as I thought. There was only one question that had a bunch of resource documents to sort through and even then they kinda made it obvious what you should look for and what you should not look for. The hardest question was the one where I wasn’t quite sure what they were asking me and by the time I got to the final sims I felt really drained.

Overall, I don’t know how I did but I can tell you that

a.) There are more SIMS but it looks like they have some that seem really simple to kind of even it out (or maybe I just bombed and got easy SIMs haha).

b.) Becker did an excellent job preparing me for the exam because every single thing on there was in the book. SOme of the questions were even similar.

c.) BRING EARPLUGS! When I took them out I could hear a guy coughing and sneezing hahaha.

d.) If I could go back, I’d do more Ninja and Becker MCQs but I already studied the best that I could before the exam….

So I guess we’ll just see what happens in August! (so bummed we don’t find out till August :/)

Also, Roger CPA outlined a time strategy that REALLY helped me! I had 2 and a hours left for the SIMS which were really, really helpful.

Testlet 1 – 45 mins
Testlet 2 – 45 mins
Testlet 3 – 30 mins
Break
Testlet 4 – 60 mins
Testlet 5 – 60 ,mins

I ended the exam three minutes early and had time to double check my SIMs! Before I started, I wrote down the time checkpoints (so the first batch of MCQs was from 4 to 3:15). It helped me not panic as much during the exam XD.

I left feeling exhausted. I’ve been studying like crazy for this exam and I hope it pays off. Those four hours were pretty draining and I kinda wish I hadn’t studied before the exam today because that definitely made me feel a bit more tired going in.

All-in-all though, the events lately have helped me to realize how important it is for me to look to God for things in my life. In this, I mean that before I started getting random health conditions popping up almost sequentially, I lived life with God kind of in the background.

The CPA exam and the events of late have helped me to see how important it is to always keep hoping in Christ. I used to keep a prayer journal and write in it every morning but I realized that by doing so, I would just write one entry and then forget about it the rest of the day. Rather, forget about God (as bad as that sounds). I was in a way compartmentalizing my relationship with Him when I should be aware of His presence much more than that.

And that just brings me to how I was feeling after leaving Prometric. Although I didn’t double-check my answers and felt really worried, I found that I have a steady hope in God. No matter what happens, I truly tried my best and God will come through for me. I have the same feeling that I did after the case competition that I truly thought that I did not do well in or was even going to be selected for. As a flower looks to the sun, I want to keep my face and heart open to God and just wait with hope.

Also, in the car I thought about what my career coach from my internship said. He told me that his mentor said that it didn’t matter how well he did compared to the guy next to him. As long as he tried his best, that’s what mattered. And my career coach is someone extremely driven in his career.

So I tried my best and that is what matters. And if I didn’t pass, what matters is that I don’t give up because at least there’s no limit to how many times we can retake the test (for now). But I feel in my heart that this is something God just might want to give me. Since I won’t find out until August, I’ll simply have to wait.

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Also, the incident with United Airlines assaulting a passenger and literally DRAGGING him off the plane has disgusted me. Quality-wise, you don’t get much from UA for the price you pay versus just going with a budget airline.

I find it appalling that after the way they assaulted that man that the CEO would paint the passenger out to be an inconvenience, “having to ‘reaccomodate’ the passenger. The only mistake that passenger made was choosing to fly with United.

And although I’m not posting angry comments on their Facebook, this is something I will remember every time I’m choosing an airline ticket.

People say that it’s within the airline’s right to boot passengers from the plane and that overbooking is a standard airline procedure. But the amount of force they used to remove that man from his seat and drag him across the aisle half-naked in front of his own passengers was unwarranted to put it mildly. What if that was your father? What if he was your son? Or your brother?

The follow-up video of seeing him get back onto the plane and standing in the back muttering that he had to get home and that they should just kill him sent chills through me.

There was a lot more they could’ve done. They could’ve upped their offer to passengers who were willing to get off the plane. They could’ve tried to find other volunteers or reperformed the search algorithm. Any rational person would’ve understood that this man was a doctor and seen his determination to stay on that plane and try to find another passenger.

Also, Asians are portrayed a certain way in the media as being submissive and easy to push around and bully. Could that have played a role in this incident? Could they have been this forceful because they believed they could push him around and it wouldn’t have as much of a consequence?

Regardless, whatever his race was, I’d be equally outraged because that could’ve been me or someone in my family.

If he was being belligerent and throwing fists around and splashing water into people’s face, I would understand. But it seems like all he did was just refuse to move. He was probably rude about it but the way he continued to refuse to get out of his seat even with the goons approaching would’ve been an obvious indication that he wasn’t going to leave peacefully. For the sake of the other passengers as well, that’s why they should’ve known when to give up and find someone else or up their offer.

And even if he was rude, it does not ever justify the amount of force they used to remove him and the way they treated him. That’s someone’s son.

Even if this ‘blows over’ for United Airlines in a few days, if I have my way they won’t ever have a cent of my business again. I don’t want to give my business to an airline that treats its passengers like human cattle to be prodded off planes with electric shockers and bodyslammers.

I also find the cavalier response of not just the CEO but certain late night comedians insulting. Conan O’Brien did a segment where they forced an audience member to sit in an empty seat. The actor was wearing the same clothes as the man in the video. And they he talked about the incident was very light-hearted and like he honestly didn’t give a sh*t.

Others are saying that there’s no such thing as a victim or he must’ve done something to deserve it. From a firsthand account of the incident at this video here (Fox News), it seems like all he did was refuse to leave and was rude about it. Anyone who’s worked in customer service knows what to do when you’re dealing with an uncooperative customer, you just have to compromise and try to make the most of the situation and not call the squad.

 

Candy: A Story About Character

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“You can judge a person’s true character by the way they treat those who can’t help them.”

In Fall 2014, I joined the accounting club on campus. With over 300 members at the time, the organization had the aim of connecting students with professional firms. I went to a speaker meeting for a Big 4 firm and that was the beginning of a small – but important – lesson. With my little grey blazer and my black jeans, I came early to the meeting. I remember the feeling of excitement and curiosity tinged with nervousness. Looking around, I noticed the ‘board members’  – students walking around with name tags on their jackets.

There was one board member. She had on thick makeup and looked bored. Dressed in a blazer and trousers, the glint of her name tag under the lights caught my attention. I don’t remember her name though, but it was either Chloe or Candy. Every time I tell this story, I call her Candy.

Back then, I didn’t really know what board members did exactly. I knew that they had committees but that was about it. I walked up to her and introduced myself. “Hi!” I said brightly. “I’m Ophelia, that’s a really cool badge you have. Are you a board member?”

“Yup,” she said, looking like she’d rather be anywhere else from here.

“Oh okay, how do you like being a board member?” I asked her, genuinely curious.

Zero eye contact. “It’s ok.”

“Oh… great.”

She eventually faded away into the crowd and I took a seat in an audience filled with faces that I didn’t recognize.

Later on, we ended up being in the same team for a team-building exercise the firm wanted us to participate in. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Candy for those twenty minutes. We sat in the same row in front of other students with shiny badges on their lapels. When she was introducing herself to the group and talking about her interests, she seemed very excited and shared about how she enjoyed salsa and dancing.

After everyone introduced themselves in the group and there was a lull in the activity that provided for small-talk, I decided to give it another shot and ask her about her hobbies. “So!” I said. “Salsa! That’s a really cool hobby.”

She was staring off into the distance like a dead fish. Eventually, I realized she just didn’t want to talk to me. Her answers got shorter and shorter, and she never once asked me anything about myself. She turned her back to me altogether and spoke to other people in the row behind us who did not seem interested in the least in getting to know who I was. And they’re not obligated to, obviously, but imagine sitting by yourself in a group of people who all know each other and no one even looks your way. She remained like that for the rest of the entire session.

 

About a year and a half later, she was a mentee in our mentoring program. The same one that I chaired last year. The same one I’ve participated as a mentor in ever since. I received an offer from the same firm that presented during the meeting in my sophomore year and graduated with a full-time offer in hand.

It took me a while to recognize her at first because she wore glasses and minimal makeup. But I did recognize her.

Since our last face-to-face meeting, I not only became a board member myself but I became an officer when the club had over 600 members. I created programs and guides and systems that helped people.

Now, I was a mentor and the tables were turned. She was waiting for me to help her this time.

I don’t harbor any anger or bitterness towards her, but I just think that it was a funny experience that taught me two very interesting lessons. The first, I learned one of the most important ways that you can tell the true quality of a person’s character. You look at the way they treat their peers or people who are ‘beneath’ them.

When I got more involved and became both a board member and an ambassador (which means I had a lot of influence in the organization), I did my best to make everyone feel welcome. If there was anyone ever sitting by him or herself, I would introduce myself to that person and try to establish a relationship. The experience with Candy, among others, inspired me to create the Buddy System so people wouldn’t feel left out or like they weren’t wanted – especially by the organization’s board members.

And also, I learned that you never know where someone is going to end up in the future. That’s a hard lesson I had to learn for myself.

So.

Wherever I go, I do my best to treat each person I meet the way that I would want to be treated. After all, each of us are only trying to survive in this world – whether it’s you, me or Candy.

 

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2016: A Year in Review

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2016 has been a year of growth for me. I started out 2016 by getting caught up in politics and other things and losing sight of who I was. I ended 2016 with a case of impetigo… but a renewed sense of self and a closer relationship with God.

January-May: During this time, I was involved in an organization on campus as an executive officer. I was Director of Operations, the second to hold the title. The first one asked me to take on this position because she believed I could take it to a new level and expand on it. And I did. I turned it into a strategic role and looked for ways to improve the club. Some of my accomplishments include creating a new look for the website, creating the first every buddy system which included socials, and creating guides to help new members better navigate. My formal responsibilities were to distribute certain documentation internally and also oversee several committees. I was also running for president during this time.

The biggest lesson I learned, hands-down, was having empathy. This semester helped me grow tremendously in terms of emotional intelligence.

 

When one of my board members needed more help with being reminded about her responsibilities, I got upset. However, I was the one who advocated for her during deliberations so she could become a board member. I wanted to mentor and nurture her. If I had empathy, I would have realized that she was a freshman and freshman usually have a lot to balance on top of being a board member. Most of our board members aren’t freshman, so it wasn’t a good decision to invite her to be one. If I had had empathy, I would have known that and read the situation much, much better… and avoided a lot of stress.

Emotional intelligence also includes self-regulation. I did not know how insecure I really felt. Because I didn’t know I was insecure, I falsely believed that I was confident. My insecurity showed through a lot of mistakes such as taking myself too seriously and getting easily offended. Getting easily offended while you’re in the spotlight is never a good thing, because word gets around quick. I learned that the hard way.

I lost my bid for being president of the club because while I did a good job of gaining loyalty from the share of people I had , I did not have enough empathy to realize how I made others feel. This was the semester when I finally, finally realized I need to constantly and consciously put myself in people’s shoes. Prior to that, I would barrel through life like a bull in a china-shop. I would live my life the way that I wanted to, no holds barred and no opinions considered.

Empathy involves considering what other people think and how they feel. It’s called the Golden Rule. It’s something kids learn at a young age from cartoons. Do unto others as you want someone to do unto you. For some reason, that wasn’t clicking to me. Living life just being Ophie and doing me regardless of what people thought was just the way I functioned.

So one way that put me at a disadvantage was in that I communicated a message I, and my supporters, thought were good… but others didn’t have the same perception.

I read an article in Harvard Business Review yesterday about something called ‘progress fluency‘. It is what consumers gain the more they use a product and become familiar with it. For instance, after I got my first IPhone in 2012, I’ve been purchasing more Apple products ever since because I know what to expect. Thus, if I switch to Samsung, it’ll be more of a conscious process and therefore harder to do. Simply put, consumers are more comfortable with products they are familiar with and make it a habit to continue buying the same brand. If something changes in that brand, even something like the colors, it’s likely that some consumers will be upset and maybe even switch.

In the same way, in my speech, I was promoting a message of change and newness. I didn’t realize that members didn’t want newness. My speech made it seem to some members like I was going to change everything.  Instead, I wanted to improve things in smaller, more subtle ways. However, that was not the perception that I gave and so, I’m sure that’s a big part of why I lost.

And perception meant everything. 

While losing elections wasn’t fun, it taught me some very, very valuable lessons that I will apply to the future. The biggest of which centers around emotional intelligence, which is what I believe God wanted to develop in me… and develop it, He did.

 

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I also had a case competition presentation the day after elections, and that competition would feature a panel of accounting faculty and accounting professionals including a director from a Big 4 firm.

So only three hours after losing elections, I practiced with my team for the case competition the next day. Red-eyed and tired, I tried my hardest not to let losing get to me. I was the one who was giving people tasks, keeping people motivated and doing a large share of the work so people were depending on me. As much as I tried to keep my head up, I did cry a few times.

So I’d be saying, “And our conclusion was….” then I’d stop and start crying. Dabbing away at my eyes, I’d apologize profusely (why is my writing so formal today? o.O). With my teammates quietly looking at me, I broke down and cried.

Then my other teammates started crying with me. Soon enough, we were running out of tissues pretty quickly.

At the actual competition, we were the only team dressed all in black. The competition was about financial instruments in the form of hybrid shares or blah blah blah. Something like that, hahah.

 

A lot of teams applied for the competition, which centered around an accounting problem we had to write a memo about. Only four teams were selected to present. My team had agreed that I would be the one to write the memo, but they would research it. In the end, it ended up being that there wasn’t enough research done for the memo to even be two pages long (and the number of pages required was six).

So there I was, only two days before the deadline of the memo, staring at a scarce Google Doc that looked as full as a contestant from America’s Next Top Model. It was 11pm and I had just finished studying. I refilled my tea and got the memo done in about two hours. As complicated as hybrid financial instruments sound, it’s actually pretty intuitive.

When I went to submit the memo, I bumped into a friend who said that her team had spent six hours in the library every week working on the memo. So I really thought we wouldn’t get chosen.

When we got chosen, we were all surprised and my teammates promised to do better. So that was where we were at when we met up to practice. I admit that I was a little sharp with my teammates and a little angry still about what happened. But when they cried with me, that anger melted away – just a little :-).

We practiced the best that we could. Out of all the teams that presented that day, we were the most tired and angry-looking. To make things even more ironic, we were the only team dressed in all black.

When my part came up in the presentation, I smiled brightly and said, “Now I will be talking about [topic here].” I saw the judges sit up and smile, looking a bit more interested. Then my confidence deflated and my voice was smaller than I had ever heard it during a presentation.

None of us did really well, so I didn’t think we would place in the top three. Still, I felt like God was putting it on my heart that we would place. It was a very strong feeling that contrasted how ‘meh’ we had done and the mutual, all-around-the-table agreement that we were surely going to be last and not get a prize. So I didn’t tell my teammates.

After the presentation, we sat in the school lobby and in a circle, spoke about what each of us could have done better. I also learned something valuable that day, which is that I’m only as good as my team. It doesn’t matter how awesome I do if the rest of my team needs help and isn’t getting it.

In the end, we did place. We placed third, but we placed. Apparently, while none of the teams had gotten the answer totally correct, our answer was the closest.

One day, I’ll be able to fully understand and appreciate what God was trying to teach me in that moment.

 

June-July: During this time, I was completing my internship with a big 4 accounting firm. I was chilling out more by now and things were getting back to normal. Now that I was out of the spotlight, I was starting to feel like myself again. I still didn’t realize that I carried a heavy stone in my shoe, which was insecurity.

But simply put, my internship was a great experience. I learned more about the audit system that the firm uses. I met new wonderful people and got a taste of what working full-time in the firm will be like. I learned more about myself too and through critical self-review and asking others for feedback, I really experienced a lot of growth. And growth is what matters, ultimately.

Scientists don’t have the term ‘failure’, they only have the term ‘data‘. Every time I failed during my internship or even during the Spring semester, I saw it as data. Elections were painful, but it was a minor event in my life and it will help me improve for the future.

 

I was really formal during my internship and so I don’t think that I really got to make as many connections as I wanted to. I had lost sight of myself and I was barely rediscovering who Ophie was by the time I started.

When I met my career coach and internship buddy for dinner, my coach asked me about myself. We were at some grill downtown and I remember pausing. The scene seemed to go in slow-mo as I realized that hey, I don’t really know who I am as a person anymore. Who am I when I’m just hanging out at the bar with a drink in my hand?

I tried hard during the summer to really make a connection with people, but it’s hard to make a connection when you don’t really know who you are. And I did not know who I was, not fully.

In the end, I did accomplish the goal I had going into my internship which was to learn by experience. It taught me a lot about my strengths and weaknesses…and this knowledge, complemented by lots of prayer and hard work and the willingness to challenge myself, will take me far.

August-December: After my internship ended, I returned to CSUF to finish my last semester. I was only taking two classes, Audit and Tax. I also freelanced during this time and volunteered for a nonprofit to help with their writing. My audit teacher was actually my instructor during training in my internship and a director at the firm. He also helped develop the audit program the firm uses. He’s really cool and I enjoyed his class a lot. I think it might actually be the only class that I’ve taken at CSUF that I’ll actually miss!

Now that 2016 is ending in just a few hours, I can proudly say that I know who I am again. I have finally rediscovered myself… and even though I have impetigo right now, knowing who you are and feeling more confident in your own skin is the best feeling ever. 

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Grateful.

I’m super grateful for my internship this summer! The team is really friendly and I’ve had a lot of fun so far. It’s been almost a month since I started.

During this internship, I’ve had the chance to…

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PwC social at Dodger’s Stadium

Develop relationships

God has really blessed me! I had lunch/coffee with some managers, seniors and associates who were able to share some of their knowledge with me. I met one manager who is an alumni of my school and super chill and easy to talk to. I’m grabbing coffee tomorrow morning with a senior and then planning on having breakfast with my career coach, a manager, later this week.

A lot of the people that I’ve met so far have really inspired me, whether it’s the mentors I’ve made before my internship or the ones I’ve met during.

I know that right now, I can’t really give much back to the people who choose to invest in me. But I am definitely grateful for any help I get and will always do my best to pay it forward in the future.

I’ve also made friends with a lot of the other interns and they’re definitely my type of people.

Shadow a partner from the national office

The engagement leader also really likes this client and is here a lot. He’s energetic and has a super dynamic personality. Sometimes, he even does karate kicks in the audit room. I was lucky enough to shadow him for a meeting and also do a few research projects for him. One involved actually going through the client’s 10Q draft looking for grammar mistakes and another was researching on how many hundreds of dollars a 1 cent drop in earnings per share equaled to.

Once, I was sitting in my seat working on something when he came up and said brightly, “OPHELIA! What are you doing right now? >:D You look so focused!”

I, of course, was awkward as usual. BUT it’s all just a phase. One day, this awkwardness will disappear u__u… until then, though…

Do first-year work

What’s so cool is that interns can actually prepare EGAs! I know that this wasn’t always the case. So far, I’ve gotten exposure to a lot of first-year work which I specifically mentioned wanting early on in the internship. If I get full-time and come back to this client, having this prior experience will definitely be an advantage.

I don’t know what God’s plan for me is but I do know that I choose to follow it! Whether or not I get invited back, I’m excited to pay it forward in the future.

The other intern and I are also going to do a presentation on our favorite EGAs for the partner and other professionals on the team. I’m on this client the whole summer and the best part is that it’s only ten minutes, if that, from my house. Actually, these days it’s been more like seven minutes.

The mistake I mentioned before called Balcony Gate made me even more grateful for this internship. Not everything is perfect but I am so grateful for what I do have.

Sunday was a weird day. When I walked out to my car to get ready to go to the tailor, I saw that someone keyed the side of my car. It wasn’t a random “oops I was accidentally holding my key out and scratched your car” or “oops I’m a biker and I fell on your car” sort of scratch. It was like someone took their key and started scratching my car up on purpose.

THEN I was at my dad’s house and I fell down the stairs. It wasn’t the small stairs either. It was a full-on staircase. Ironically, I was thinking about my keyed up car before I slipped and fell. I only fell a few steps but it still hurt. Haha.

However, instead of going to bed feeling crappy, I actually went to bed feeling really really grateful for everything I have. At least I have a car… and one that has been very reliable so far and is super fun to drive. Like, this car is just so me guys. It’s a Lexus is300 and it is so me.

I went to bed feeling grateful for my parents, like my dad who saw how depressed I look and so he washed my car for me and now it looks great even with the scratches. And my mom who cares enough to want to pay my clothing alterations bill. Despite falling down the stairs or getting my car vandalized, I feel grateful that I even have a car and that I have people in my life who love me.

Above all, I feel grateful for God. So even if I didn’t have a car or a house, I’d still have hope and faith and that goes a long way. I really, really adore Him and I thank God everyday for everything He does for me, the people He put in my life and the things that I have.

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