MSA Student Finds Program Tough, Worthwhile

Choosing to come to the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign for graduate school made a world of difference, literally, for Thanomkwan Poorisat, a native of Uttaradit who has a Bachelor's degree in accountancy from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. Poorisat worked as an auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Thailand before deciding to pursue her master's degree at the University of Illinois.
The Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA) program has two tracks - one for students with little experience with accounting and one for non-US accountants who want to have a better understanding of US accounting concepts and practices. Poorisat is pursuing the latter option, a rigorous 12-month program that builds on undergraduate coursework in accountancy and gives students the flexibility to customize their curriculum through electives. More than 80% of the MSA students are from outside the US.

The MSA program is "very tough, but is very worthwhile," Poorisat says. "The classes are demanding. We have a lot of hands-on assignments in addition to the daily readings."

Surprisingly, her biggest challenges are not the heavy course load and project work. Instead, the nuance of language and understanding American culture are truly what sets her graduate experience apart.

"Often the professor uses words that I don't understand," Poorisat says, "For example, I needed someone to explain the phrase 'arms-length transactions' because I didn't understand."

Another change is the difference in class participation. "In Thailand, it is considered almost rude to give input when the teacher is talking. But here, it is such an important part of your grade," she says.

MSA students also read case studies and work on group projects. "Americans do their group projects so fast," Poorisat observes. "When I work with international students, we get started a few weeks in advance. But when I work with Americans, I have to prepare myself to stay up late the night before."

After getting her MSA, Poorisat plans to pursue a PhD and return to Thailand to do accounting research. "A graduate degree in accountancy from Illinois is highly respected around the world. I hope to be a part of a strong alumni network when I return to Thailand."

--Lianne Zhang

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