man-standing-on-mountain-top-looking-at-sunsetThe future, as it turned out, would take me to a 4 year university in my home state. Yup. I’m talking about none other than that school whose mascot is a gigantic Anteater (which is carved in stone right outside of the Bren Event Center) also known as UCI.

Because—let’s face it—as cool as the snow looks on the East Coast and as much as I wanted to do my own laundry, you just can’t beat the climate and mom’s home cooked meals in California. I know. Pretty anti-climactic. But it gets better. I promise. Maybe.

The next step about the whole college thing was deciding what I wanted to major in. I always thought it was kind of funny to ask students fresh out of high school what it is they want to spend the rest of their lives doing when very few of us know at 18, whether by lack of experience or opportunity to gain some experience. During my first year, I put down Math as my major; I decided I should just pick something since I just needed to get rid of my lower division requirements as a Freshman anyway. But as my second year approached, I realized that those upper division courses that really pertain to your major were kicking in quick. So, like most teenagers, I decided that the best way to deal with this problem is last minute. And I learned the hard way.

As I began taking my math classes, I realized that there just wasn’t any interest. Coming to class was more a chore than it was a learning experience, and I figured that if this was the way I was going to feel about this topic for the first 3 months out of the next 2.5 years, then I needed a change. Dragging my feet over to the career center, I took an aptitude test and spoke to some counselors. Although I was disappointed to see that my Xbox and party-throwing skills weren’t listed as some of the top professions, I was pretty interested to find out that there were other routes more fitting to my personality and abilities: accounting, business economics, and marketing. Huh. Who’d have thunk?

While my parents would have been thrilled to see me triple-majoring and it would have been a good conversation starter, I didn’t really quite feel like being in school for 100 years. So in order to help me get a better understanding of what each major entailed, my counselor suggested I sit in on a few classes for each just to get a feel for what I’d be getting myself into (and I highly recommend this tactic for anyone who wants some insight into different areas of study).

Long story short—accounting won.

In part because it included bits and pieces of business and marketing, but also because Accounting and I just clicked like old friends. It was like settling my foot into an old pair of Birkenstocks I hadn’t worn in a long time.

But because I had decided to change my major during the second half of my sophomore year, I had to take summer classes for the rest of my college career every year, as well as any winter intermission courses that were being offered. Did it suck? Yeah. But was it worth it? Yup.

And, of course—what we’re all here for. In school and in the industry, the word CPA gets thrown around a lot—especially the closer you are to graduating. Like I said before, the decision for most people is usually a hard one. As if you’re not overwhelmed with college loans, studying, and overall school-related things enough by the time you graduate, there’s that dauntingly large CPA Exam that hangs over your head like the clown in Bart’s room from The Simpsons. You know it’s there, but you don’t want to look at it. It scares the white blood cells out of you, but you play it cool when people are around. After doing tons of research, asking lots of questions, and tightrope walking along the line of uncertified accountant and certified accountant, my fellow accounting major friend finally decided take the plunge after months of teetering.

But for me, the decision was easy (bet you didn’t see that one coming). And let me tell you why.

My parents struggled a lot through their lives when they came to the states; they were only 16 and 17 years old. They moved from apartment to apartment with their families, struggled to learn English as they finished high school, and find jobs to help pay for food, rent, and general living expenses for themselves, their siblings, and their parents. When they decided to get married, my dad worked as a janitor for a while, and my mom as a nanny just to make ends meet. So—trying to do better for myself, my future family, and my current one is a huge motivator.

Secondly, I believe in doing something with your life that will affect other people’s lives in a good way.

A lot of kids will usually think of doctors and nurses as a profession that earns the most respect and helps the most lives. While this is true, we sometimes neglect the tons of other professions that do the same thing, if maybe on a more metaphorical level. I may not know how to perform open heart surgery to give someone a heart transplant in order to live; but I can help struggling parents stick to a long-term financial plan that will help them save enough funds for their 3 kids’ first years of college so they become successful self-providers thereafter.

Third, there’s something pretty cool about being in an industry that affects everyone’s lives one way or another whether they realize it or not.

We all have money on the brain, worried about where it can take us, how it limits us, and what we could be doing to be smarter about it. As a CPA, I feel like this profession won’t only educate others and enhance their lives, but definitely my own. I know it’ll keep me on my toes and keep me sharp.

As I begin to study for my CPA Exam this summer, I know there’ll be times when I falter or get off track. There may even be times when it seems out of reach (I’m sure plenty of you are nodding your heads pretty emphatically here). While my enthusiasm for the Exam will shift between the spectrum of “I’ve got this” to “I hate all living things,” I know that the motivation behind why I’ve decided to go down this road in my career will always remain constant.

Thanks for reading, everyone! And also for giving me a chance to share my story. Wish me luck! I’ll need it!

CPA Journey of the Week Series

James Nguyen - Part 1