Thursday, July 9, 2015

The More Than Halfway Point

I can’t decide between whether I feel like I’ve been away from home for forever or whether I can’t believe it’s already been two weeks since I’ve left. At this point in time, the days feel like they’re slipping away. And yet, I’m still meeting people for the first time; I’m still getting to know people. It’s a weird place to be in.

This morning we all met up with Ms. Thrift, although Alyanna, who wasn’t feeling well, opted for a digital conversation instead. It was finally cold-ish and foggy outside, and I felt very odd, dressed in typical El Cerrito weather attire. In fact, I wore a light jacket the entire day. 

Class was interesting in that, for the first ten minutes, I couldn’t figure out the concept Professor Mesznik was trying to get at. I had gotten used to his somewhat bizarre and specific examples, but this time he jumped around from topic to topic even faster. And the way he transitioned between these topics was by asking questions that he himself couldn’t even answer and say “Well, I don’t know.” It took a bit of time before I understood that he was trying to emphasize the prominence of uncertainty, especially in finance. Nothing is ever 100% certain, except for uncertainty, of course. 

Somehow, along the way, he got into talking about funds – all kinds of funds. You name it, (and there’s not a very high likelihood that) we talked about it (but high enough). Following the discussion on funds, Professor Mesznik gave us some more tips on Excel. In particular, he showed us the trend pertaining to return rates during leverage buyouts (or gearing). This trend was revealed to be that the effect of leverage magnifies your return, whether positively or negatively. For example, if you borrow a lot of money and your investment or share decreases in value, the return rates are significantly lower. Whereas, if they do increase, the more money you borrow the higher your return rate will be. At first this seemed counter intuitive to me, but made more sense after some thought.

At lunch I met Sora, a future senior like myself, from Nebraska. She told me she was taking “Molecular Biology” as a way to explore the Biology field she planned on going into in the future and to narrow down potential paths. I also had the pleasure of meeting Jackie, a current Columbia student, working for Columbia’s Housing staff. Although I had met quite a few alumni at the Columbia dinner that seemed like it happened ages ago, it was different to hear from a current student who was extremely up-to-date on issues, admissions, gossip, professors, and overall information about the school. I liked how she didn’t sugarcoat things and how when I asked her whether or not she would recommend people to go to Columbia she said very simply, “It depends on what you’re looking for.” Jackie shared how she had originally dreamed of going to Princeton her whole high-school life until she actually visited it and hated it. Furthermore, she went on to say that getting a sense of the actual environment and people at prospective schools was very important, much more important than I was beginning to think it was, and to keep an open mind.

The morning session was to funds as the afternoon session was to bonds, or, in a nutshell, we learned about all kinds of bonds this time. The cool thing about bonds is that bonds are instruments directly issued by the people trying to borrow money and bought subsequently by a lender, instead of the other way around. And to continue the trend, we also ended the class with a bit of math relating to bonds. Ms. Santos explained the meanings of different variables related to valuation and the formula for coupon payment.

After class I hung out with some friends for a bit, went back to my room, and took what I had expected to be a short nap, only to wake up at 7:30 and realize I had slept for three hours.  Figuring that the cafeteria was closed by then, I walked a short ways to have another delicious Five Guys burger. Initially, I was on my way to a different place but I didn't thoroughly research how to get there and was just short of aimlessly walking around before spotting Five Guys as my alternative. Once back in the dorm, I was able to have another evening of peace and quiet, doing a bit of SAT studying here and talking there. I was actually able to talk with one of my best friends on the telephone, lying on my bed with my toes pointed up to the ceiling like the way you would expect in a John Hughes movie. So, that was good. 

Tomorrow, I'll probably try and do something more exciting, squeeze all the juice that I possibly can out of the big apple.  

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