24-year old Mikael Axelsson from Germany just graduated with an MSc in Finance & Investment Management from the University of Aberdeen. Before that, he had already got his undergraduate degree in Economics from the same university. With an exciting entry-level job secured and the first CFA exam successfully passed, he explains why Aberdeen was the right choice for him - and why you might enjoy Scottish student life as much as he did.
Why did you choose the University of Aberdeen?
I chose to study at the University of Aberdeen because of its mix between history and innovation. It has been a place of higher education since 1495 and naturally represents a lot of tradition. On the other hand, it invests a lot into a modern campus. The new library alone has drawn a lot of attention and continues to be improve the academic life in Aberdeen. The university also offers all kinds of subjects and is one of the most diverse universities in the UK. I doubt that I would have met such a variety of people at a lot of other places. I never once regretted choosing Aberdeen Uni.
Mikael and friends on campus in Aberdeen. Photo: Neil Gordon for Study.EU
How did you enjoy the city? Is it a good place for students?
There are a number of things that make Aberdeen an amazing city for students. One aspect that surprised me when I first got to Aberdeen is the great nightlife. There are plenty of cool bars and nightclubs in the city that are all in walking distance of each other. These places, as well as restaurants and shops, also offer great opportunities for part-time employment should students wish to earn some extra money.
Personally, I really enjoyed the newly opened Aberdeen Sports Centre which offers state of the art gym facilities. There is also the aquatics centre which houses an Olympic size pool, a sauna, a steam-room, and much more. Other students may prefer the outdoors. The beach and its boulevard offer great places for jogging and even surfing. If you feel like it, you could even bring your gear and go skiing in the nearby mountains.
Did you participate in any extracurricular activities?
I joined the university’s rowing club and loved every minute of it. The rowing boats are stored in the club’s house at the river Dee which is the hub of any rowing activity. Training there and on campus was hard but I made great friends and got involved in a lot of races. Getting around Scotland to race and being involved in the committee made it a memorable experience.
It surprises me every year how many clubs and societies the university offers. At the start of the academic year the student’s association organises a fresher’s fair which gives the students a chance to get to know all the clubs and societies. Perfect for the sport and/or hobby you have had all your life, or something you have never done before. For example, I have had the opportunity to get to know the wine tasting society and the Nordic society; and there are so many more.
How did you get along with the locals?
The locals have been great! You certainly have to get used to the accent, though. They are always interested to hear about your home country and never treat you like you are not welcome. It is very easy to get to meet Aberdonians either in the pubs or at the events of the local performance theatres. The possibilities are endless!
You attained your undergraduate degree in Economics and Finance in 2016 and then decided to follow it up immediately with a Master's degree in Finance, also at the University of Aberdeen. What triggered that decision?
In Scotland, you can do a four-year undergraduate Master of Arts degree - elsewhere this would be called an Honours degree - which you can then follow-up with a postgraduate Master's degree, which is what I did. I graduated with a Master of Arts in Economics and Finance last year. I chose to stay in Aberdeen because the courses and content of the MSc in Finance and Investment Management programme convinced me. It includes preparation for the CFA level 1 exam. Especially for me that was ideal since I knew I would need that certification for my future career. At Aberdeen University, I got all the support that I needed. You have a full course preparing you for the test which is a great opportunity because it is a truly demanding task. After some hard work at the University of Aberdeen, I got my degree and passed my level 1 CFA exam. Another reason for staying in Aberdeen was that the University of Aberdeen generally offers a discount on the tuition fees for returning students like myself.
Looking back, what is your opinion of the Master's in Finance & Investment Management?
It is only one year long and within that year you will cover a broad spectrum which will give you a deep overall understanding of the field. We covered the basics of portfolio management, corporate finance, accounting, and quantitative methods. Moreover, the library has a computer room reserved for business school students. These offer access to Thomson Reuters Eikon 4 which allows you to gain access to current financial news and data. The lecturers are researching in the field as well, which means that your studies will always be stay relevant to the current level of research. Plus, with the international aspect of the degree I found it very enjoyable to learn what foreign students brought to the field of finance. I had the pleasure to meet students from at least a dozen different nationalities.
Mikael on campus in Aberdeen. Photo: Neil Gordon for Study.EU
How did the job search go?
The job search was certainly challenging but the university helped me to avoid common mistakes when applying to jobs. The career service helped me to write good cover letters and how to create the ideal CV. There is so much that could potentially leave a negative impression with your potential employer, so it is good to have some help. The university also offers a career mentoring programme which connects the alumni with current students. My career mentor gave me valuable hints on how to apply and what to expect.
The University of Aberdeen itself has built a reputation internationally and in the region over its centuries of research. Employers, especially in the region, value graduates from Aberdeen as they experienced them as motivated and eager. I landed a job myself with a leading financial software provider in Edinburgh where I will start immediately after graduation. I will be working with a cutting-edge product and be challenged in exciting client projects from day one. They also offer great learning and development opportunities to employees, which I am quite keen on. I am grateful for all the help I was provided with to get to where I am now.
If you had to sum up your experience at the University of Aberdeen in one sentence:
The University of Aberdeen not only broadened my horizon in the field of finance, but also allowed me to make friends for life.