“I’m not coming from a background where my entire family is doing finance,” he said. But some of the other students, he noticed, had been exposed to the fields of corporate banking and hedge funds because of their families’ experience in the field.
So Li, an international student originally from Shanghai, decided to learn everything he could from his classmates—from etiquette to insight into how financial markets work. Many of them, he said, began interning as early as freshman year.
“They had their part-time career, part-time jobs—and I was kind of jealous, honestly,” he said. “So that really pressured me a little bit, but at the same time, it encouraged me to do a better job.”
He continued applying throughout sophomore year, and landed an internship at Aflac. Around that time, he also began working with Jennifer O’Neil, associate director of career advising in the Gabelli School’s’s Personal and Professional Development office, who helped him improve his resume and tell his own story better.
“Before he even came to see me, he had gotten his first internship at Aflac and he did a great job of [not just]taking…an internship but leveraging his foreign language skills and coming up with an idea to penetrate the Chinese business community for [Aflac’s] products,” O’Neil said. “He’s just always thinking outside the box.”
This thinking allowed him not just to add an internship to his resume, O’Neil said, but “add value to Aflac in a way that another intern couldn’t.”
O’Neil said that her biggest role was helping Li take the skills he had acquired from Aflac, his work in school, and other hobbies and showcase them on his resume to highlight his unique interests, which extended beyond finance and academics. His first year on campus, he auditioned for the Fordham University Choir.
“When I went to the audition, I did not expect that it would be for this formal University choir,” he said with a laugh. “I thought it was a club, somewhere that could give you some kind of lesson—Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, Eminem, something like that.”
Li said that he was the only one who hadn’t been singing since high school or middle school, but after the director took a chance on him, he decided to stick with it for all four years.
“I learn very quickly. I think that’s one of the things the director [saw in]me” he said.
It’s that dedication that helped him land a summer internship his junior year with Bank of America as a fulfillment, service, and operations analyst.
“I was lucky enough to get a return offer from them,” he said.
After Li graduates, he’ll be starting as a full-time corporate banking analyst at their headquarters in Shanghai.
“I will be covering multinational corporations’ subsidiaries that are operating in Asia, in China, who have a revenue of $2 billion and above as well as some local corporations,” he said.
O’Neil said, often international students have to work hard to overcome some of the challenges they face, such as language barriers or lack of familiarity with the country. Li was a great example of how that hard work can pay off, she said.
“I tell a lot of the international students—get on the treadmill next to your American counterparts and put the incline on 10 and put the speed about two miles per hour faster than them, because that’s how much harder you’re going to have to work,” she said. “And he did it.”
Li said that he was grateful for the support from Fordham faculty and staff, like O’Neil, as well as the unique education Fordham offers.
“Studying in the city at Fordham Gabelli, you’re able to talk to people from all over the world; being able to emerge from such an environment has definitely broadened my horizons and given me more insight from different people of different backgrounds.”