Interview with Erika Terrones-Shibuya - Yale-NUS College Economics Student

Education is one of the most important factors that influence a person's resources and experiences, and we want to share experiences of the up-and-coming generation professionals in Singapore. In this regard, our team at ValueChampion has been preparing a series of Q&A interviews featuring top students at different universities in Singapore.

This interview is with Erika Terrones-Shibuya, an economics student seeking a bachelor's degree from Yale-NUS in Singapore, expecting to graduate in May 2017. We recently spoke with her and asked her about her experience within her program and what she's planning to do with her professional future. 

What influenced you to pursue a degree in Economics?

My interests range from international development, community service, to finance. I was torn between majoring in Economics, Global Affairs or PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics). They were all fields I was passionate about. After some thinking, it all came down to the analytical tools I would gain from the major. Pursuing a degree in Economics would allow me to acquire quantitative and qualitative tools to analyze problems, while maintaining the flexibility a Global Affairs major offers. Most of what I learn in Economics is relevant to daily life and is an excellent foundation for further education.

What has your experience in the program been like at Yale-NUS College?

Yale-NUS College is truly unique, and as a member of the inaugural class, even more so. There are only around 150 students in my graduating class, which has allowed us to get to know each other well. We formed a tight knit community and it has grown over the years with the incoming classes. As a liberal arts and science college, the Common Curriculum consists of a wide range of courses such as Modern Social Thought, Scientific Inquiry and Literature & Humanities. This has allowed me to examine issues from a multi-disciplinary perspective. After finishing the Common Curriculum, we go in depth into our majors. I think the most valuable part of Yale-NUS is the tremendous amount of resources available to students. Everything from our Center for Professional and International Experience which offers opportunities of study abroad, internships, fellowships, to the Residential Colleges we live in, to the accessibility of courses at National University of Singapore and their campus, has provided me with an unparalleled amount of support.

Were there other schools you were considering, and if so, why did you choose this one?

Yes, I was considering schools in the US, UK and Canada. In fact, Yale-NUS College was the only school I applied to in Singapore. But I thought the opportunity to be part of the inaugural class of the first liberal arts college in Asia was a once in a lifetime. Though I wanted a multi-disciplinary education where I would be able to pursue my wide ranging interests, I wanted to stay in Asia for its economic and cultural dynamism. I believe Asia will be the most important region in the 21st century, thus being able to obtain a liberal arts education in Asia while maintaining the traditions of residential college living and liberal arts from Yale University, was the best of both worlds for me. Additionally, having lived in many countries growing up including the UK, Japan, France and graduating high school in Singapore, I was looking for a school which had a diverse student body. I highly value an international environment where different cultures, opinions, experiences come together to create a community of learning. At Yale-NUS, the international student body is very high at close to 40%. 

What is your favorite class so far, and why?

My favorite class so far has been Law & Economics, where economic theory is applied to the analysis of law. More often than not, when deciding on policy, legal and economic implications are intertwined. Taking this class has helped me better evaluate which policies maximize social benefit and how it can be improved upon.

What has been the most challenging aspect of this area of study, and was this something you had originally anticipated?

I think the most challenging, or rather frustrating, aspect of the study of economics is that there are many assumptions made during analysis that many times does not resemble to real life situations. I expected this from before but nevertheless, many economics tools and theories in economics are invaluable in helping to evaluate problems to give rise to a solution, or predict economic trends.

What are the best ways to network with your peers within your major? Clubs, study groups, online communities, etc.?

I think the best way to network with your peers is to have a multitude of occasions and approaches in communicating with them. Interaction in the classroom alone or only at society events would only spur the same kind of conversation topics. Ideally, if you would like to network with peers, interacting with them in various settings such as inviting them to go to corporate recruitment events, high-profile talks or discussing current events over lunch would allow for deeper connections. Although most of the people I “network” with within my major end up being close friends. 

Have you participated in any internships? If so, how many, how were they, and did you find the school’s resources to be helpful in helping you find this opportunity? If not, when will you apply for internships, and what is that process like?

Whenever I can, I try to get real-life professional experience in the fields I am interested in. So far, I have done three internships over the summers. In my freshmen year summer, I interned with UNIQLO Singapore & GrameenUNIQLO, which took place in Singapore for 7 weeks and 3 weeks in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The following summer, I interned in Regulatory Compliance at Deutsche Bank in Singapore. Last summer, I interned as a Global Markets Sales & Trading Summer Analyst at Credit Suisse in Hong Kong. I have sourced these opportunities myself, although the Center of International and Professional Experience at Yale-NUS has extensive career services and opportunities available for students. Internship application processes start early in the school year and often require online tests, in addition to many rounds of interviews.

What are your future career plans and aspirations?

After my summer internship with Credit Suisse, I received a Full-Time Global Markets Analyst offer in the Singapore office. I will start with them in 2017. Being in Global Markets allows me to advance my interest in finance as well as analyze how current events affect financial markets. I will be exposed to many different sectors everyday, which I am looking forward to.

Thereafter, I will remain open-minded about any opportunities that come my way. 

What advice would you give someone else trying to break into this field?

Stay flexible. Whether it is global affairs or finance, it is constantly changing. The problems and demands will not stay the same. However, there are certain skills which will remain important and are transferrable, so make sure to nurture them. Additionally, identify your strengths which will differentiate you from any other person. 

What resources or information would you like to help you think about your career that you’re not currently getting?

As someone who is interested in many things, as my career progresses, knowing how to strike a balance between being a generalist and a specialist while remaining successful in the industry would be useful. This balance is increasingly more important as the kinds of knowledge sought after are changing due to easier access to readily available information and technological advances. 

Do you have favorite books that have informed your outlook as an aspiring professional or leader? If so, please name them and describe why there are important to you...

Early in high school, I did not realize how widely applicable the study of economics was. One of the books which made me realize that economics is more than just inflation, demand and unemployment rates, is “Freakonomics” by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt. Thereinafter, I have been hooked on how economics is an indispensable part to understanding many issues troubling society today. Digging deeper into economic problems, such as income inequality, I like to read analysis and evaluations by prominent economists such as, Joseph Stiglitz’s “The Price of Inequality.”

Duckju Kang

Duckju (DJ) is the founder and CEO of ValueChampion. He covers the financial services industry, consumer finance products, budgeting and investing. He previously worked at hedge funds such as Tiger Asia and Cadian Capital. He graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics with honors, Magna Cum Laude. His work has been featured on major international media such as CNBC, Bloomberg, CNN, the Straits Times, Today and more.