Post-Semester Thoughts

Hey guys, girls and others,

time for one last post. As I promised in the last one, I’ll give you my views on this whole thing and try to make it useful for those of you considering an exchange in Michigan (and convince those who aren’t). Here goes.

Looking back at the semester in Ann Arbor, I would heartily recommend it to anyone even slightly interested America – and there are many reasons to be interested: The people you work and study with are success-driven and entrepreneurial, America is still very influential in global trade and especially the financial industry, most of the top business schools are there (Ross consistently ranks around 20th in the world), the culture values success, individual freedoms and national pride (whether this is entirely a good thing is open to debate) and the country is extremely diverse both culturally and geographically. Ann Arbor might be a small college town, but that’s exactly why it’s such a great place to go to college! The Wolverine spirit is strong and almost everything is accessible without a car, a rarity in America. A2 is also close to many interesting cities such as Detroit, Chicago and Toronto and both Spirit and Delta fly directly from Detroit to almost everywhere, so the travel opportunities are there.

Now that the semester is over, I’ll give you my views on the courses to help with picking the right ones. Remember, one UofM credit equals two ECTS, so 15 credits is what Aalto requires.

Fin 320 Real Estate Fundamentals

This one was good, Prof Allen’s stories about his real estate career were motivational and the course had a solid content. As I wrote already in the introduction, a lot of work for 1.5 credits. We pulled a 16-hour all-nighter to finish the final group assignment. Though I said Prof Allen’s stories were interesting, his way of teaching wasn’t the most entertaining. He was really helpful and enthusiastic about getting his students started in real estate, connecting interested students with his business associates and even outright hiring some as far as I understand! Having said that, I would say take the course if you’re actually interested in going into real estate finance (we have a lot of those companies in Finland), but I’ll hold back my recommendation on this one.

Fin 321 Commercial Real Estate Finance

Quite similar concepts to Fin 320, but approaches real estate from a commercial developer’s point of view. Fin 320 is not a prerequisite for taking this course, even if taking it first helps understand the basic concepts. Taught by Steve Morris, another real estate guru with a lot of experience. Like Prof Allen, his presentation style was hard to follow and not too interesting. He had similarly great stories from his career though, and unlike Prof Allen invited a lot of guest speakers (most Ross alumni) to speak during the course. Similarly to Prof Allen, he helps his students connect with the real estate business world. Still, I recommend you to skip this one unless you’re really into real estate. Slightly lighter workload than Fin 320, 1.5 credits.

TO 411 Support with Excel

Overall a solid course. If you’ve used Excel a lot before, you can take it easy during the first month or so of the course. It gets interesting toward the end and I learned a lot of interesting stuff during the second half of the semester. Hila Etzion is a good and enthusiastic teacher and as a plus doesn’t do cold calling. Her assignments and exams have traditionally been much easier than Sanjeev Kumar’s, who also lectures the course. Two weekly assignments, one done during class and one outside, relatively easy three credits. Still recommend it after four months.

TO 414 Advanced Analytics for Management Consulting

The best and by far the most difficult course I took. Lots of work and late nights, but I didn’t mind because it always felt interesting and meaningful. Plus, programming skills aren’t going to get less important in the future. Sanjeev turned out to be quite flexible with assignments and willing to work with students on the deadlines. Oh, and he likes “seeing the fear in the students’ eyes” during exams. I recommend this one if you’re willing to put in effort during the exchange. Difficult three credits, but worth it.

Fin/TO 428 FinTech Innovations

A really interesting course. Andrew’s part was all about the new blockchain and peer-to-peer financing stuff. He went really deep into how these things work, so I went from not knowing what a blockchain is to knowing quite a lot about what’s going on in fintech. Bob’s part was more mathematical and had less to do with modern innovations and more with established financial modeling, such as the Fama-French three factor model. He did introduce us to some new models, though it would have been a better fit for an econometrics course. This course is very new, taught only for the second time during Winter 2018 and probably going to change considerably over the following years. Really easy, with Bob even telling the class before the last assignment that they’re giving out As unless you really screw up (and most didn’t). A really interesting course requiring minimal effort, though the assignments did give trouble to non-finance students. I recommend taking this one if available, three credits doesn’t get much easier.

PUBPOL 423 – Political Campaign Strategies

The wildcard pick ended up being really interesting! Knowing very little about the American political system, it was hard to keep up with the discussion during classes. The assignments were easily doable though, since they didn’t require going into the deeply technical stuff and I think Rusty accounted for my European-ness in grading. The final assignment, a political campaign plan, required a technical part but I was allowed to write it about Finnish politics. Overall a really interesting course and the one that gave me my best grade (A+, top of the class!). I warmly recommend this one, but only if you’re really interested in (American) politics. If you’re not, well, you wouldn’t consider this anyway.


So that’s it. Done. Over. Complete. The End. I hope you had fun reading my blog, if not please consider I’ve never done this before. I hope you found this helpful and that I managed to inspire you to go to America, or at least to participate in an exchange program anywhere. It is a really rewarding and eye-opening experience that you will never forget. Not many will get another chance to move to another country for such a lengthy period of time without taking a job abroad. Even though you’re studying, there’s still so much more free time than you would have in American working life. Go on, do it and if my blog left anything unclear (as I’m sure it did), don’t hesitate to contact me. Make a comment in any of the posts or if you’re an Aalto student, ask for my e-mail from the university.

And most importantly……………………… GO BLUE!!!


Touring America’s largest football stadium with fellow exchange students was a fitting sendoff – Go Blue!


Posted by Niklas

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