For second-year Masters of Applied Economics (MAE) student Sougandh Kohli, the subject of economics has always had a strong presence in her life. Growing up in New Delhi, her father made a point to openly discuss the family budget; being an architect with variable cash flow, he exposed Sougandh early on to the importance of expense management. Her grandfather was also an active (though informal) associate to a national party, so discussions surrounding domestic and international policies were also frequent in her home. During the financial crisis in 2007-8 when globally economies were struggling, India’s real estate market saw a boom, Sougandh became interested in financial economics—fascinated by the correlations between various economic indicators.

Sougandh earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from New Delhi University (in 2013 and 2015, respectively). It was during her master’s work that she formally encountered economics while interning with the National Institute of Public finance and Policy in 2014. Though she wasn’t initially familiar with the public finance domain or the tools utilized therein, Sougandh had the opportunity to meet some of the best economists in India, learn about various industries, and work with tools like R. This is also where she decided on a career in financial economics. Before committing to a higher degree in the field, however, Sougandh wanted to gain some working experience and took a position with the Royal Bank of Scotland where she stayed for 3 years as a senior risk analyst.

Motivated by conquering challenges, in 2017 Sougandh began a public policy internship with Young Leaders of Active Citizenship working with members of Parliament to address real and pressing issues in India. There, she worked with creating fiscal space in their state budget, providing her hands-on experience with public finance and the insight that an economist’s job is not only to present the best solution theoretically, but also one which is possible to implement. Realizing she needed to build on her economic fundamentals if she hoped to grow in this field, it was time for Sougandh to pursue a second masters.

Sougandh’s enthusiasm for economics is fueled by the field’s focus on problem-solving in addition to how integral it is to everyone’s lives. As a mathematician inherently drawn towards efficiency and accuracy, applying quantitative skills and tools to various issues excites Sougandh. In particular, financial and international economics appeals to her—especially given their social relevancy in today’s globalized world where predicting correlations between integrated markets can be of vital importance.

Though she had not travelled alone or internationally before, Sougandh ultimately chose U-M’s MAE program for many reasons including the well-respected faculty from whom she’s already learned a great deal; the course structure that would allow her to leverage her quantitative background; and the highly engaging international center which not only provides many programs to help with the transition into this new culture, but also many resources to make life easier for students even before they arrive on campus.

Since arriving in Ann Arbor, Sougandh has gained self-confidence and a great network of peers. Though graduate school can be a trying time, she has found more positive than negative experiences and found a strong sense of belonging. Looking forward, Sougandh hopes work in the regulatory space for financial or research institutes focusing on international markets and foreign currencies. She also already expresses a desire to continue her education in the discipline and plans to apply to PhD programs after completing the MAE program.