International student, Mariana Aguilera is acutely aware of the importance and value of education. Having seen firsthand just how inaccessible it can be in Venezuela, where a deteriorating education system and terrible political, economic, and humanitarian crises deny opportunity to so many, Mariana and her family decided it was best for her to come to the United States for college. With extremely educated parents—a doctor with three specializations and a businesswoman with an MBA from the best business school in Venezuela—demonstrating and emphasizing the importance of education, Mariana never questioned whether she would attend college, knowing it would prepare her professionally and provide her valuable skills to someday contribute to the repair and revitalization of her country. Although she had her choice of several top colleges, Mariana ultimately chose U-M—impassioned by the way her school counselor, a Ross MBA alum, spoke about her Michigan experience. Arriving on campus having already completed an internship at a bank in Venezuela with top economists, Mariana soon found herself curious and passionate about economics and finance.

Being an international student, particularly one whose first language is not English, has greatly impacted Mariana’s experience here at U-M. Beyond overcoming language barriers in class, Mariana is also far from her family which still faces a myriad of challenges and dangers daily. Though concern for home can be a distraction for her, it has also motivated her to find others who understand her unique situation. Mariana found a home in the international community at Michigan through joining the Michigan International Student Society (MISS) in her first year. Though she’s enjoyed assimilating to American culture, attending MISS events has provided her a connection to life outside of the U.S. as well as space to develop several life-long friendships. Mariana has also partnered with other Venezuelan students and organized panels to talk about the Venezuelan situation from their perspective. Given the misinformation on the matter, they decided to share with the U-M community their stories and try to stop the propagation of fake news surrounding Venezuela.

Mariana has taken advantage of many new experiences and opportunities at U-M, including minoring in statistics and serving as the VP of Finance of MISS—a leadership position which has helped improve her communication and organizational skills. She’s also interned with Mercantil Bank where she was able to practice her public speaking and networking skills working with the Treasury Department. Mariana has also worked as a research assistant twice. First with the U-M China Data Center developing a case study to analyze the US Educational Structore; then later assisting U-M Econ professor Pablo Ottonello with literary reviews of academic papers. Both experiences taught Mariana important technical and analytical skills. Additionally, this past summer 2019, Mariana interned with PwC assisting their Transfer Pricing team on client-focused projects. By utilizing problem solving, analytical, and research skills; and participating in technical development exercises using Tableau and Alteryx software, Mariana gained many insights into how to accelerate and visualize firm services. She has already been offered an internship for the summer of 2020 with PwC’s Chicago office, an opportunity she is greatly looking forward to.

Looking forward, Mariana plans to enter the workforce after graduation (anticipated in May, 2021), though she would also like to complete an MBA later in life. Whether she ends up in market research, investment banking, or at a consulting job, Mariana trusts herself as well as the skills and confidence gained from her U-M Economics degree will help her excel in any job or career. She is extremely grateful for the sacrifices and support of her family who has guided her in all aspects and help her to be a better person every day. Mariana views every experience she’s had at U-M as its own accomplishment, knowing small things in life add up and will propel her to where she wants to be in the future.