International Student Athlete Preps for Life after College
April 10, 2017
When Brad Smethurst graduates from Catawba College next month, he’ll leave campus with two things: his diploma and a job. The Toronto area native is headed north, back across the border, to an associate position in the Assurance Group of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Smethurst was recruited to Catawba on a tennis scholarship and has been a four-year varsity athlete while he pursued a major in Accounting and a double minor – one in Information Systems and the other, an individualized minor in French Language and Culture. His plans are to join three others in his family, including his parents and his brother, in careers as CPAs.
"One of the big pros for heading back home to Oakville is that I will be working only 10 minutes from my parent's house, and I get to spend time with my family, including my nephew who is three and my new niece," he shares.
Smethurst calls his new job, "my dream job to start my career with one of the best accounting firms in the world." And while he's working, he'll be taking some courses to satisfy academic prerequisites for the beginning of the CPA course of study. After he gets those courses completed, he can begin the process of obtaining his CPA which takes about two years to finish.
Wearing a blue, long-sleeved dress shirt and navy slacks with dress shoes, Smethurst seems prepared for the outcome that he will enjoy after commencement exercises on May 13. By accepting the job back home, he'll leave on the table an offer he had as a fellowship finalist in N.C. State University's Master of Accountancy program. If he had decided to stay in North Carolina, he would have been guaranteed one semester's tuition in the MAC program, have gone through the fellowship interview process, and perhaps found one of the top accounting firms that would have agreed to pay the rest of his tuition and offer him a job when he completed his coursework. But, "a con about NCSU was that I was going to be away from home another year and probably a couple of more years."
Smethurst had originally applied for a summer internship at PwC in Toronto, but his application was initially rejected. However, thanks to a family connection, he later landed a meeting with PwC's campus recruitment division. The woman he met with told him to resubmit his application because there were still a few positions available. He did, and ultimately received a first interview where he was asked if he was interested in the just summer internship or a full-time position. Of course, Smethurst chose the latter option and "was over the moon" when he heard his good news after two interviews – one with a manager, the other with a partner at PwC.
"I've always found that accounting comes naturally and makes sense in my head," he says, flashing blue eyes and a wide grin.
But being prepared and being goal-oriented also seem to come naturally for this 22-year old.
He advises other students to "utilize opportunities that are presented to you" and to "look for opportunities to help yourself surpass everyone else."
"I feel some people do the work to get by, but they don't try to exceed everyone, be at the top of their class and stand out," he continues. "It's not just getting a "C" in the class, it's setting your goals as high as can be and being focused right from the beginning. The earlier you understand what you want to do and where you want to go, the better."
Smethurst credits being part of Catawba's tennis team with helping him succeed as an undergraduate, especially one in college so far from home.
"Being here has helped me grow as a person. I've had to learn self-reliance because being international, you only get to go home twice a year. It always helped me to have a good group of people around me and I was fortunate to have great teammates who have become some of my best friends. It has taken the sting out of being away from home and away from my family.
"A lot of what I've gained here has been in relationships. Content is crucial, but relationships are almost more important, with a professor, a peer, or another student – that's exponentially more important, in my eyes."
He gives two grand nods of recognition and appreciation to Accounting Professor Darin Spencer and to French Professor "Madame" (Marie) Langhorne whom he dubs "his two favorites."
"Professor Spencer has such belief and confidence in his students that they will achieve amazing things. It's hard for that not to rub off on you. He's unwavering in his belief and his support. I began talking about grad school in my sophomore year, and he was very encouraging and supportive. He always wants people to shoot for the stars and reach their maximum potential.
"Once I got to know Madame Langhorne and experience her classes, I began to enjoy it a lot more and found that I really wanted to learn the language and more about the culture. She's fantastic."
In addition to working and pursuing his CPA license, Smethurst says that traveling to Europe, particularly England, where his dad is from, is top on his list, along with traveling to France and attending the four tennis grand slams.