Saran, also known as Pitcher, may have followed his brother to Gongaza University from Bangkok, Thailand, but it didn’t take him long to find his own niche. In addition to building a solid community of friends, advisors, and professors, Pitcher also earned multiple scholarships and held on-campus jobs and assistant roles. He even found himself playing the baritone horn in the Zags pep band at nationally televised basketball games — despite never playing the instrument before in his life.
“To be honest, I just didn’t want to wait in line to go to a game!” the Master of Accountancy student laughed. “I went to the info session and the band director said they had a demand for the instrument and that it was relatively easy to learn, so I decided that I would try it. Obviously, I wasn’t amazing, but I could play well enough to fit in, and do the movements with the rest of the band. It was fun!”
Read on to learn more about Pitcher’s experience studying for his master’s degree in accountancy as an international student at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.
Scholarships for International Students at Gonzaga
Pitcher says it was helpful that his older brother carved a path to Gonzaga for him, offering scholarship advice and showing him where to find work opportunities. But both boys were influenced by a guidance counselor from their high school back home, who recommended Gonzaga as an example of a smaller, community-based university with outstanding academics and scholarship opportunities for international students.
“I like that, at Gonzaga, I could really immerse myself into college life and just cherish my time,” said Pitcher. “I made a lot of friends and I’ll do my best to stay in touch with them.”
Part of Gonzaga’s appeal was that it was affordable compared to similar schools. In addition, there were plenty of scholarship opportunities, such as the Washington CPA Foundation Accounting Scholarship, which, according to Pitcher, were well advertised.
“The university website does a really good job of outlining the scholarships available to all students,” said Pitcher. “Then the international office at Gonzaga also has a ton [of listings], because that’s a question they get from a lot of international students. They provide guidance on places that offer scholarships, and then they would also advise us on which ones were attainable.”
Being a Resident Assistant (RA) on Campus
Pitcher credits much of his academic success with staying active on campus and taking advantage of opportunities through the School of Business Administration at Gonzaga.
“I was very involved with housing and residence life,” said Pitcher. “I served as a resident assistant (RA) for two years and then served as our assistant residence director for two years.”
As an RA, Pitcher met many other international and domestic students and built lifelong friendships. “I would share my culture through conversations, or sometimes I’ll watch a movie or a TV show and my friends would come in and watch those with me,” said Pitcher. “A lot of culture is shared through foods. We like to test out different restaurants and talk about how authentic they are.”
According to Pitcher, working in the dorms is a great way for international students to find a community while studying in the United States. “Being an RA may be intimidating for first-year international students, but maybe get involved with the residential hall association first, which organizes events,” said Pitcher. “It’s not a paid position, so it’s a lot less commitment, but it’s still a great way to meet people because they put on events for the whole campus.”
International Student Life at Gonzaga University
Gonzaga University is located in Spokane, Washington, a city with a small town feel, nestled east of the Cascade Mountains. Skiing, hiking, and other natural activities are right at students’ doorsteps. There are also the benefits of city life, such as great restaurants and fun things to do at night.
“I would go on a three-mile run along Centennial Trail pretty much every other day,” said Pitcher, “It was a great way to just go outside. I also like to walk downtown [because] there’s so many cool places to see and it’s just a good way to relax from school.”
Pitcher also found an authentic Thai restaurant close to campus he likes to visit when he craves homestyle cooking. “When I go in there and speak Thai, I usually get a little something extra,” he said. “It’s [a] nice [place to go] when I’m missing home.”
Finding Internships in Spokane
Pitcher took advantage of the many opportunities available to him as a student in the business school at Gonzaga, including internship opportunities through the New Venture Lab. The lab is a student-run group that works with Spokane’s entrepreneurs to help develop products and start business ventures. Interested entrepreneurs get free business consulting services through the New Venture Lab, and students get to practice being project managers.
“The students help entrepreneurs in Spokane with marketing research and some financial analysis,” said Pitcher. Former New Venture Lab clients include a small-batch artisan tea company, a sustainable agricultural solutions company, and several other businesses throughout Eastern Washington.
Pitcher worked with a financial advisory startup looking for strategic marketing advice. “They wanted to publish books and create seminars,” he explained. “… I was looking at the revenue and how they would be able to make money if they decided to sell the books, or if they decided to charge for the seminars, and what it would take. It was interesting work.”
Pitcher said it was easy to find opportunities like the one he had through the New Venture Lab, as long as students knew where to look and paid attention. “The positions are very well-advertised and there are so many programs,” he said. “Program managers do a good job of making sure that the … message [gets] across.”
Accountancy at Gonzaga: More Than Just Income Tax Return Filing
Pitcher’s parents are both accountants back in Thailand, but he never thought he would follow in their footsteps — until he met his Principles of Accountancy professor, Gerhard Barone, PhD.
“He explained accounting in a way that wasn’t boring, [which was] surprising to me then, and economics as well,” said Pitcher. “So having that kind of connection, it was like a spark that helped provoke my interests.”
After speaking with his counselor and discussing accountancy with his family, Pitcher knew he was choosing the right field of study. He even enrolled in the CPA Certificate track, which allowed him to start taking graduate-level classes during his senior year as an undergraduate.
“The proximity to the professors and advisors is so great at Gonzaga,” said Pitcher. “I have gotten to know all of my professors, and developed very close relationships with certain ones, especially when I worked as a graduate assistant this past year. I was able to do some research with my professor and got to know him well.”
Gonzaga University has a nationally recognized Master of Accountancy program, with a 2021 U.S. News & World Report ranking of 25 in the United States. Gonzaga also has the highest Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam pass rate on the West Coast and a 95% job placement rate three months after graduation.
For now, Pitcher is busy finishing up his master’s degree, but he is already thinking about doctoral programs in accountancy and maybe even a career as a professor someday.
“Coming to Gonzaga really was a blessing because of all the opportunities available with the different firms that are recruiting and my name coming up through my professors,” said Pitcher. “I attribute a lot of my success to the professors I have developed relationships with and my ability to get to know professors. It’s just one of those things that wouldn’t be available if I went to a bigger university.”
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