Friday, September 24, 2010 Wisconsin Real Estate Viewpoint Blog
Well begun is half done: Pleasant surprises in Madison by Graaskamp Center Staff
The new school year has begun, and we are continuing a series that we started last year called Meet Our Current Students where we hear from current real estate MBA students about their experiences in the program. We kick things off in fall 2010 with a post from Class of 2012 MBA candidate Julia Xia:

This was my first trip to the U.S., and I had expected that adjusting to things would be more difficult for me. However, Madison has had this magic power to make me feel at home, and I fell in love with this city at first sight. In fact, it has never stopped giving me little pleasant surprises throughout my first month on campus.

The first surprise is the high quality of the students and the close-knit community. This year, the Graaskamp Center has recruited 3 international students to the real estate MBA program, all graduates from top colleges in their home countries. All first-year real estate MBA students have strong and diverse professional backgrounds in the real estate industry. They hail from private equity funds, development companies, and consulting firms. During the first week, the second-year real estate MBA students welcomed us with a party at a classmate’s home where I got a detailed introduction to school life. I felt that we were already closely connected, and I am glad to be studying along side these smart people.

The school year started with a nice orientation to help familiarize us with the campus, classmates, professors and resources. During the orientation, we had a great night at a welcome reception hosted by Graaskamp Center Assistant Director Sharon McCabe’s home, meeting and talking to the faculty of the Center. I was impressed by their insightful views about the real estate market not only in the U.S. but also in other emerging markets such as China. We have a small group of real estate MBAs which allows the Center to help me reevaluate my career path one-on-one and set the direction for future improvement.

The supportive alumni of the Wisconsin Real Estate Program also gave me a warm surprise. We had a nice welcome party with local alumni during the orientation week, and we connected with some other alumni after that. They took us to a football game; it was the first time I watched an American football game. It’s a great game and has helped me understand the tradition and culture of Wisconsin better. During the recent meeting of the Graaskamp Center Board of Advisors, I had the chance to talk with several leaders about their fruitful experience in the real estate industry. Again to my surprise, everyone was very patient and helpful and shared knowledge from their real estate practice, which I can’t learn anywhere else.

The class schedule is busy but very useful. In the first semester, we are taking general business courses plus one course within the real estate specialization. I feel that all the courses are designed with a purpose to guide us in the real business world and to help us to make effective decisions in our future careers. I especially like Real Estate Finance and Investment. Professor Abdullah Yavas is skilled at teaching the real world applications of our curriculum.

As we say in my country, “Well begun is half done!” I have had a good start, and I’m looking forward to the next two years of life studying here in Madison!

Julia Xia is a first-year MBA student in the James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate. Formerly a real estate consultant and asset manager in Beijing, Julia graduated from Peking University with a bachelor's degree in finance and banking.