An impressive six AUC School of Business students were ranked among the top-seven participating students in a recent EY taxation competition held at AUC.
Collaborating with major corporations has always been a main pillar of the AUC School of Business in its aim to provide cutting-edge experiential learning to students across various disciplines. Such commitment not only ensures that undergraduate students are more prepared for work life vis-à-vis contemporaries from other universities, but that they are also at the forefront of the market before they even take a full step into it. The annual EY taxation competition has recently been a great illustrator of just that, with School students continuously besting those coming from other institutions. This year was no exception.
Out of the seven undergraduate accounting students participating in the competition on November 14, six came in the top seven, with the top four comprised solely of School of Business students. Dina Sakr took in first place; Salma Farrag came in second; Pakinam Bakr grabbed the last spot on the podium; while May El Aswany, Salma El Besha and Mohamed Kesseibi came in fourth, sixth and seventh, respectively.
To find out more about how such excellence was manifested on the day of, we spoke to the competition’s two highest-ranked students: accounting and finance double-majoring seniors Sakr and Farrag.
How did your participation in the competition come about?
Sakr: We were recommended for the competition by the Department of Accounting. The entire situation was very tight because of midterms and all, but it was a big opportunity for us. We went in thinking that it was [going to be] a group project; only halfway did we realize that it was individualized. We thought it was going to be a competition among universities. The competition itself wasn’t hard per se; it relied on us putting to practice the information that we gained in the [day’s] session and what we learned in our [university] classes. Around 25-30 students from various universities participated, with seven accounting students coming from AUC. We didn’t feel that we were better than other universities; we just had more of a background. The session allowed us to put theories into practice and understand the importance of several topics that we had learned about in class.
Farrag: We were chosen as top students to participate in the competition. Even though the timing was very tight because of midterms, we valued the opportunity. I’m really glad we did. We really benefitted a lot. What I would generally say is that the best thing about the session was that all of our questions were given sufficient answers. Everything was logical and made sense in real-life settings.
What was the day’s structure like?
Farrag: It was a full day from 9 to 5. We had the session first from 9 to 3, and then took an exam. The discussion portion of the day was a highlight as they [EY executives] paid a great deal of attention to what we as students got out of the day.
How beneficial do you consider the competition to have been from a practical-learning perspective?
Farrag: In taxation, real life isn’t really all that different from studying because, at the end of the day, it’s all a format and a template. The important thing [about the EY session] is the understanding [that we got out of it]. We understood so many things that we hadn’t previously. The output, though, was more or less the same.
Sakr: The session was very useful for helping us understand the logical principles behind the usage of certain formats and rules. I could’ve easily graduated and applied the format unspectacularly [in the future], but if any law changed, I wouldn’t be able to manage at all. Nothing was really considered rigid in the session and everything was more of a conversation. Before going, I thought that taxation was something that anyone could’ve done, even without the math – that anyone could simply just apply the format. I thought the entire field was systematic; turns out it’s anything but.
Do you feel that collaborations with giant corporates such as EY benefit School of Business students in a way that is different from what they learn in class?
Farrag: Of course – in terms of practical exposure as much as anything. The most important thing [about this] is that we found out what they [major corporates] are looking for. I discovered that it’s not just about what we study, but also about how we present ourselves and our critical-thinking levels. It [the day] was also very useful as a networking event.
Sakr: We always thought of taxation as a field solely reliant on memorization. We now understand that it’s primarily built on analysis. We understood how tax laws or regulations could impact the market. It’s very important to be aware in that respect.
Would you consider participating in a similar competition again in the future?
Sakr: Absolutely. The context of the day and how it was presented were excellent.
Farrag: We were taking notes, not because we were expected to, but because we really felt like we benefitting considerably. The fact that it was just one day was very beneficial in the midst of our hectic schedules. We probably wouldn’t have been able to participate if it wasn’t. That made it very balanced and beneficial.