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Asper Master of Finance student reflects on one year in Canada

International student Frank Tao recalls the opportunities and challenges of his MFin

August 17, 2023 — 

Frank Tao, a Master of Finance (MFin) student at the Asper School of Business, has just marked the one-year anniversary of his arrival in Canada, and as an international student, his motivations for pursuing an MFin lie somewhere between practicality and self-discovery.

“I came to Asper because, first, the University of Manitoba is prestigious—it has history and is a first-tier university. Second, the tuition was affordable for me,” says Tao.

He describes how an oversaturated job market for finance in Shanghai, where he previously studied and worked, has created an environment where high-value degrees are becoming a basic requirement.

“In Shanghai, it is very competitive,” he says. “Here in Canada, a CFA is more than a basic requirement; it is something that takes time to achieve, and it stands for a high quality of knowledge.”

He notes how many of his classmates might also have practical reasons for wanting to pursue an Asper MFin. “I think if you ask the question, why did you choose to pursue an MFin at Asper?, to my international classmates, their answer would likely relate to immigration,” he says.

For Tao, there isn’t much use in offering more romanticized reasons for joining a program because he has learned that practicality does not preclude creativity, discovery or opportunity.

Throughout the program, Tao heeded as much advice as he could, getting involved, putting himself out there and seeking job and networking opportunities. He is invested in giving back, across campus and the city, dedicating his time as a corporate finance tutor at UM and as a volunteer for the 2023 World Police & Fire Games. In 2023, Tao received a UM Emerging Leader Award for his dedication to the community.

Tao volunteering at the 2023 World Police & Fire Games.

When asked why he volunteers, Tao mentions a few reasons.

“I looked at LinkedIn, and I saw that many successful professionals had volunteer experience. It seemed like something I should do. I also wanted to get involved and practice my English. It wasn’t until the third or fourth volunteer opportunity that I realized I was doing it because it made me really happy.”

Tao, perhaps like many graduate students, felt the pressure of everything he “should” do to make the most of his time at school in Canada. A finance major to the core, he even tried to quantify it once or twice.

Tao’s practical leanings did produce opportunities—to succeed and to slow down. Since joining the program, he has made the most of extracurricular opportunities at the Stu Clark Graduate School while studying Asper’s CFA-certified curriculum.

He credits the Asper Career Development Centre for supporting him, noting that they have a keen understanding of how international students may face unique challenges.

Now, in his third term, he is spending more time immersing himself in Winnipeg, a city he has already come to love.

“In my first semester, I attended as many campus events as I could, competed in case competitions and got involved with the Asper Professional Graduate Student Association. In my second semester, I only had time to study and work. Now, I’m taking time to recover, explore the city and see all the great history and beauty of Winnipeg,” he says.

In pursuing what he felt he should, Tao is discovering what he can do in his career, in Winnipeg and beyond. He shares one of his new experiences in the city.

“I’ve learned that driving can be for fun,” he says. “In my experience, driving was a way to get from one destination to another, but here, an old roommate and I would go on drives without a destination or a map. I saw a lot more of the city’s beauty that way.”

A year into his time in Canada, Frank Tao still has destinations in mind—career success, advanced learning, a robust network—and his experiences at Asper are helping him to also embrace and enjoy the journey.

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