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Success story: Sean O’Connor wins Fulbright grant to Sri Lanka

Areas of Study , Finance Success Stories | Apr 19, 2012 |

Especially for a student as adept at business as Sean O’Connor (GSB ’12), it takes tons of passion and drive — not to mention will power — to turn down a $70,000-per-year offer with a major bank.

But that is what Sean did.

What awaits him instead after graduation is a spectacular honor and experience: a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Sri Lanka, where he will live from October 2012 through July 2013.

“One of my main thoughts in accepting the grant was: ‘If not now, then when?'” Sean said. “I don’t expect that I’ll have another opportunity like this in my life.”

Sri Lanka was exactly where Sean wanted to go if awarded the Fulbright — not only for its intriguing culture and mix of influences, but also for its potential to strengthen his understanding of international business.

“Sri Lanka is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and I expect that gaining experience in this country will open a lot of doors to me in the future,” said Sean, a finance major. “Sri Lanka is in the early stages of development. When I was at the Beijing Center in China for both semesters of my junior year, I saw that most of the opportunities in China for foreign direct investment were gone. As a nation that is just on the cusp of development, Sri Lanka will be quite exciting.”

Fortunately, the commercial bank at JPMorgan Chase, where Sean had accepted a full-time offer this past fall, was understanding of his decision, showing their support by inviting him to join the firm after he has finished his time abroad. Sean will need to undergo a month of language training before he leaves this fall, but he now has a whole summer to plan for himself. He is applying for internships, but he always has a fallback position in helping out his family at their restaurant in Spotswood, New Jersey.

We at Gabelli know that the middle or high school students Sean will teach in Sri Lanka will be fortunate to have him at the front of their classroom. Congratulations, Sean!

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