Master of Science in Economics Program: Junjie’s Experience

Master of Science in Economics Program: Junjie’s Experience

Originally from Chengdu, China, “a city famous for pandas and hotpots”, Junjie came to the United States to pursue higher education and discover a different culture. Completing Northeastern University’s Master of Science in Economics Program gave him an opportunity to add a competitive set of skills to his resume, experience the West Coast, and make new friends before starting the journey back home.

East to West

Junjie began his US education at Rutgers University, in New Jersey. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Human Resources Management, he was ready to embark on his next adventure. “I wanted to explore the country more, and I thought it would be fun to go to the West Coast for graduate school. I was also aware of the trend toward global industrial digitization, and I wanted the opportunity to study data science as it applies to economics.”

A Google search led him to Northeastern University in Seattle, where the Department of Economics offers a unique program for students with an interest in economics and data science. Core courses provide a foundation in economic theory and quantitative methods, while electives give students an opportunity to apply economic analysis to particular policy areas.   

Junjie “couldn’t think of a reason not to join”, so he relocated to Seattle in September 2021 to attend classes. While he was excited about the courses and his surroundings, settling into a new place and study routine wasn’t easy. “Because of the pandemic, the rainy season, and an algorithm class that I didn’t understand at all, I struggled and felt helpless at first.” 

Finding belonging

Northeastern’s staff and faculty were instrumental in helping him feel more at home. Once a month, Jun Ma, the Program Director, checked in with him over Zoom. “He gave me lots of encouragement and helped me find solutions to problems. I’m grateful that he took the time.”

The Global Learner Support (GLS) department at Northeastern also played a role in helping him feel more connected. “GLS organizes relaxing, enjoyable activities for students to improve their language and social skills. This helps international students integrate into their new lives faster.”

Junjie’s favorite GLS event during his time at Northeastern was a kayaking/boating experience in Lake Washington. “One hot summer day, we all gathered by the lake and embarked in pairs on kayaks and boats. We rowed, socialized, and enjoyed the coolness and beautiful scenery.”

Deep connections

Soon, Junjie was not only fully integrated into his Seattle campus life, but he was also making life-changing connections. “One of the things I most enjoyed was having the opportunity to meet students from different majors. Their academic backgrounds were very different from mine, and they thought differently than me. Getting to know them helped broaden my horizons.”

Two classmates, Jay and William, made an impression on him. “In just two months in Seattle, Jay visited more parks than I had after living there for longer. And I really admire William’s ingenuity — he always asks questions and initiates interesting discussions. With his lead, our classes were always full of energy and fun.”

Professors Scott Payseur (Macroeconomic Theory) and Shahriar Sadighi (Statistics for Economics) also inspired him. “Scott’s classes were very detailed. He patiently explained every knowledge point, and every one of his classes combined theory and real-world news that help us better made sense of concepts learned.” 

“Shahriar graduated from Northeastern University with a Ph.D. in Economics; now he’s a senior economist at Amazon. Shahriar is approachable and well-spoken and has boundless energy. He always carefully prepared the content of each class and demanded a great deal from us. The quality of his class was very high.” 

Experiential learning

In terms of the program’s strengths, Junjie highlights experiential learning, which provides students with the opportunity to apply what they learn in the real world, both through internships and class projects. 

“The curriculum is designed for real-world impact. For a database design class, I developed a database for a digital game platform from scratch with four of my classmates. For an econometrics class, we analyzed U.S. economy pandemic data in partnership with a consulting firm in Seattle. These practical projects helped us experience what work would be like.” 

As Junjie prepares to return to his home country, he’s confident that he’s gained valuable knowledge and skills in two of the areas that most fundamentally shape society.   

He’s also developed a soft spot for the Rain City. “Seattle is blessed with beautiful scenery and home to several technology companies. You can truly achieve work-life balance here because, after a lot of mental activity, you can always go hiking and enjoy great food.” But he gives prospective students a heads-up: “Get your raincoat ready.”  

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