Mara Clifford, a Cal State Fullerton accounting student, poses in front of unique architecture in Budapest, Hungary.

Mara Clifford in front of some of the unique architecture in Budapest, Hungary.

Thanks to the KPMG Leadership Edge Global Advantage Program, which provides international professional development opportunities for aspiring accountants, Cal State Fullerton Mihaylo College sophomore and KPMG intern Mara Clifford ’21 spent part of her summer in Budapest, the capital of Hungary.

“We are really thrilled that Mara was selected to this elite internship program,” says Vivek Mande, professor of accounting and chair of the Department of Accounting. “This is incredible opportunity provided by KPMG for Mara to develop her leadership skills and invest in her future.”

Clifford discusses what she learned, what it was like visiting Eastern Europe and her plans for the future.

What were the high points of your experience in the Global Advantage Program?

The high points were definitely when we went to explore the city as a group. The other participants in the program were very friendly and came from different places and backgrounds. We had a lot of time to learn about each other while we explored the beautiful city of Budapest. Whether taking Monsterroller Tour, learning to make strudel, or seeing the St. Stephen’s Basilica and the Parliament Building, we connected with each other and had a great adventure.

The most impactful part of the program was learning about one of the company’s cyber security managers, Andreas Orset, and his journey from the military to being paid to test outdoor equipment in all conditions through Norway, and now is a part of the KPMG cyber security team in Norway. It was amazing to hear how someone can pursue so many paths in life, and now find his home with a company like KPMG. While it can be difficult to know exactly what the endpoint of your journey is, his story helped us realize that it really is about the stops you take along the way that create the adventure.

How will your participation impact you in the future?

The leadership program gave us the opportunity to look at life with a new set of eyes. Traveling has always been my passion, and a part of this is learning about the unique characteristics of different cultures.

Working with people from around the world gave us a new understanding for the different qualities that leaders demonstrate. By being aware of diverse personality types, the program better prepared us for knowing how to bring out the leader in those around us.

Mara Clifford and other young professionals who were part of the KPMG Leadership Edge program at the Parliament Building in Budapest, Hungary.

Mara Clifford and other young professionals in Hungary as part of the KPMG Leadership Edge program.

What were some of your favorite places in Hungary and what was the culture like?

Budapest is an absolutely breathtaking city full of history and culture. The city streets are busy, with outdoor restaurants and shopping everywhere you look. It was interesting to try the local dishes, like goulash, along with tasting wines that are available only in Hungary. It was very enlightening to talk with the locals as well, because many of them moved there from around the world. This creates a really exceptional mixture of cultures.

One of my favorite spots was the Széchenyi Thermal Bath. These natural hot springs flow into pools and fountains where people swim under the crisp blue sky, surrounded by yellow fortress and neo-baroque statues. It was a fairy tale-like experience.

Fisherman’s Bastillion provides you with a picturesque view of the city while feeling as if you are looking out from castle walls. Behind you, the roof of Matthias Church is covered in colorful Zsolnay ceramic tiles that form a pattern all around the top.

[For more on visiting Hungary, visit the country’s official tourism website.]

The Hungarian Parliament building in Budapest, Hungary.

The Hungarian Parliament Building, arguably the most famous building in Budapest. Photo from Mara Clifford ’21.

Imagine a student is considering accounting as their major. Why should they choose this path?

My decision to pursue accounting came from the goal of owning my own business. In my experience, your ability to understand the financial background of a business will allow you to protect yourself, and others, while making more informed investment decisions.

What many people do not realize is that accounting has a great social and community aspect to it. If you are interested in accounting, or even just taking some courses to develop a better understanding, definitely consider joining the Accounting Society or Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) to connect with others and learn more about the different opportunities. It has been through learning with others that I have gained more insight into accounting and all that it has to offer.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

In the next five years, I plan on continuing my career path at KPMG and obtaining my CPA license. One thing that I have learned through this whole journey, is that you never know where exactly you are going to end up and sometimes your hard work will pay off with the opportunity of a lifetime. KPMG offers many career paths, and while I am currently pursuing the audit practice, I look forward to learning more about what unique avenues are available.

For More on Accounting

Mihaylo College offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in accounting, covering such in-demand areas as accounting information systems, taxation, compliance and auditing. The college has the only accounting program in Orange County specifically accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

For more information, visit the department online. Or read more of our articles on accounting education.