The Columns

My W&L: Amanda Garcia ’16

— by on September 5th, 2016

Amanda Garcia '16

“The university has instilled in me a curiosity that expands beyond the classroom.”

“Have you heard the joke about the interesting accountant?”

The answer is supposed to be something along the line of “No, because they don’t exist,” playing on the generalization that accounting isn’t exciting. However, the opportunities I have had as an accounting major at Washington and Lee have proven that wrong.

When I came to W&L as a first-year student, I knew I wanted to major in accounting, but what I didn’t realize was that there are so many different careers within the accounting field. Each accounting class taught me something new. I conducted a fraud risk assessment of a Fortune 500 company in Professor Hess’ Anatomy of a Fraud; I learned how to use the software QuickBooks and Microsoft Access in Professor Ballenger’s Accounting Information Systems; and I travelled to South Africa with Professor Alexander’s spring term class to educate the South African Revenue Service about FIN 48, a new standard of financial accounting for income taxes. My intern experiences in the affordable housing industry and the media and entertainment industry only added to my growing list of potential careers. I always felt overwhelmed when being asked what I wanted to do after college, but then I found my true passion one day in an individual income tax class: Puerto Rico.

We had just finished learning about expatriation and the exit tax when Professor Alexander asked us, “What if someone doesn’t want to pay taxes, but still wants to be a U.S. citizen?” The answer was to move their residency to Puerto Rico. I was intrigued as we discussed the pros and cons of living on the island. I am of Puerto Rican decent and visit the territory almost every year to see my family, but learning about some of Puerto Rico’s tax incentives sparked a new interest for me.

Washington and Lee provided me with additional opportunities to further pursue my passion for Puerto Rico through the lens of accounting. In Professor Bai’s Cost Accounting class I researched and presented the cost of Puerto Rico becoming a state. I was even able to pursue this passion through an extracurricular leadership position. I interviewed and was chosen as the State Chair of Puerto Rico for W&L’s Mock Convention. One of the responsibilities of my position has been to connect with elected officials on the island. Four years ago I never could have imagined I’d be on the phone with members of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives discussing the political landscape of the island, as well as its hopes for statehood and access to Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

Through each of these experiences, my passion for Puerto Rico grew so much that I decided it was imperative I study abroad there. I found a summer program through Spanish Studies Abroad, an affiliate of Washington and Lee, which allowed me to take an accounting course at Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in San Juan. All within my study abroad experience, I was analyzing financial statements in Spanish, eating mofongo and piraguas, and experiencing firsthand the political, economic, and social effects of Puerto Rico’s territorial status.

If I hadn’t gone to W&L, I don’t think I would have found myself studying in Puerto Rico or saying I’d like to pursue a career in tax. The university has instilled in me a curiosity that expands beyond the classroom. I don’t know exactly where my career path will take me in the future, but I do know that I will be the interesting accountant.