March 28, 2016
Jade Allen started her college years at West Virginia University with the intent of studying agricultural biochemistry, with a minor in economics. She then switched gears, studying biology, while hanging on to her economics minor.
It was when she found herself checking the stocks on her phone rather than paying attention in her biology courses that it dawned on her: economics was what she wanted to focus on, with a minor in biology.
Allen is a student athlete; she joined the women’s tennis team with a full scholarship, where an unfortunate injury at the end of her sophomore year ended her athletic career. A self-proclaimed “high-strung” kind of student in the Honors College, Allen balanced her coursework, accounting internship hours at the Administration and Finance Business Office, team practice schedule, social life and wanderlust personality with the help of one simple thing.
“I’m the girl on campus with a coffee in my hand everywhere I go – and if my friends see me without one, it’s usually an exchange of, ‘Did you just come from coffee, or are you going to coffee right now?’”
She added, “This one I’m drinking right now, with three extra shots of espresso added, barely even does anything for me. It’s just a force of habit at this point.”
A native of London, England, she had never been to the United States before. She took a chance on WVU when she arrived in the country for the start of her freshman year, without visiting the campus prior.
“I’m a risk-taker, and I always have been,” Allen said. “Of course there was the chance that I’d get here and not like it, or not find my place at the University, but it was something I was willing to try, and I knew regardless of the outcome I’d have no regrets.”
Since Allen is from a big city herself, she wanted to try her hand at living somewhere with more of an opportunity to be outdoors.
“I had other offers in bigger cities, like cosmopolitan cities, and I knew that I wanted to see the ‘real America,’ so I figured that West Virginia would be the right place to do just that.”
Allen said the things that drew her to WVU were her conversations with then-women’s tennis coach Tina Samara and the feel of the school – after talking to coaches from several other universities that, Allen felt, had a standoffish vibe in her exchanges with them.
“It just felt like home here; the people are very nice, and it was surprising to me to come live in a place where the people were so warm and outgoing,” she said. “People are very reserved at home. If you go to a checkout counter and say hello to the cashier, that person might think there was something wrong with you. I remember when a random store associate asked me how my day was, and I thought to myself, ‘What? I don’t even know you!’ It’s very different, very welcoming here.”
Her favorite experiences at WVU include attending big sporting events on campus, which makes her feel like a “true Mountaineer.”
“Going crazy at the games with all my friends, cheering our heads off – that’s fun, but what was even cooler was an experience I had while visiting a mall in New Jersey,” she said. “Someone in our group was wearing a WVU shirt, and a random mall customer yelled, ‘Let’s go!’ And we yelled back, ‘Mountaineers!’ And, it wasn’t just there – it happened to me in London, as well, in the iPhone store!”
Almost five years after her first semester at WVU, super-senior Allen reflected on her early memories of her freshman year.
“I remember the first class I walked into; there was a student from Alaska, who grew up in Georgia, and came to class with a cowboy hat on. And me, I’d only seen cowboy hats in John Wayne movies, so I looked at him and said, ‘Can I see your hat, please?’ I mean, I was amazed, and when I got to hold it, I was amazed that I was holding a real cowboy hat,” she said. “I remember saying, ‘Wow, this is real – and please, keep talking!’ in reference to his southern accent. He then said back, ‘Can you keep talking, too?’ and I was bewildered, because I’d never been told that I had an accent before. I’m from England; this is how we talk! That was such a funny moment.”
Her accent also subjected her to a three-hour session of her friends recording her while speaking in quotes from Mary Poppins and the Harry Potter films.
“If I hear someone yell across campus, ‘Pip, pip, cheerio, God save the queen,’ I know my friends are shouting at me. It makes me laugh.”
Allen said the most noticeable takeaway of her time in West Virginia, when she returns home for holidays, is the slang she has picked up.
“I say ‘y’all’ all the time, and I can’t stop – and it creeps my friends out, that I say that word with a British accent; it just gets thrown in when I’m home, and our term for it is ‘you lot,’ so it’s quite noticeable when it happens,” she said. “I also say the word Twitter with an American accent, apparently.”
Having never been to the United States until she was 19, she has traveled far and wide on the East Coast in the last five years, from Maine to South Carolina. Her bucket list includes visiting all 50 states, and she’s well on her way – except for the inevitable Hawaii trip, someday. “My friend and I looked up flight prices, and when the results came up, we thought we’d wait until we were ‘grown-ups’ to be able to afford it.”
Her summer plans are to hopefully backpack with her best friend on the West Coast in the Great Divide, and remain in the United States to work for one year before applying for finance Ph.D. programs.
“I think after switching from major to major in the last five years, I need a bit of a break from school – so I’d like to take advantage of my option as an international student to complete my OPT (optional practical training) to work while I apply for a Ph.D. program in financial economics.
Her dream job? “I’d like to be a hedge fund manager,” she said. “I’d like to get my CFA (chartered financial analyst) certification, which is hard to get. But my motto is always that if you’re going to try for anything, it’s go hard or go home.”