Features on seniors: Paul Cottam

Lillian Vila Licht


While we know that seniors are trying to avoid thinking about May, we have passed the 100 day mark, last week the STAT held a senior class Quizzo at the Trappe, and graduation is steadily approaching. “The Grizzly” wants to sit down with seniors to talk about their time at Ursinus and their plans for the future. We started with Paul Cottam. Cottam is a six-foot-nine, 3-year member of the men’s basketball team, current RA of Schreiner, member of the Airband Committee, and a Politics and Applied Economics double major. He also works with the student-managed investment fund looking at international equities, and spent a summer at an internship in Dubai.

What’s your favorite memory from Ursinus?

Hanging out in Wismer with my friends is pretty up there because it’s relaxing and easy going… if I had to pick one out, I’d probably say my parents came to a basketball game my sophomore year, which was pretty cool. I never had my whole family at a whole game before in this country [Cottam is from the United Kingdom], so that was pretty special for me getting to see all of them.

Did you enjoy being a part of Model UN?

It was really cool going to be involved in something like that and seeing what having a degree in politics could do for you because I had never been interested in politics before I had gone to this school. I didn’t take my first politics class until the end of sophomore year, but now it’s one of my majors and potential career options. I think going to Model UN was a big turning point in letting me see what I could do with the career and space and gaining an understanding of what actually goes on there and seeing the way it works.

Can you talk a little bit about your internship in Dubai?

So my brother lives out there. He works for a bank— Standard Chartered Bank in the UAE [United Arab Emirates] and obviously as a part of the ILE [Independent Learning Experience] requirement at Ursinus, you
have to do some form of internship or research, so I wanted to do an internship. I talked to my family about it and my brother basically said I can get you [an internship] out here and you can stay with me for the summer. He managed to put me in touch with some people. I spoke with them, sent them my resume, did an application process, and got
to intern there for 5 weeks [this past] summer. I was working in the wealth management division of an investment bank . . . [which is] basically an investment firm managing around 10 billion dollars in assets from various portfolios and managers. I was working on a team of six people. I would research securities on their behalf, look into companies’ financial statements, and try to project values of their stock price using financial models in excel. I would also edit and write portions of their publication.

Did you enjoy living abroad for your internship?

It was a pretty different make up from the UK or America where I spend most of my time. Everything’s brand new, but the culture is very different,
so you’ve got to be a bit more cognizant of the way you’re acting in public spaces. But it was really fun seeing a different part of the world. I’ve never been to the Middle East before. I got to interact with some people—some people I’m still connected with in various professional senses. It was a really cool experience getting to see a new place, understand the different dynamics of their economic political situation, and just to get to experience another different culture.

Since you are from the United Kingdom, what was being an international student at Ursinus like?

It’s definitely a different experience. The culture shock wasn’t really too much for me just because I think the UK and America are quite similar in some ways. There are still some things that are still very strange to me, like standing up for the National Anthem — didn’t really care too much for that. Other things were a just bit foreign to me like walking into Dick’s [Sporting Goods] and [there being] a rack full of guns that they’re selling. . . for me particularly, basketball was tough because we didn’t get to go home from August right through May, so it would be a long time without seeing my family, especially freshmen year. But there were other international students on the basketball team who I was pretty close with, and we figured it out together. So when everyone else would go home on winter break, we would all hang out together. We all had each other to talk to about it, so it never seemed as lonely as it might for other people because I had other people to share the experience with.

What are your plans after you graduate?

I’m looking for jobs in the U.S. right now, primarily looking in the D.C. area. I went to a career fair a couple of weeks ago in D.C. I’m currently applying
to both investment firms and international development firms in D.C. I’ve been in contact with some connections I’ve made through various [networking platforms] like LinkedIn, the career fair, and I’ve had my application flagged for the recruiter, so I’m hoping to hear back. It’s only been 2-3 weeks since I’ve been actively applying, so I’m still pretty optimistic.

How have your professors helped you succeed? Is there a specific instance that stood out to you?

Shoutout to Professor Karreth. He’s been really crucial in helping me find my passion for politics. Like I said, I didn’t really care before school started, didn’t mean that much to me, and I wasn’t super involved, but I think for one of my [Diversity] requirements, I took International Politics with him and I was instantly hooked. I didn’t even want to skip the reading. I loved participating in class and learning more things about the world. And I think I took him every semester since then. I really liked his classes and he’s very good at motivating students to do the best work they can, always has time — always answering everyone’s emails. So I was inspired by the effort he puts into teaching these classes, and the passion he has for studying these things wore off on me and I found it very interesting too.

Do you feel Ursinus has prepared you for life after college?

It’s done a great job education wise. I think I’ve matured
a lot in the last four years. I learned a lot about forming relationships just living in the residence halls, understanding how to live with other people, [learning how to] compromise— you learn more about yourself doing those things. As far as academic terms, I’m super grateful for the education I received here. I really like the professors and the people I’ve worked with on ResLife. Everyone’s always really open to help, especially the alumni network. I would say everyone around you is putting you in a position to do the best you can, but then again, someone has to hire you, so they can only do so much, but I feel like I’ve been cultivated in a way to perform to the best of my ability.

Are there any last thoughts and reflections on Ursinus that you would like to add?

I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had here the last four years. I’ve met people that I will be friends with for life, I met my girlfriend, and I met a bunch of influential professors and staff, so I’m very thankful for the four years I’ve had here.

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