Yana Khabina accepted the offer of a lifetime to study in the United States and ran with it – literally.
The track and field hurdler from Kyiv, Ukraine was recruited to join the track and field team at UToledo after her stellar performance as a semifinalist at the World Junior Championship in 2016.
Even though she was one semester short of finishing her bachelor’s degree back in Ukraine, Khabina couldn’t pass up the opportunities that UToledo and the United States could provide for her — academically, athletically and professionally.
In 2019, she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in finance. Thanks to an extra year of eligibility from COVID-19 in early 2020, Khabina started working on her master’s degree in applied business analytics while completing her final year on the track. She completed her master’s in August.
“I majored in finance back home and so I chose to do it here as well,” Khabina said. “I was always good with numbers, but I didn’t want to do mathematics because it was too scientific for me. Finance was interesting because it was related to decision making. The numbers give you information but also influence your decisions.”
Aside from being a student-athlete, Khabina devoted a lot of her time outside of classes and practice to Beta Gamma Sigma, a co-ed business fraternity that is reserved for the top 10 percent of business students. She served the organization as treasurer and president, where she promoted cultural awareness by inviting UToledo faculty members from Japan and Latin America to discuss how their cultural differences impact the world of business.
When Khabina reflects on her time as a Rocket, she has two favorite memories – one highlighting her time on the track and one highlighting her time as a student. Khabina ended her time as a UToledo hurdler with a third-place finish at the Outdoor MAC Championships.
“Throughout my time, I had really huge ambitions to place in something. I was always top eight but when you come from No. 1 in Ukraine and then being top eight in the conference, I wanted a medal,” Khabina said.
Her time in Beta Gamma Sigma also encompasses some of her favorite memories, including a trip to Chicago for the organization’s international conference. Khabina and another student represented UToledo at the conference, where they were able to network with fellow business students from across the globe and develop case studies.
“That was one of the most interesting experiences because it definitely put me out of my comfort zone,” Khabina said.
She wouldn’t be where she is today without the guidance of John B. and Lillian E. Neff College of Business and Innovation Department of Finance chair Dr. Alex Petkevich, who also started his journey in the U.S. as an international student.
“It was very beneficial to come and just talk to him and explain what is going on and he would give me ideas on what I can do better … I would always come to him and knock on his office door and be like, ‘Hey, do you have a minute? I have a problem again and I need your advice,’ ” Khabina said.
Petkevich was eager to guide a student with a similar educational path as himself, especially Khabina, who was always searching for her next opportunity.
“Yana impressed me as a very motivated individual who is ready to take on challenges in her academic life and sports career,” Petkevich said. “Moreover, she possesses a unique intuition and is capable of working through a large amount of information and focus on the key important aspects of the topic.
“Most importantly, Yana is not afraid to voice her opinion and challenge everyone around her.”
UToledo offered Khabina the mindset and academic skills to be her best self in the business world and beyond. The Neff College of Business and Innovation’s Student Managed Portfolio experience gives students the opportunity to use their prior knowledge to manage a $1 million portfolio from The University of Toledo Foundation. She also served as a graduate assistant for the class, alongside associate professor Dr. Ozcan Sezer.
“You have to give a whole presentation in front of your classmates. So that was interesting because, besides just preparing a presentation, presenting was really hard for me because English is not my native language. It was good practice.” Khabina said. “It was a very practical class, which I think I learned the most in because my theoretical knowledge finally came into practice and was used for practical things.”
Going to college away from home can be a tough transition for everyone, especially when you’re almost 5,000 miles from home. Thanks to UToledo’s International office, Khabina and other international students can have help finding a community on campus and in Toledo. But unlike many other international students, Khabina did have the support and friendships of her track and field teammates.
“It was tough, I’m not going to lie. I had a culture shock at first,” Khabina said. “The international office hosts a lot of events for international students …I attended a lot of events and met a lot of people. There’s not many people from my country or neighboring countries so it was hard to make friends, but the international office does a great job of integrating all international students together.”
Now that her time at UToledo has come to a close, Khabina is excited for her next chapter.
At the end of September, she started Owens-Illinois’ financial leadership development program. After that, she hopes to work in corporate finance before eventually starting her own business or working in venture capital.
Her biggest takeaway from her time at UToledo: never be afraid to ask questions. She started her master’s in information systems but learned about business analytics from a classmate and decided that she wanted to switch. Khabina went to the department chair and was informed that it was the last day to change programs. She was determined, running all over campus to collect the signatures needed to finalize the change.
“Have the courage to be bold and to ask questions,” Khabina said. “Just do it until that door closes in front of your face, but you can always knock on another door.”