I grew up on an ex-council estate in Newcastle and went to Gosforth Academy, a state school north of Newcastle city centre. At home it has always just been my mum and me – she brought me up as a single parent and has always been my biggest role model.
I was incredibly lucky to have been selected for the US Programme at Yale. On this programme, the experience completely transformed my attitude towards my ambitions – without them there is no chance I would have applied for the more challenging and prestigious courses that I did.
This newfound confidence was encouraged by the incredible people I met. The connections I made, both professional and personal, only happened because I was able to explore a world beyond my school in Newcastle. Without physically breaking out of your bubble it can be hard to imagine a life beyond what you know. I mean, it’s not every day that you get to have an afternoon tea networking session at the British Consulate in New York City!
After the US Programme I chose not to study in the States as business subjects tend to be taken at postgraduate level there. I ended up applying for university in the UK, and was accepted to study accounting at Edinburgh University. In the end though, I decided the debt would have just been too much for me, so I started to explore other options…
I was pretty confident I wanted a career in finance which led me to stumble across the apprenticeship-style option to ‘earn while you learn’. Once I saw the benefits of work-based placements, I remember wondering why I hadn’t seriously considered it before. Perhaps it was because my school teachers were keen on encouraging the university route for higher achieving students, as there’s generally a perception across England that if you don’t go to university you will end up in an unfulfilling job. However, once I had applied and was accepted onto the School Leavers programme at KPMG I didn’t look back.
This route has enabled me to earn a good salary, get essential work experience and attend university debt free in a different city, which has given me valuable life experience of what it is like living away from home – all this and I still get to work half of the year at home living with my mum. You can’t argue with that!
The US programme was my first time outside of Europe and it made me realise the benefits of studying or working internationally. I now see ‘abroad’ in a new light – as somewhere to work or study rather than just visit as a tourist, and while I chose not to apply for undergraduate degrees there I am determined to either complete a Masters in the US or obtain a job placement overseas.
Don’t be intimidated by the lengthy application process for apprenticeships, take each step at a time and put effort and enthusiasm in. They look scary but the process is there to find stars like you who are driven, determined and have personality! My main word of advice is be yourself, don’t be a robot – you can be the best in your field or the most intelligent person in the world, but if you’re in an industry such as mine where you’re client facing, they want you to be friendly and have personality – reciting a text book won’t cut it.