The WBS Foundation Year: Opening doors for Silvia to achieve her dreams
13 November 2020
After graduating from studying BSc Accounting & Finance (with Foundation Year) and gaining a placement year at EY, Silvia looks back on her time at WBS as she prepares to return to EY within a graduate role as a second year Associate.
Being the last of five children, but the first generation to attend university, receiving confirmation of my place on the BSc Accounting & Finance (with Foundation Year) course at the University of Warwick was super exciting and an extreme milestone for my entire family. Born in Italy, but originally from Ghana, my family moved to London when I was just six years old with the hopes that my siblings and I would receive a better education.
I always had my hopes set on attending a top Russell Group university but circumstances which affected my ability to study towards my A Levels meant that my grades were severely affected. The foundation year, however, allowed me to live out my dream and also equipped me with the fundamental skills required throughout university, an opportunity that direct entry students do not receive. A blessing in disguise, I call it.
Why Accounting and Finance? Growing up my love for maths was evident and after discovering that physiotherapy was not the career I wanted to pursue, my uncle (who at the time was an accountant) suggested I look into the profession since my love for maths would come in handy. Following his advice, I then took an A level in accounting which was by far my favourite subject. At the time, I had already started looking at potential future employers and this is where my love for EY began. Through their various insight days I was able to experience EY's thriving people culture first-hand.
My best memories at WBS include my personal tutor Peter Corvi, members of the undergraduate team at WBS, namely Heather and Georgia, and my placement year presentation. Peter was extremely instrumental throughout my time at WBS. He not only implemented the foundation year, which allowed me to attend WBS, but he also supported me from my second until my final year, even after he had retired. He is the blueprint for personal tutors and without Peter's support I would have really struggled to balance my education with my personal commitments. In saying this, I believe the relationship you develop with your personal tutor at university is extremely important and will honestly make a huge difference in your university experience.
Georgia and Heather have also been a great support thought my entire degree. From day one they got me involved in anything and everything within WBS, where possible. I became a WBS ambassador because I wanted to help make their jobs easier and it was honestly the most rewarding thing to do outside of my academic responsibilities. I found helping out with open days and interview sessions extremely rewarding.
My placement year presentation is something that I had to give just after completing my industrial placement with EY. This was great because I got to ease myself back into being a student while applying the presentation skills I had further developed from being employed for a year.
During my time at WBS I joined various societies such as the Afro-Caribbean society (ACS), Accounting society, Piano society, big band and first aid societies, just to name a few. Societies are a great way to meet new people outside of your course as well as feed personal interests. I then went on to being the ACS treasurer in my second year which allowed me to apply my course knowledge with my passion for everything that the society had running at the time which included volunteering opportunities with neighbouring secondary schools in Coventry.
As previously stated, I completed a placement year as part of my course, stretching my degree to 5 years. Every module I had studied at WBS up until my placement was very applicable to my role now as a Junior Audit Associate. The accounting modules became extremely useful when I had to complete both Accounting and Assurance professional ICAEW exams during this time. There are so many transferable skills that I learnt from taking a year out, the main being how to prioritise work and ensure deadlines are met without compromising the quality of the work being done.
I would highly recommend a placement year to anyone considering it, as you never know what the outcome may be. My advice to those considering it would be:
- Don’t rush into the wrong industry
Take your time to figure out what you really want to spend a lot of your time doing in the near future and then look for work experience within that industry. Try to start thinking about it within your first year, even if you don’t gain experience within that industry, at least by then you know where you would like to be by the time you graduate. This will also allow you to pick elective modules that best suit your career path.
- When on your placement year do the best you possibly can, as it could result in a job offer
After completing my placement, I was offered a graduate job which then meant I did not have to worry about applications in my final year. Whereas some of my peers were trying to juggle job searches and interviews with their education. You always want your final year to be the smoothest year so you can really focus on your studies, which I was fortunate enough to be able to do. Always try your best within your placement year as you never know where it may lead to!
- Earning while learning – perfect!
This is where my first point comes in to play; on your placement year you are most likely earning while learning about the industry, which is great! But what makes it even better is if the industry you are working within is one that you know you want to pursue a career in once you graduate, it makes the experience a lot more fun as you’re passionate about the role.
- Never be afraid to ask questions
My ultimate top tip to make the most out of a placement year experience is to always ask questions if you do not understand something. You are not expected to know half as much as your colleagues so do not feel intimidated if you feel a little lost. But above all, enjoy it. Get stuck in with work social events as much as the day-to-day work. I had the privilege of attending numerous work parties and a social event at the Royal Ascot, which was a lot of fun.
In regards to career support while I was a student, WBS CareersPlus assisted me greatly in securing my EY scholarship, which resulted in my placement year. It was last year that I was offered a graduate job after completing my placement at EY and now I am set to start as a second year associate in September 2020, having completed two professional ICAEW exams and receiving a further three exemptions due to the modules I took in my undergraduate course. This was something I had only ever dreamt of before starting at WBS!
Graduation was a little different this year. I’ve had numerous graduation picnics due to Covid-19 and social distancing guidelines. Most recently, my family threw me a gradation party. Personally, I will be celebrating my graduation up until I walk across that stage so technically it is a blessing in disguise as I have an excuse to continuously celebrate my achievement.
My top tips to prospective undergraduates looking to study at WBS would be to ensure that they immerse themselves in the university lifestyle. Speak to academics, join different societies, and develop a bond with your personal tutor, and most of all engage with the course content. It can be overwhelming, but the sense of achievement is second to none once you fully apply yourself. Also, ask for help if you need it. There is so much support that you are doing yourself a disservice by suffering in silence. Finally, make sure you enjoy your time at WBS because after that comes the world of work.