Amy Wood always loved numbers at school, so applying for finance studies made sense. She cruised through her matric year, but at university an unexpected event threatened to derail her academic pursuits. Her story is an inspiring account of how, in the right environment, a student can flourish and discover the best version of who they are.

Amy Wood first heard of chartered accountancy in high school when prospective universities pitched themselves to energy-filled soon-to-be school leavers. A few months later, she was registered at a well-known residential university. The excitement soon wore off though, and Amy found herself floundering in the deep waters of her Bachelor of Accounting.

Even so, Amy made it through her first year, which she described as a wild ride. Despite the ups and downs, she enjoyed the content of her courses, and though her marks had taken a knock, she was assured this was normal as she adjusted to university life.

She started her second year with trepidation but also with a sense of optimism that was soon to fade. “I got to second year and had a mental health crisis. No one in my family had been through anything like it, so instead of telling people and dealing with it, I kept it all inside – but it didn’t work and ended up just blowing up,” she said, explaining how she failed two of her four second year modules.

Repeating the year was difficult for Amy – the impact on her emotional and psychological well-being was significant. But she redid the two failed modules and managed to receive marks that she was proud of.

Third year was about deciding where to do her Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting (PGDA). A recommendation from her friend’s sister inspired her to apply for Milpark Education’s CA Connect. “I didn’t get into honours at my university, but I was weirdly not upset about it as the rejection felt like confirmation that I needed to be at Milpark. I wanted to be at Milpark even though my previous university seemed like the natural progression.”

In fact, her residential university’s transition to online learning during COVID-19 had already given Amy a taste of what remote learning would be like. “I ended up doing a lot better when I was at home,” she said. “And the fact that Milpark would let me carry on with that really drew me. I’d also heard really good things about the support at Milpark, which at traditional universities sometimes feels non-existent.”

With her previous struggles, having extra support in a higher education context was crucial to Amy. She also realised that she felt like her anxiety was exacerbated by the noise and number of people at university campuses. “I found it very overstimulating and hard to focus,” she reflected. “Being in my own space meant there were no distractions, and I wasn’t on edge about people being around me.”

From the get-go, Amy was encouraged by Milpark’s focus on connection. She liked the diversity among her peers – people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. Early on, she joined an online study group but soon left, feeling that her study style didn’t match the group’s. But rather than retreat altogether, she reached out to the broader cohort and created a connection point for fellow students who had also signed up to work at a Big Four firm post-graduation.

Amy also embraced the lecturer consultations that Milpark provides – which, as an introvert, felt like a brave step. “I loved that I could have one-on-one consultations with my choice of lecturer,” she said. “The lecturer’s support was unbelievable, and it was not something I had ever experienced at my previous university.” She credits her Financial Accounting lecturer, Christopher Guattari-Stafford, in particular.

But the online Friday drop-in sessions were the highlight of Amy’s 2022 studies. Facilitated by Terri-Leigh Ryklief, a student support and development advisor whom Amy gushes about, the weekly meet-up was for students to connect and reflect on their study week. “It helped to know that we were all going through the same things and having the same struggles…That was so special for me because, in those moments, I knew I wasn’t the only one struggling.”

Despite her earlier challenges in studying, Amy found her feet and regained her confidence at Milpark. She has since passed her ITC exam and is enjoying her working life as an audit trainee.

Amy hopes her journey inspires her younger sisters to know they can persevere and achieve what they wish – no matter the setbacks. And she wants young girls who love numbers to see her and know what’s possible.