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Natalie Smith

Natalie Smith

Natalie, why did you choose to take the Flying Start Programme at Henley Business School?

‘I’d always wanted to do an apprenticeship with one of the Big 4 firms, but then I saw a brochure which mentioned the Flying Start Programme.

I thought it would be great to get a degree and a guaranteed placement with PwC, and – provided you get at least a 2:1 – a job at the end of it. It seemed like a very stable route to go down, and I really liked the fact that accommodation is provided whilst I’m on placement, so I got to experience living and working in London without having to worry about the cost.

I wanted to get the ACA (Chartered Accountant) qualification, and another reason why this course is so good is that you get 12 exemptions from the ICAEW, so that means when you finish university, you only need to take three more ICAEW exams to qualify. It’s one of the quickest routes to becoming a Chartered Accountant and I think it’s the only course that offers this many exemptions.’

What were your expectations, and have they been met so far?

‘I knew from the start that it would be a tough course – if they are offering twelve exemptions, they can’t make it easy!

But the highlight so far has been the placements – being at PwC for three months each year breaks up the course too, and earning some money whilst I’m learning is a bonus!

I’ve also really enjoyed the social side of uni, especially when we get together with the Flying Start students from different years. I’ve really built up my network and it really makes you feel at home when you see other Flying Start students in the office, and they introduce me to their connections – you get to meet so many people.’

How has it changed you?

‘It’s made me grow up – you obviously have to be on your game when you’re on placement, and I think it’s made me more organised, even when I’m back at uni. I’ve got into a more structured routine, so I’m up earlier, ready for 9am lectures and I’m more focused on getting my work done.’

And what of the future?

‘I’m looking forward to working full-time at PwC and gaining some experience there, and then maybe specialising in forensic accounting.’

What advice would give to anyone considering this programme?

‘So much of it is about building relationships and teamwork – you’ll learn so much about how to work with people. But the work is intense and you do have to keep on top of it.

Whenever people ask me what I do, so many of my friends say ‘Oh, I wish I’d done that, it sounds really good. The guarantee of placements is so good – with a normal placement course, there’s always the challenge of finding the right company and make all the arrangements, but on the Flying Start, it’s all sorted for you.

It is a hard course, but if you’re serious about becoming a Chartered Accountant, this is the quickest way to do it – and you get the uni experience as well.

I would 100% recommend this programme.’