2014-2015The Christmas break gives us a chance to put a bit of a distance between us and the previous year. I always feel the time off is necessary to forget about work – to enjoy (sparingly) spending time with family. To overindulge (gloriously) on Christmas Eve at my traditional high school reunion. Most importantly, to hope (optimistically) that certain people will forget what happened at the office Christmas parties the previous month. If also gives a bit of time to reflect on the previous 12 months and give a few of my personal highs and lows of being a trainee at the NAO.

2014 saw a definite increase in workload and responsibility. Additional experience predictably led to more technically challenging and – frankly – more interesting work than the start of my time here. My second Final Audit period was noticeably different to my first as I felt more under pressure to deliver on the more significant areas that I have been tasked with completing. This peaked in September when I had my first experience planning an audit which really made me aware of how different parts of the process come together.

My friends wouldn’t believe it was me who wrote this blog if I didn’t note the international visits as being the highlight of the year. I consider myself very lucky to be on this department and the DFID visits involved meeting more senior figures than normal including Country Directors of NGO’s. Along with the office workers who are a mix of local staff and globetrotting Brits, they each give a unique insight on what makes the country tick.

The comfort of the business hotel is a real contrast to the hectic poverty which exists in a lot of the countries we visit that you only really get a glimpse of out of the car window as you travel to the office. It was a very different experience of these places to most people. The workload on the trips last year was much more intensive than the usual working week but this does mean the opportunities to spend an evening out is even more appreciated. The MD of the client in Delhi was more than happy to take us to his favourite local restaurant, Bukhara, which is undoubtedly the best Indian food I’ve ever eaten. That really means something when you live 10 minutes walk from Tooting.

Notable highlights of my trips included seeing the city squares in Beijing and Kathmandu, where the magnificent architecture making up for the fact it was too hazy to see the mountains (although the ‘hills’ we could see, which were bigger than Ben Nevis). Germany was actually most interesting because of the audit itself, which I’d never thought I’d say. They were an unusual client as they used cash accounting and the office with mixture of European employees who all seemed to be trying hard to live up to their countries’ stereotypes. Not all the trips were as interesting as others. I was excited about Lagos, as it’s the least touristy of the places I’ve visited. We discovered that was for a reason – on some trips, for security reasons, your options are limited so when people ask me about Nigeria I can only really comment on the office (which had a pool, incidentally).

A place that became a large part of my life this year was Glasgow, which is where the DFID central office is based. I enjoy the city which offers plenty of great meals as well as the many great whisky bars (when in Rome…) but there’s no escaping that being away on audit for weeks on end leads to compromises in your social life, as it’s my first real experience of this. It’s easy to get into a routine of rich meals out every night, particularly in Scotland, and my body is undecided about whether this is such a great thing.

I will forever look back fondly at 2014 as the year I took my last ever exam (maybe!), as my intake received our Advanced Stage results in mid December. College came in August as a relief after a long, hard Final Audit and had me looking forward to spend more time with my intake, living the student life again spending long Friday evenings on the roof of the Big Chill bar opposite college. Unfortunately, Advanced Stage was a different animal to earlier exams, and I struggled to get back into the habit of spending evenings and weekends understanding obscure tax rules and remembering that audit in exam world is very different to audit in the real world.

These exams certainly felt more challenging because it was a more sustained period of study and with the end goal in sight it made the stakes seem somewhat higher. By the first exam it felt like my life had been leading up to that moment and the numbness of uncertainty afterwards is quite disconcerting. It certainly overrides the relief and disbelief of having my weekends back. My challenge now for 2015 is to work out what to do with them.

Apply now – applications close 16 January

If you want to apply for our 2015 graduate training scheme, you can still do so until Friday, 16 January 2015. Head over to our graduate recruitment site for further information.

If you’ve got any questions around the application process, please leave a comment below. You can also contact our recruitment team by email, via our Facebook page, or on Twitter.

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