by ROCKEL MUNDY
It was always Nicole Walker’s dream to obtain a university degree. Then in 2019, she was given a much-needed hand up from the Association of Bermuda International Companies (ABIC), which awarded her their ’Alumni Award’. “[In addition to going back to school] for my personal and career development, I also wanted to set a good example for my nieces, nephews, godchildren, and my ‘Little’ (a young person I mentor through Big Brothers, Big Sisters volunteer programme).”
Due to Ms Walker’s busy schedule, she started out taking one evening class at a time at Bermuda College in 2006. She eventually completed her associate degree in Business Administration with Merit three years later – and planned to continue her educational pursuits. However, in November 2017, Ms Walker was forced to speed up her academic progress – when her full-time job made her redundant.
“Instead of feeling sorry for myself, my approach was to embrace the change and make the most of it,” she said. “I explored my options and by January 2018, I was enrolled in Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) through the Bermuda College. I was determined to finish as soon as possible and took summer courses as well,” she said.
Being a mature student has had its challenges for Ms Walker, who is no stranger to overcoming hurdles and difficulties in order to succeed. While attending school, she served on two Government boards and was mentoring with local charity BBBS. “It was all a bit exhausting,” she said. “I lived on my own, but still needed some additional income to cover my monthly expenses as the scholarship funds were used for my tuition only. I had to balance my education with working part-time, which cut into my study and downtime. I created a budget spreadsheet, eliminated luxuries, and inputted all my transactions into an app to keep track of my spending.” The most trying aspect for Ms Walker was sacrificing her family and personal time. During her studies, her social life “was almost non-existent”.
Still, being a mature student has its advantages. Ms Walker believes her learning experience was different from that of most younger students. With years of job and personal experience under her belt, it made the work easier to understand. “I was able to apply my time management skills and draw on real-life experiences. I also think it was easier for me to secure a job as I already had a corporate background.”
Having a university degree has made Ms Walker more marketable to potential employers, giving her added confidence. After graduating from university, she went on to complete her first International Compliance Association (ICA) certification in mid 2020. Two months later, she started working as a Compliance Analyst at St George’s Group Limited, a company providing boutique fiduciary services.
Today, she has completed a total of three ICA certifications, and has become an Associate member of the ICA. To top it off, she was recently given an additional job role of Deputy Money Laundering Reporting Officer.
Thanks to the time spent devoted to higher learning, Ms Walker said she has deepened her knowledge and understanding of international business, boosted her confidence and expanded her network. Her advice for other older individuals looking to return to school is this: stop procrastinating and don’t be afraid to ask for help or apply for scholarships. “There are so many helpful resources available, so take a leap of faith and do it!” She admits she’s thankful for the support received from family, friends and ABIC. “Through all this, I’ve learnt that no matter the goal or the time it may take to achieve it, work hard and never give up on yourself,” she said