Winning at life

Published 15 October 2019

Merit awards recognise academic performance and hard work.

However, for Sharryn Markham, receiving the merit award for top performance in Principles of Corporations Law from peak accounting body CPA Australia, the recognition meant so much more.

The University of New England (UNE) student and Cowra local lost her de-facto spouse of 23 years under difficult circumstances two years ago.

“I was halfway through my accounting degree when Philip passed away. My world changed permanently in an instant. I was so scared of the future and my life as I knew it had gone,” Sharryn said.

“I was also dealt an unexpected blow professionally and this was when my studies became affected.  I didn’t know if I would be able to complete my degree.”

“It was an extremely difficult time for me, and it became worse. I was diagnosed with PTSD that was easily triggered by memories and anniversaries. I found it very difficult to focus on my studies.”

With her studies in jeopardy, Sharryn reached out to UNE Student Counselling Services who developed a study access plan tailored to her needs. The plan made it easier to extend assignment submission dates and removed the stress and anxiety of obtaining medical certificates.

“The mental health support I received from everyone at UNE, especially my lecturers in the UNE Business School was fantastic. They listened to me and their support gave me back the determination to succeed and finish my degree.”

Studying became a joy and anchor for Sharryn.

“Study has been my escape from all the external issues that had been happening in my life.”

“To go from struggling with self-doubt to winning a merit award from CPA Australia means everything to me.  I now have my determination and the desire to be very successful in the future back.”

“Philip would have been so proud. He had always encouraged and supported me in my studies. It was bittersweet receiving the award, as he had encouraged me to study accounting initially. He taught me the foundations of accounting.”

Her experience has changed Sharryn profoundly and she is eager to share her story with other students who may experience mental health issues while studying.

“Someone else may relate to my story. While it was very difficult, and I still have the occasional setback, I turned my life around. I hope knowing that it is possible to do so will make a difference to someone else too.  Study can be the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.  It can give you back your future.”

Sharryn would like to thank fellow Cowra local, Paul Ryan, for being a wonderful mentor and is grateful for the support she received from her immediate family and friends, especially her little study buddy, Cooper a devoted little dog.

In addition to the CPA Award, Sharryn also achieved a merit award from the UNE Business School for her High Distinction Grade in Estate Planning, which she recently completed in Trimester 1 this year.

Sharryn expects to complete her Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) degree next year and is considering furthering her studies in Law. Sharryn also aims to start a successful business venture in the future.