TAMPA – Accounting student Abraham Villa represents many firsts in his family. As a first-generation Mexican American, Villa was the first to get a high school diploma.
He was also the first to earn an associate and a bachelor’s degree. And in a few months, the USF Muma College of Business student will be the first in his family to graduate with a master’s in accountancy from the Lynn Pippenger School of Accountancy.
But the path that Villa took to find the right career was full of second thoughts and second chances.
Villa's winding journey into accounting started after high school with his dream of becoming a nurse. Not following the norm of going to college after graduation, he aimed for an associate degree in liberal arts, focusing on the health sciences.
But his grades were slipping, and he decided to take some time for self-reflection.
He sought advice from his career coach, where he took a series of aptitude and compatibility tests that helped him find a new career path. Surprisingly, accounting was one of the top results.
But he didn't immediately switch to a new major. Villa gave himself a gap of about two years to work, gather his thoughts, and deliberate on how to transition out of nursing. In the end, he realized that nursing did not align with his identity and career goals because he only loved it conceptually and enjoyed learning general health skills.
Villa returned to complete his associate degree but switched the degree toward business. Nevertheless, going back to academia after a couple of gap years was challenging because of the feeling of being behind, Villa said.
He said it was discouraging to see younger peers at the same stage in their educational careers. But he said he couldn't help but blame himself for taking the time off.
Now he looks back at the time through the lens of experience. He understands himself better, is more focused, and knows he’s on the right career path for him.
He said he can confidently say that he knows exactly what he wants to do, which many students struggle with during their college years. Everything is paying off due to his courage and efforts.
During his undergraduate years, Villa had his first internship opportunity with PwC through the Accounting Society, a student organization at USF. He applied to the PwC’s Start Internship program for the summer in 2020. After hearing former interns sharing their experiences, he knew that PwC had the working environment he wanted and needed.
He gave it a try without knowing what to expect because he had recently started his first semester in accounting at that time. Villa got accepted with some solid working experience and a distinct academic path. At the end of his first internship, PwC offered him another summer internship for the summer in 2021 and a full-time position after that, starting in 2022.
At USF, he is currently a returning teaching assistant for the Principles of Managerial Accounting course. He has many students who have admitted to not being sure about their career path.
He offers this advice for those in the same quandary he found himself in years ago.
“Don't rush school. Stay curious and always ask questions,” he said. “I would encourage others to take time for self-discovery. Do not push yourself to follow the norm. You are still young.”