One year ago Shay Tahana didn't know what she wanted to do with herself.
She had just graduated from high school.
"I didn't want to go to university and study something I wouldn't use and not be sure if I'd have a job afterwards."
Now Tahana, 18, is ready to set sail into a promising career with the New Zealand Navy. She's been told she is the youngest candidate in her intake.
"I am shocked. I didn't think I would actually get accepted. It's very elite. It's very hard to get in. This doesn't feel real. I never thought I would get here."
Tahana decided to apply for officer training after a one-week course in Auckland led her to fall in love with the navy.
She was also inspired by her father, who was a sergeant major in the New Zealand Army and Angela Swann-Cronin who spoke at Tahana's school.
Tahana wants to be a warfare officer, a position that involves driving the Navy's warships, working on the bridge and managing staff.
It's a role under the Navy's navigation combat and security specialisation and has a starting annual salary of $78,707.
Tahana is also open to other career opportunities the Navy provides, like further study or piloting.
Tahana already has experience flying Cessnas.
She knows the road to becoming a warfare officer is going to be full of hard work.
"For the next seven years I'm going to be training and learning," Tahana said.
But she feels ready for the challenge.
Tahana has already braved a stringent selection process to get to where she is today.
"You've got to have really good credentials academically and physically.
"You've got to go through a selection board, physical and mathematics testing. It's been very long. My final test is on Monday."
More difficult than the interviews and the testing has been the long wait that accompanies the New Zealand Defence Force's recruitment process.
"The lowlight has been just waiting and being uncertain about if you've been accepted or not," Tahana said.
"If I didn't get in, then it would have felt like I wasted all this time."
Tahana was determined not to waste her time. When faced with the difficulty of finding short-term employment and the six-month wait for news, she signed up for Work and Income's Limited Service Volunteer Programme.
The programme is a voluntary and free six-week training course run by Defence Force personnel.
Tahana said she found the course hugely useful and she valued the experience.
"I'm quite young so I don't have that kind of professional management experience.
"It's helped me to learn about finances as well which is really handy."
Upon graduation from the programme, Tahana was awarded the Commanding Officer's Award for All-Round Excellence.
Tahana said the results of her hard work so far had been worth it.
"Having to run every day is not fun. But it's been all right. If you put in the effort it's actually not that bad.
"The highlight is being able to do something I'm passionate about."
Tahana said more young people should consider the armed forces as a career.
"It's an option that not a lot of people really look at. Everyone gets told that your only option to be successful is to go to uni.
"But to have all these opportunities and pay with service instead of a loan made a lot of sense to me.
"Why would you not want to do that?"