Emma Russell continues her series charting the stories of former Whanganui students who have gone on to success in the big, wide world
Active, broad and rewarding are three words Amber Ward uses to describe the job she loves.
The former Whanganui High School student has just cracked her second year working as a qualified occupational therapist and hasn't looked back.
Her job is to assess and treat people who, because of illness, injury or circumstance, have limited ability to carry out everyday activities.
Six years ago, as a year 12 high school student, Miss Ward had no idea about a career, let alone the role of an occupational therapist.
She approached a career advisory service in Whanganui called Smithells and, after being questioned about her values and enjoyment, the adviser recommended three options - a physio, a teacher or an occupational therapist.
"Teacher didn't appeal and physio seemed too functional - I'm a people person and I wanted a job that helped people so I decided to find out more about occupational therapy." she said.
She shadowed a therapist for a day to understand the role first hand.
"If you are interested in a career, I recommend spending a day with someone already in that role ... it is so different to learning about it on paper.
"I would be happy to have students considering occupational therapy to shadow me for a day."
After finishing secondary school in 2011, Miss Ward completed a three-year bachelor of occupational therapy at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin. The course included six different placements throughout New Zealand and the Cook Islands.
She now works for a private practice in Whanganui called Active Plus, and said there were many different settings for the job - among them hospital and rehabilitation departments, schools and within the community.
"My university course recommended placements in different settings - you got a good taste of different areas you might want to get into."
In year 13, Miss Ward took English and biology to prepare for the role and she suggests studying subjects which focus on human anatomy.
"Being able to communicate, motivate and relate to people from every walk of life is an vital part of the job.
"Those skills stem from a combination of schooling, university and your own life experiences - you're either into it or you're not."
She said the satisfaction of helping people regain their independence and passion as well as the broad environment she works in were the best parts of her job.
"One day I could be out with a dairy farmer, another day I could be out in a forestry gang or helping with a desk set-up - every day is different which I love."
She said taking a pilates class once a week was an added bonus of the job and great for improving mental and physical wellbeing.
In May, she finishes at Active Plus and will move to London and explore other areas of occupational therapy.