Getting active is a fantastic way to meet new friends, unwind from studies and improve your health – but don’t take it from us. Here Oxford students past and present explain the impact that sport and on their time at university, and how they went about balancing their sporting commitments with their studies.
Natalie Liu – Gymnastics
“Sport and physical activity played a major role throughout my time at Oxford. It’s a great way to get out and about, meet new people, and stay fit.
“I know that sometimes when you’re struggling with some tutorial work, leaving the library seems like the worst idea.
“But, I found the routine of training with the Gymnastics Club gave me something to look forward to, helped me to plan ahead and gave me a clear head so I was more productive afterwards.
“Taking part in sport helps you stay fit, motivated and helps you to develop soft skills that employers love and I couldn’t recommend it enough.”
Kinga Nesselfeld – Handball
“I am studying classics and alongside my degree I play for the Handball Club. Our team plays both in University Championship and League matches, and in addition I am also Secretary of the Committee.
“We have two or three practice sessions per week and any games take place in the weekend so I had to be careful to manage my time and not miss an essay deadline because I was away for a game. However, the club is very considerate of student schedule and practices never clash with any lectures or classes I have.
“Doing sport definitely taught me to manage my time better and the time spent playing handball helps me to reduce my stress level and it gives me a fresh perspective once I return to college to continue working.
“Furthermore, winning the Varsity Cup has given everyone in the team an incredible boost of confidence so I can honestly say that it is worth doing any kind of sport to compliment your university experience.”
Laura Fenwick – Triathlon
“If I could go back and give one piece of advice to my first year self about balancing elite sport with Oxford’s academic demands, the most valuable thing I think I could say would be to ease yourself in. Don’t be too hard on yourself or panic in your first term if you haven’t managed to maintain your training to the level you could at school, even if you thought you were the most organised person on the planet. Don’t compare yourself to friends who are several years into their studies and seem to have it all figured out. You will figure it out too.
“It takes time and energy to get used to the new place, the new people, the new way of learning and the new found realisation that food shopping, cooking, cleaning and laundry need adding to your to do list. There are enough hours in the week in Oxford to train twice per day, be successful in your studies, have a social life and a handle on ‘general life’ and get a healthy amount of sleep… it just takes a bit of time to find them.
“Sure enough, after an overwhelming first term I gradually built things up and by my second year I was able to maintain a consistent training programme and finish my course with not only a chemistry degree but also a BUCS medal, individual Varsity win and top ten British Championships finish amongst other successes. Personal organisation was key, but I couldn’t have done it without the support network I had around me. My college friends, for example, would often carry my pre-packed bag of breakfast and clothes to morning lectures as I arrived straight from a bike ride. I never spoke much with my tutors about my sport, but they were aware that it was a big part of my life and when I got injured they were accommodating and understanding of the mental toll the injury took on me as well as the physical one.
“I immersed myself in the training and committees of several sports clubs and the enjoyment and positivity I got from being part of these and from representing the university in competitions meant my motivation to stay involved in sport at Oxford was never really in doubt. Sport incentivised me to get my work done in good time and it also opened the door to a whole new community of friends outside of the college and chemistry bubble.
“Just as the lakes, parks and hills of Oxfordshire gave me a welcome change of scenery from the lab, chemistry provided a much needed break from training pressures, and the quick thinking, problem solving skills developed by the Oxford teaching system are thoroughly transferable to the sporting world. Thus, whilst at first the simultaneous pursuit of success in both sport and academia in Oxford may sound like a ridiculous idea, the two can in fact go hand in hand very well.”