Continuing with exceptional sports scholars that found their happiness in the UK, one of them is Weronika Jedrak – a 25-year-old Marketing Management graduate at the University of Derby. Weronika is a volleyball player, and she secured a scholarship that allowed her to both study and continue her sports career at the same time.
“I have played volleyball since I can remember. In Poland, this is a very popular sport, we play in school and there are plenty of outside school’s activities that involve volleyball as well. I think I really got into volleyball in a secondary school where I was part of the team and represented the school in various sports competitions locally and regionally. I continued to play throughout High School but it was not until I started university when I really became serious about the sport and developed over the years.”
Before her Master’s degree, Weronika completed her Bachelor’s degree also at the University of Derby, however she did a degree in Journalism. Derby’s Journalism course was actually the reason why she chose Derby, and it was not until her first week at campus that she found out about the volleyball programme and all the sports facilities that the university offers which has just made her certain that Derby was the right choice.
Her switch from Journalism to Marketing Management went smoothly, as it gave her a better picture of where she sees herself in the future:
“It improved my communication and critical thinking skills which opened a new door of opportunities for me. Doing my master’s degree also helped me realise how much I enjoy academia and learning which will be an important cue when choosing my future job. On a personal level, the course has grown my confidence. I’ve learnt that everything is an experience in life and I am not afraid to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities that come my way.”
Being well organised was always a part of Weronika’s life, so coming to Derby and balancing volleyball practices and her university assignments was not a big deal.
“I’ve always been organised and I’ve been able to prioritise the important things so I think that really helped me to stay successful in the classroom as well as on the court. For me, the crucial thing was to find a routine that I would follow without overloading myself and that was a challenge in the beginning. It required discipline and a few compromises but I was willing to sacrifice some things for a greater good. That’s what really made me the volleyball player I am today and it was the key motivation to finish my master’s degree with distinction.”
That sort of sacrifice comes with certain challenges, especially while being a student and balancing not just your sports and academic life, but also your social life. But keep in mind that at the end it will all be worth it, as you will learn something about yourself too.
“The entire year was filled with new experiences that have changed me in many ways. I was challenged academically but I’ve learnt how to deal with stressful situations and this has helped with my personal and professional growth. I feel like this journey also helped me to determine my career goals that weren’t very clear in the beginning. It has transformed my way of thinking in a positive way and I am now confident about my future, professionally and personally.”
A normal day in the life of a sports scholar is quite busy. Waking up early, lectures, library, even work, training, assignments… But, Weronika is a living proof that it’s all possible:
“My typical day would start around 6.30am, I would head to work at 8am for a few hours before a class. Or if my lecture was in the morning, I would go to University first and then to work afterwards. Once the afternoon class was finished, I would usually head to the library for a few hours before training to work on my assignments. I would then go down to the sports centre for my strength and conditioning session at the gym followed by volleyball practice afterwards. My volleyball practice was always 1.5h long so I would finish at 8.30pm. I would then head home, have some dinner and go to sleep.”
Sports scholarship can be a determining factor in continuing your education. It means having financial support but also access to many facilities that are usually quite expensive and difficult to access.
“The scholarship allowed me to progress further with my education and pursue a master’s degree. Without that financial support, I am not sure if I would be able to continue with my postgraduate degree. But also the support throughout the year such as free physio appointments, gym sessions and workshops really made a positive difference to my development as a player.
Access to a well-equipped gym, physio and the on-court sessions three times a week really gave me the opportunity to become better each week. But from the physical perspective, the strength and conditioning programme at the gym was the key to my overall development. I’ve built incredible strength which allows me to jump higher, hit stronger and move faster. I am quite short for volleyball but the strength and conditioning coaches put in a lot of work with me to improve my jump height and I can now compete in a higher level such as the National League in England.”
In addition to studying and practicing volleyball on a daily basis, Weronika managed to work part time as well. At the University of Derby everyone was supportive of that, as sometimes she had to prioritise one over the other.
“All staff understood that in addition to being a sports scholar, we also study and most of us work part-time. They were very supportive and flexible when it comes to scheduling a physio appointment or dropping sessions at the gym. Most of the time they would adjust to our schedule which was really important as it allowed me to keep on top of my assignments at university. I felt like there were no barriers and I never had to choose between work, study or training. I always had time to do it all due to the support of my coaches and sports team staff.”
When asked if she would recommend the University of Derby to other scholars, Weronika has no doubts:
“Yes, absolutely. The facilities and programme that the sport scholarship offers are amazing. I could come to the gym everyday if I wanted to and I had the full support of my strength and conditioning coaches. I also had the advantage of being at the University of Derby for four years and it was great seeing how the sports and particularly volleyball has developed during that time. From barely enough people to fill a volleyball team, to four full squads competing in British University and College Sports (BUCS). It just shows the commitment and professional approach of all staff that make Team Derby better each year and I think any athlete would appreciate to be part of that change.”
Having completed her Bachelor’s without a scholarship made Weronika appreciate the opportunity even more. She now understands that all effort has paid off and she wouldn’t change that for anything.
“It made me feel really appreciated. I studied at the university three years before I was awarded a scholarship and I put in a lot of time, and commitment to the volleyball programme during that time. I trained really hard to develop not only physically but also mentally to become the player I am today. So being awarded a scholarship in my final year made me feel that my efforts were noticed and I was valued by coaches and sports staff at the University of Derby.”
Talking about her plans for the future, Weronika is not quite sure where the path will lead her. She knows she wants to continue playing volleyball, but whether that will be on an amateur or professional level she’s not sure. However, her experience at Derby showed her that anything is possible if you work for it.
We wish Weronika all the luck with her career plans, but with such amazing support and dedication, success is almost guaranteed. Make sure you secure your place at a UK university and feel free to contact us at email@example.com or book a meeting!