14 September 2020

Volunteering at Epping Forest District Council during his degree offered an amazing opportunity to encourage people from disadvantaged communities to take part in physical activities, according to a University of East London alumnus.

Sotiris (Sid) Panayi, 23, who secured a first-class honours degree in the BSc in Applied Sport and Exercise Science in the School of Health, Sport and Bioscience, said volunteering and mentorships matter now more than ever, encouraging others to achieve their goals and dreams.

As a mentor with the University's SMILES scheme, Sotiris - who is part of our Class of 2020 cohort - delivered welcome speeches to first-year students and provided support and a point of contact for questions about University life and academic study to Level 4 and 5 students.

My time as a mentor was fulfilling; during my final year I enjoyed sharing my experiences with new students. This has improved my confidence as a mentor, and I look forward to developing these skills in postgraduate life."

     Sotyris (Sid) Panayi, UEL sports alumnus and volunteer mentor, said.

The student-led scheme at the University of East London is predominantly open to sports students but is now shared as best practice with other schools and participants including those from a widening participation background. 

According to Sotiris, what stands out to him about mentoring is the link between successful, engaged students and the opportunity to take guidance from peers "who encourage your goals and make it clear that University is not a daunting place; it's OK to ask questions.”

Peer mentorship further promotes social justice and outreach by creating communities of practice to enhance inclusive sporting experiences and civic responsibility, he added.

As a UEL student, also Sotiris fulfilled his dream of working at a professional football club with his placement at West Ham United.

For many graduates, getting traction in the job market may require new skills. However, Sotiris praised the important, industry-focused skills he developed in his degree, particularly analysing complex databases.

The modules on the programme were fantastic, he enthused. "I loved having the opportunity to learn more about exercise physiology, nutrition and psychology."

"Throughout my final year, when the pressure kicks in a little, I had the support of the incredible academic staff. I could not have achieved so much without the help of my dissertation supervisor, Dr Andy Galbraith, senior lecturer in exercise physiology," he said.

The University's inclusive environment and its sense of "togetherness" also helped him overcome the obstacle of finding enough participants to take part in his final research project.

Sotiris has been awarded an Academic Excellence Scholarship to start a master's degree in Sport Analytics and Technologies at Loughborough University next month and his dissertation on the effectiveness of pre-workout drinks is currently being peer-reviewed for a scientific journal.

As a UEL student, its Department of Sport's connections with multiple sports organisations enabled Sotiris to network with the country's leading practitioners and create opportunities that have set him up for postgraduate life, he said.

"I couldn't have asked for a better university experience than the one I got from the University of East London."

Professor Amanda Broderick, vice-chancellor and president, University of East London, said, "As a careers-first university, we are proud of our industry links and the benefits of those afforded to our students and alumni.

"I am delighted that Sotiris will progress in his area of study and continue to guide others in the community. His positive experience reflects the hard work by both staff and students to create an excellent student experience here at the University of East London."

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