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UEL graduate: It's never too late to pursue a dream

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Starting his Applied Sport and Exercise Science degree at 21 gave rugby fanatic Tijde Visser 'maturity and discipline'

Tijde Visser from South Africa initially went to university to play rugby in one of the top tournaments in the country, but a serious injury made him realise the importance of having a degree.

Durban-born Tijde moved to Johannesburg at 18 to study a degree in psychology, with the goal of becoming a professional rugby player.

“It took a serious shoulder injury to make me realise the importance of having a degree, because a career as an athlete could be taken away in a split second,” he said.

Tijde, who will graduate from the University of East London this year with a first in the BSc in Applied Sport and Exercise Science, started his degree at 21. “My grandparents live in the UK, so they afforded me the opportunity to come over and study.”

Impressed by the UK education system and a three-day week, which allowed him to be “more productive and achieve better results,” Tijde had the opportunity to work a part-time job and have more time to focus on his assignments. The quality of teaching at UEL left a strong impression on him.

“The most influential part of studying at UEL was the time and effort that the lecturers put into their modules - being understanding and accommodating each student who was willing to learn. The lecturers do their utmost to keep the classes engaging and to stick to relatable topics,” he said.

Tijde credits his involvement in and the success of SMILES, the sports mentoring student-led scheme at the University of East London, to Earle Abrahamson, course leader in sports therapy, who was recently awarded the status of National Teaching Fellow by Advance HE, an organisation which promotes excellence in higher education.

Keen to “assist students with struggles they may be facing,” Tijde joined the scheme, in which students mentor other UEL students and work with community partners including schools, athletes, and prospective students, where he helped students source information and structure reports.

All Sport students have access to the scheme, which enables the promotion of positive values in sport by supporting student wellbeing, mental health, engagement, social inclusion and confidence, and work, he explained.

SMILES has witnessed a 42% annual increase in mentor application and engagement. On completion of their mentoring period, which spans an academic year, students are eligible for an internationally accredited mentorship award. 

“The SMILES mentorship scheme is growing and I’m confident that under Earle’s guidance, it will continue to have a widespread positive effect in improving the student experience at UEL,” Tijde said.

Tijde also praised the support of his dissertation supervisor Dr Kim Hastings, Senior Lecturer in Exercise Physiology, who “must be recognised for the major positive role she played in my degree, by helping me with queries in all of my modules, not only my final year project. I was always able to ask her for advice and she served as a mentor to me.”

Starting his Sport and Exercise Science degree at 21 “brought on a sense of maturity and discipline that I didn’t have previously, which allowed me to exceed my expectations and really enjoy the content of my studies,” he said.

“The combination of the quality of teaching and facilities along with the enjoyment of what I was studying, allowed me to achieve my goal of getting a first-class honours degree.”

Looking to the future, Tijde intends to pursue his career in rugby and later a postgraduate degree.

“I’m very humbled and thankful for my experience at UEL. The compassion of all the staff that I was fortunate to cross paths with, has set high standards for other universities to uphold.”

Tijde added that he is “grateful for the opportunities I have had over the past three years. I urge current and future students to engage and make the most of the many opportunities that UEL has to offer.”