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Graduation stories - from maths to a job at British Blind Sport

18 July 2016

Jennifer Scally_main_2

Sport and Exercise Science student Jennifer Scally came to Abertay after initially studying maths at another institution.

Although changing course was a difficult decision, it definitely turned out to be the right one for her.

Through volunteering with the Dundee Dragons Wheelchair Sports Club, she fell in love with disability sport and now works for British Blind Sport, promoting sport to visually impaired children.

Here, she tells us why she chose Abertay, how she got involved in disability sport and how the creation of the Abertay Wheelchair Basketball Club led to her competing in the British Universities Wheelchair Basketball Championships.

 Abertay: a small and homely institution

“I originally studied mathematics at another institution, but found that I didn't enjoy the subject anymore. Everything else that I was doing at the university was focused towards sports, so I thought I would love sports science as it combined my two favourite things: science and sport. I haven't looked back since. Deciding to change courses and move universities was a hard but more than worthwhile decision. I truly loved studying Sport and Exercise Science.

“Picking Abertay was the best decision that I made. I chose it because it was a smaller, homelier institution. When I was at the other university, I was one of hundreds of students in a lecture theatre. None of the lecturers knew your name. It felt impersonal and I wanted to go to a smaller university where lecturers and students would have more interactions.

“The lecturers at Abertay truly care about their students, and rather than being just another number to them, I was an individual. I can name all the lecturers I had at Abertay and in most cases they know my name too. When that happens you feel a lot more comfortable telling them if you don't understand something and asking them to go through it with you. Going to university is a big step, but if you want to be at a university that supports you on your journey – pick Abertay.”

Wheelchair basketball

“Before coming to Abertay, I hadn’t previously done any sports coaching, but I fell in love with it. In my second year at Abertay, myself and another student worked for Active Schools coaching lunch time and after school clubs. We were tasked with coaching a group of approximately 15 four-year-olds, which was certainly a baptism of fire. Between the two of us we were able to give our students some really enjoyable sessions, and that first placement honed my communication skills and gave me the confidence to coach further. 

“The sports students were then emailed about volunteering at Dundee Dragons Wheelchair Sports Club. I had always wanted to get involved in disability sport and decided to go along. I haven't looked back since and two and a half years later, am a regular coach at the club. If it hadn't been for the Active Schools placement I never would have grown into a coach or gained the confidence to attend the Dragons.”

British Universities Wheelchair Basketball Championships

“As well as being involved in the Dragons, I was also a member of Abertay University Women's Basketball and had an amazing time. I got to play a sport that I love and meet a whole new group of friends within my university. The girls in the squad are amazing and being on a team with them was a great experience. 

“After getting involved with the Dragons, and with a lot of support from other Abertay students and external organisations, I led the creation of the Wheelchair Basketball Club at Abertay.

“We had the opportunity to compete in the Scottish Universities Regional Championships and to represent our university. Through this competition, I was fortunate enough to compete as part of a Scottish Universities select squad who competed at the British Universities Wheelchair Basketball Championships. We came second out of the whole of the UK – an amazing achievement for a small institution like Abertay!”

High-intensity training, astronauts and the police

“One of my favourite modules on my course was ‘Exercise for Special Populations’ which explored the physiology and exercise recommendations for diverse groups. In this module, I got to write an essay on the physiology of the human body in space and how exercise is used to assist astronauts. It was the most enjoyable essay that I wrote at Abertay.

“I also loved having the opportunity to focus on a topic that I was interested in through my dissertation. For mine, I looked at whether police officers could maintain their fitness by doing just two sessions of high-intensity training a week.

“My mother was a police officer, so I’ve seen first-hand that they go above and beyond in their jobs, but I know that they’re often very pressed for time – especially if they’ve got families – so fitting exercise in and around everything else they’ve got to do can be really difficult. High-intensity training takes hardly any time at all and has been shown to provide the same fitness benefits as traditional exercise. As such it could be a really useful way for police officers to maintain their fitness.

“I really enjoyed having Dr John Babraj as a lecturer. He is an expert in the high intensity training field as well as in omega 3 supplementation and certain endocrine disorders. His lectures were dynamic and informative – I looked forward to attending them and I left each one wanting to know more. I was fortunate enough to have John as my dissertation tutor as well, and he provided me with the support to conduct my own research. If I had any questions, he was more than happy to answer them and helped me develop as a researcher.” 

British Blind Sport

“Due to the placements that I completed, I have been fortunate enough to obtain a job with British Blind Sport as a project coordinator. It’s an amazing experience and I have the opportunity to work in Sport Scotland's main building in South Gyle. I’m employed to help encourage children with a visual impairment in Scotland to be physically active – it's a dream job. If it wasn't for the degree and the experiences that I received at Abertay, I wouldn't have been able to obtain this job with British Blind Sport.”

We wish Jennifer all the best of luck in her new role!

To find out more about her course, please visit our course pages:

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