What does the day in the life of an exercise, sport and nutrition student look like? What kind of job can I get with an exercise, sport and nutrition degree? And how will UQ give me the skills I need to face the future, when I don’t know what the future looks like?
Laura is a current student, and Paul Treschman is a lecturer in exercise, sport and nutrition. They’ve teamed up to answer some of your questions and help you decide what’s right for you.
What are some of the most interesting jobs your former students are doing?
Paul: We've got people who are working with elite sporting teams, for example, Brisbane Broncos and Queensland Netball. We've got people in health services, in a whole range of different areas. We've got people working with students at schools. There's people who are doing further research as well.
Some people have even gone into businesses, either working with strategic areas, whether it be in education side of things, or in looking at how their businesses can be improved with the skills that they've got from university.
So I guess the options seem like we've got to bit of an avenue as to where people are going, but where they end up can be quite varied, and that's the beauty of these degrees.
What does the day in the life of an exercise or nutrition student look like?
Laura: With my studies, it's pretty flexible. I'm doing part time studies with my degree. I go between work and my classes, and I really enjoy the classes because they vary throughout the day.
We have classes in the physiology lab - so we're doing performance testing, tutorials where I do a lot of my nutrition work, in the chemistry labs where we do a lot of things to do with metabolism and DNA, and we also do some work out in the sporting fields and things like that as well. There's a great variety throughout the day so you never get bored. So that's pretty much on a daily basis and I really enjoy that.
What opportunities do your students have to get hands on experience in the field?
Paul: Our courses have lots of hands-on experience, lots of professional experience, and practical work. As we know that's a big part of the learning - that it's not just a matter of knowing - it's a matter of doing as well.
In our course, we've got 100-plus days of practical experience, which is well and truly above most institutions, so it's a really good opportunity for them to see how things look in the real world, and also how they're applied in various different settings rather than just going into one particular setting. We try to provide variety, so that students are well equipped to deal with many different aspects.
What is something that surprised you about studying in UQ?
Laura: Coming to UQ and seeing the amount of opportunities and experiences and the large network that UQ has as a uni, and what that exposes you to, was completely overwhelming even for someone like me. I've tried to dip my toes into pretty much as many experiences and opportunities as possible and I still don't think I've even breached the surface yet. Even now I've got six months left of my degree and I'm still finding new things to do and new things to involve myself in.
How would you prepare students for an unpredictable and changing future?
Paul: What we do is we don't shy away from the unpredictability of it. I think that scares a lot of people and understandably so, people like to have control. But one of the things that we do within our degrees is we scaffold things. So we start off nice and gentle, safe, supportive environments, students have the supportive tutors and lecturers around. There are progressive steps.
Students are given a variety of experiences, so people aren't just from in one area, they get to know what the field looks like, the nuances of the field in different spaces, different contexts, we find the more that we can do that, the more comfortable students get with unpredictability.
What are the most valuable skills you've learned as part of your degree?
Laura: I think one of the main things would probably be advocacy, especially in a health degree such as exercise nutrition. Being able to bring whatever we learned in the classroom out into the public, and with whoever we're dealing with on a daily basis and really promoting those healthy lifestyles to people. I think all the lecturers have been really good with that in exercise nutrition degree.
A lot of our courses, I'm doing one at the moment, sports nutrition that has a very big research to practice field in it, where we do look at all the research because that's obviously important. But then really understanding what people's lives are like on a daily basis, because everyone's different and everyone has different behaviours so really trying to adapt what we've learned in the classroom into real life situations where you're dealing with someone's health. I think that's probably the most important thing that I've learned.
What makes a good student, and are they the same things that employees value?
Paul: I think generally speaking, they are. One of the biggest things that we've noticed is the personability of people, so it's the social, emotional skills that people have. We are in relational environments where we are looking after people, we’re in a supportive area. So I think the ability to actually interact effectively with other people and be genuine in that.
Obviously there's the professionalism that goes with that, we love to see people who are intrinsically motivated, who are actually passionate about what they're studying and what they're doing.
I think that's the beauty of these degrees is that they are quite personable, people have chosen them. So they've gone into this profession for a particular interest that they've got, and through those skills and then working with people to invest in people - that's where we really see them shine.
What do you think employers in your field are looking for and how do you think UQ has equipped you with these skills?
Laura: Dealing with people in a health field and dealing with their lives on a daily basis I think it's really important that you have a lot of empathy, and are able to understand other people's emotions, other people's behaviours and being self-aware as well.
Probably initiative, as well, and being able to set goals and make decisions for yourself, is really important to be able to help other people to be able to make those decisions for them as well, especially in the health field. If someone comes to you for advice, they really want to know that you know how to do it yourself before they'll trust you to be able to give them the same advice.
If you could give me one piece of advice that would set me apart as a job candidate, what would it be?
Paul: Because we are in the relationship business I would say, knowing your impact will actually help other people. So rather than looking entirely about what will give you the successes, actually thinking about what it is you're doing and how that can have a really positive impact on other people and I think the beauty of that kind of thinking is that applies to all of our degrees and certainly in general is about a helping other people.
What have you learned about yourself, since you began your studies?
Laura: I think the big part is that I really can do anything that I set my mind to. I've always been someone who tries to go for anything that comes at me anyway. But I think all the experiences that I've had at UQ, and what I've learned and my interactions with lecturers and other peers and people who I've worked for through this career – I think that I really lost that fear factor of what I can actually achieve. There are really no limits.
So that really excites me for the future, because I know that I can achieve anything that I set my mind to you just have to put in a little bit of effort and have a little bit of passion and I think you're all good to go, so I think UQ really helped me with that.