My name is Chaoyue Ma, I come from Harbin, the north east part of China, and am currently studying Olympic and Sports Sociology in Beijing Sport University (BSU). The cooperation program between BSU and the University of Limerick (UL) brought me to Ireland. I was lucky to get an International Education Scholarships from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) in Ireland. Each year the HEA offer around 60 scholarships of this type.
I came to the University of Limerick in January 2018 to study on the Masters in Sports Performance programme in the department of Physical Education and Sports Sciences (PESS). I have learned so many things about sport science and sports performance, e.g. strength & conditioning, nutrition and exercise physiology. The modules are very intense and they motivate me to study every day. The modules are up to date and practical and I have found that I have learned more this year than I did in previous years of my study. I will be able to use the new skills that I learned from my Masters in UL when I am working in the future.
In addition to attending the modules on the programme, I have been able to talk to professional coaches and athletes face-to-face and have learned from their experience. The lecturers in PESS are very nice, approachable and patient and have answered every one of my questions! To be honest, I was worried about group work before I came, mainly because of language, but Irish students have not been reluctant to study with me. They care about how I feel and are always willing to repeat if I don’t understand something. Even though most of the other students on the Masters in Sports Performance are also working, they still study hard and treat the assignments seriously. Most of my classmates are either elite athletes or coaches and I have learned so much from them.
From my point of view, language and culture are the biggest differences between Ireland and China. It took me quite a while to adapt. I accessed some very good supports from UL. For example, the workshops from the First Seven Weeks gave me lots of information about how to start my new study life. The Regional Writing Center had a lot of workshops, e.g. how to write an academic essay and guidance on grammar, formatting and referencing as well as recommending some good resources. If you need additional assistance, there are also writing tutors to help you. I actually went to several workshops and they helped me a lot with my writing.
As a student studying sports performance, my favorite activities are using the sports facilities on the campus. I really enjoy the beautiful running route along the Shannon river, UL Sport Arena, and I never thought I would have the chance to row on the Shannon river until I joined the UL rowing club. What’s more, I also went to some workshops held by ULBeo and UL strength & conditioning society. They invited some good coaches, athletes and sports scientists to share stories.
In order to make the best use of this one-year Masters, I did not plan many trips or excursions. Instead, I did an internship with the Sport Ireland Institute in Dublin, got involved in PESS research with Limerick Football Club, and I worked for UL Ladies Football and UL Arena. I feel so proud that I overcame the language barrier. I still remember I barely understood anything and hardly talked in the first week! I think I have lived a very full year so far and because I got so much work experience apart from study, I feel it will definitely benefit my future career.
The UL International Education Division held a drinks reception for students from BSU during the semester. They invited the UL President, Prof. Desmond Fitzgerald along with the Dean of Education and Health Sciences, Prof. Rachel Msetfi, the Head of PESS Dr. Giles Warrington, Sports Performance course leader Dr. Mark Lyons and Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology course leader Dr. Mark Campbell. The occasion was to celebrate the strong relationship between BSU and UL. The President is very affable and he showed us a great welcome and talked a great deal with us. It just felt like being at home.
My dream is to work in the fitness industry. This degree will qualify me in a Strength & Conditioning discipline and I plan to stay in Ireland to gain more experience for the next coming year.
Finally, I hope that more Chinese students will benefit from studying in UL and that Irish students can have similar student experience like me, but in China!