Goalkeeper, Het Ravijn Water Polo Team, The Netherlands
Bachelor of Sport and Recreation in Management and Exercise Science
With an ambition to qualify for the Olympics, AUT sport and recreation alumna Jessica Milicich is a top athlete who has already represented New Zealand at the Water Polo World Championships. She has recently moved to Europe to fulfil her sporting goals and help her campaign towards the Olympic qualification tournament in 2021.
“I moved to the Netherlands to play for Het Ravijn, one of the top women’s water polo teams here that plays in the National Premier League. I’ll also be coaching water polo at a specialist sport school nearby.
“One of the things I’m most excited about is the opportunity to train with the Netherlands National Water Polo Team. The team won gold at the 2008 Olympics, and I’ll be training with them three times a week on top of my club commitments. It’s very exciting!”
Supporting a passion
Jessica, who completed a Bachelor of Sport and Recreation at AUT at the end of 2019, is proud of successfully balancing her university studies with competing on an international level.
Her sporting excellence has certainly been recognised by AUT, and saw her nominated for the AUT Blues Award for Water Polo and winning the 2019 Sportsperson of the Year Award.
She says Bruce Meyer and the wider athlete support team at AUT were incredibly supportive throughout her time at university.
“I’ve always been given good advice around balancing sporting commitments and what papers to take etc, as well as being supported through times of stress where I may have needed extensions or help with meeting deadlines.”
“From a young age, I’ve always had good time management skills, but the flexibility AUT offers has definitely helped. My journey here has been unique, but that hasn’t been a disadvantage. I’ve been able to do fewer papers in some semesters when I was busy with sporting commitments and could still complete my degree without it being an issue.”
Advice for academic athletes
Jessica knows from experience that AUT staff are available to help students succeed. Her advice for other students is to ask staff to help them find the right balance of priorities.
“AUT is extremely flexible and supportive, and wants students to succeed. This might mean that you graduate alongside a different cohort than what you started with, but you would’ve had the best of both worlds, getting to play sport and study at the same time.
“Don’t be scared to talk to lecturers either – they’re super willing to help where they can, and love students to interact and engage. Some of my best papers were taken at the AUT South Campus in small classrooms where I could learn and ask questions.”
Jessica loved the hands-on aspect of her courses and was pleased that the specific exercises and training were a shift away from traditional textbooks and lectures. Many of her exercise science papers had practical workshops where students used the equipment and understand physiological responses by seeing them in real life. Jessica says this made her feel confident and well prepared for her future career in the sporting industry.