3rd-year student, Bachelor of Health Science (Physiotherapy)
Being a professional athlete takes a lot of commitment. So does university study. Marisa van der Meer is successfully balancing both.
Having joined the New Zealand Football Ferns as a defender in early 2020, she travelled to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics as part of the New Zealand Olympic Team; in addition to studying a Bachelor of Health Science (Physiotherapy) at AUT.
“I’ve always played a lot of sport, and before I was asked to join the New Zealand Football Ferns, I was part of the Canterbury United Pride and played in the 2018 FIFA Under-17 Women's World Cup. Over the 2021/2022 summer period, I also played professionally for the Melbourne City FC in the A-league women’s team.
“Being an athlete is what initially sparked my interest in physiotherapy, and since starting my studies at AUT I’ve realised how broad physiotherapy really is. There are so many career opportunities I really like. Once I graduate, I’d love to pursue both my footballing and physiotherapy career. I really enjoy how these two aspects of my life interrelate and give me the opportunity to meet and help people.”
The right university environment
For Marisa, the learning environment at AUT has been inspiring.
“I chose AUT because of the modern university environment, the style of teaching as well as the great facilities. AUT embraces all aspects of study and recognises the importance of gaining hands-on and clinical experience.
“Just learning from the lecturers has sparked my interest in physiotherapy, and it’s inspiring to know that this degree will equip me with the skills to help people who need it. I’ve especially enjoyed the practical aspects of the physiotherapy degree. This includes being able to apply hands-on techniques during labs, and being able to collaborate and learn alongside my classmates.”
She is grateful for the support she has received to enable her to balance her studies with her sporting commitments, says Marisa whose studies are supported by an AUT Undergraduate Scholarship.
“As an athlete, I sometimes have to be away for sport. This brings about many challenges including having to miss practical labs, which are a really important aspect of the degree and help a lot in my learning. However, AUT has supported me by providing me with options including setting up meetings with peer mentors or organising extensions for assessments if needed.”
Advice for other students
Now in the third year of her physiotherapy degree, Marisa has some great advice for other students.
“My advice is to continue to pursue what you enjoy. For me, that’s both physiotherapy and my football. Work hard at those things that are important to you so you’ll see positive results.”
She wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Bachelor of Health Science (Physiotherapy) to other students.
“I’d definitely recommend the physiotherapy degree to others. AUT runs this programme very well, and every year they’re looking to improve the programme and change anything to best suit the students.”