Rebecca Valladares

Rebecca Valladares

Athlete Services Support, The IRONMAN Group
Bachelor of Sport and Recreation in Management

Completing her Bachelor of Sport and Recreation was an all-round fulfilling three years, says Rebecca Valladares who graduated from AUT in July 2021.

“I’ve enjoyed so much about my studies and time at AUT. I remember sitting in my first class at AUT, which was the first-year Contemporary Issues in Sport and Recreation course, and the lecturers introducing themselves through their pepeha. I knew instantly that right there was where I belonged. The way Māori culture and language was integrated into the degree from day one was something I really valued.

“The energy, time and effort every single lecturer and member of the teaching staff put into the students was amazing. I couldn’t believe they all knew our names, and were so approachable and willing to share their knowledge. I also enjoyed being challenged, particularly through the first-year leadership journey. I enjoyed meeting peers I hadn’t interacted with much and being forced out of my comfort zone. It was a great way to not only get to know each other, but also ourselves.”

Being able to complete workplace experience as part of her degree was another highlight of her studies.

“The opportunity to go out into the industry while studying through the Work Integrated Learning and Co-operative Education placements is a great thing. You get to meet industry professionals and really give things a go, and get to know what interests you and maybe what doesn’t. I personally think learning through experience and reflection is the best way to learn.”

The right fit
For Rebecca, her university journey actually started at another university but she soon realised that AUT was the right fit for her.

“While I was studying at a different university, I took some sport science courses and discovered that I enjoyed them, although I didn’t want to go down the science/research pathway. After eventually dropping out of my first university degree, I looked into options at AUT, and discovered the Bachelor of Sport and Recreation in Management. I remember the thing that got me most excited was reading the list of organisations students had completed their placements at. This was something I really looked forward to.”

She says she probably always knew that AUT was for her.

“I remember visiting friends at the AUT City Campus and thinking the environment was brighter, and everyone I spoke with genuinely wanted to be there and enjoyed being there. I also preferred the more personal and practical teaching style. The sense of community from knowing the teaching staff and my peers, and them knowing me, was really special and something I’ll always be grateful for.”

Finding her passion
One thing that particularly inspired her was reading a case study in her Sport Development course, taught by Cindy Wiersma.

“There was a case study on an organisation called Street Soccer USA (SSUSA) and I remember having that moment where I said out loud to myself, ‘That’s cool. That’s what I want to do’. That stayed with me throughout the rest of my degree and to this day.

“In my final year I took part in the Talent Games competition where I used that initial inspiration from that reading to develop an idea of a sport programme for the homeless population in Auckland. While I didn’t win or get to action this idea, the spark remains, and I hope someday I can contribute to this or something similar in the sport for development space. The community is very much where my heart is.”

However, right now she has quite a different goal in mind.

“My initial plan was to move overseas once I graduated, but with COVID-19 still raging I put this plan off for a year. I worked with Paralympics New Zealand, where I had completed my final-year workplace experience, through the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and have been working with The IRONMAN Group since. I’ll now be leaving for the UK next month with the hope of working in the sport industry and gaining overseas experience during my time there.”