Graduate ticks off his university bucket list

If ever there was a living endorsement for making the most of all the opportunities on offer at Edge Hill University, it’s Sports Development and Management student Jonathan Ollerenshaw who graduates today.

The student experience at Edge Hill has been recognised as the best in the North West, and from Jonathan’s account of his time here, it’s easy to see why.

Jonathan wasn’t sure he was cut out for university, however a passing comment from one of his school teachers helped change his mind, and he’s had the time of his life.

“I was pretty much an ordinary student at high school, passing all of my GCSEs, but I never aspired to go to university – to be honest, I had no idea what I wanted to do in life,” said Jonathan. “I just enjoyed playing sport and having fun with my friends, simple. An instance that epitomised this was when I was playing football an hour before a GCSE PE exam instead of going to a revision session. My teacher walked past and I knew he spotted me. No words were spoken until after the exam, he then walked up to me and asked me how I’d done, I said OK, I’ve probably passed. To which he replied ‘don’t be one of the lads’. This story may seem pointless to some, but that conversation changed me, and I made an active decision to not be ‘one of the lads’, and concentrate on myself instead.

“Then came another decision, what am I going to do next? All my friends were going to college, so guess what? I did the same. I went to a couple of meetings at Cheadle College and liked the courses they had to offer. I had meetings with the BTEC Sport department, and as sport was my one passion, it was a no brainer. Long story short, I found the course easy (probably because I was no longer ‘one of the lads’, I attended every class and decided against turning up late with my friends), and my teacher proposed the option of starting an academic lifestyle, going to university. Me?! University?! It was something I had never considered, but it seemed right.

“So, I went through the campus tours and course talks at four different universities, and one stood out. Edge Hill University. Firstly, the strikingly enticing campus; secondly, the friendly staff and volunteers; and thirdly, the fact that the lecturers wanted more than good grades, they wanted to help students become more employable, and do so through engaging in a number of opportunities. I was sold.”

And Jonathan has never looked back.

“The course was great, and I was given the opportunities to get involved in real life situations. I volunteered on the Tackling the Blues scheme and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of engaging with young people in the community through sport and physical activity. Through volunteering I have been able to see how the course can increase someone’s knowledge of the sport development discipline, as everything I learned is relevant for my future.”

It wasn’t just the opportunities available through his course that Jonathan embraced. He also engaged in a wealth of extracurricular opportunities, from 5-a-side football on a Monday, working with The International Society and playing Futsal for the first team, to leading a team up Kilimanjaro and raising a total of £28,000 for the Childreach International Charity, taking part in the Erasmus+ programme, and making the most of the Student Opportunity Fund by travelling to Montclair State University.

“When I arrived at university I knew no one, thrown in at the deep end some would say,” said Jonathan. “Luckily I got on with my flat mates, but I wasn’t much of a ‘clubber’, so I made sure that I went out a few times in Freshers’ Week. Fortunately, on Welcome Sunday I met someone who was on my course when I was out with my flatmates. We made more friends throughout our time at uni, but it was nice to walk into the first class on Monday and see a friendly face. The friends we would go on to make meant the beginning of our 5-a-side team.

“This led to Peter Armstrong from the Sport department, asking me to join the first ever Futsal team at Edge Hill. I thought I’d never play football competitively again so I was excited. Best memory was by far playing in Varsity, having other students support you was a great feeling; I’d only played in front of crowds that included mums and dads in the past.

“Back to the friendships. In halls I lived with two Germans – one who I became close to and inspired me to travel. I showed her everything the UK has to offer, and by doing this, I saw my home as an adventure, which inspired me (and still does inspire me) to explore the world. Then we had a presentation in class about Erasmus+, which was perfect timing. I applied straight away, and received confirmation soon after. I was off to Universitat de Vic, just outside Barcelona.

“I could go on about Erasmus+ forever, but I’ll cut it short from the ‘I met friends and travelled’ – pretty obvious. Here, I met two people who brought fun back into my life. In second year I became a book worm, I knew it. Despite going out regularly, I was obsessed with grades. The friends I made on Erasmus+ made me laugh like I used to in high school, it was a long journey of self-development but something finally clicked – you can have fun while working hard, who’d have thought it!

“Thankfully I brought this thought process back to third year, I went out regularly (having fun while doing so), going to festivals, gigs and playing sport. However, what shocked me was that I was achieving even better grades than I was in second year. Then my course was given the chance to go to New Jersey through the Student Opportunity Fund. So, after having the time of my life over the past few years I thought, why not make it a little bit better. I applied, had an interview, and got it. I was travelling to the US. What a way to finish an incredible experience at university.”

So what’s next for Jonathan?

“The big question. Employment is the big one for me, however, I have not ruled out applying for a Masters in the future too. Having studied for four years at university, I want to put what I have learned into real life situations.

“I have a passion for active transportation, as I am a keen active commuter, whether that be walking or cycling. To delve into this area would be ideal, as I want to see more active communities across the UK. I hope to be a successful manager in this field in the distant future, but for now I’m just looking to get my foot in the door.”

Click here for more information about studying Sports Development and Management at Edge Hill.