Karolina Garbowska

Physiology Placement Student

Karolina is a Sport and Exercise Science student from London. She first started volunteering through becoming Club Chair of Taekwondo, where she also gained her Emergency First Aid qualification. More recently she became a Physiology Placement student, working with Loughborough Lightning Cycling Performance Programme.

Tell us a little about yourself (E.g. hobbies, interests and background):

I'm studying Sports and Exercise science, going into my final year after a year of being on placement. Coming from a school in London, Loughborough was a huge change in scenery for me and I've found all of the sports opportunities to be very exciting! I enjoy getting involved in MyLifestyle activities such as badminton and squash as well as being a part of LSU societies. One of my biggest hobbies is Taekwondo, a slightly less mainstream sport but a very fun one nonetheless. I'm passionate about helping the Loughborough team grow and become more competitive in the sport through helping to coach and lead the club. 

How did you first get involved in volunteering within sport at Loughborough?

I first started volunteering by joining the committee of the Taekwondo club. I spent a year as the club Chair where my responsibilities ranged from paperwork to organising sessions and leading the committee. I found being part of a committee to be a very natural way to volunteer in something I was interested in and give back to the club whilst also learning valuable skills in leadership. Through this role I also learned of the CVA by completing their first aid training course, and later went on to do my placement year with Loughborough Sport. 

During your years at Loughborough what did you get involved in through volunteering within sport?

During my time at Loughborough I was a club Chair and now beginning my role as a Captain, this role will require me to plan and lead training sessions for my squad. I have also spent a year in a full-time placement role as a Physiologist, part of my role was supporting the Loughborough Lightning cycling squad and also supporting commercial customers from a range of sporting backgrounds. This role gave me a lot of exposure and experience with working in new sports that I had limited previous knowledge of, as well as interacting with athletes of varying backgrounds. 

What was your experience volunteering like?

My experience has been very varied, I got the opportunity to work with some incredible athletes with goals such as completing the Marathon De Sables, Race across America, a 24 hour time trial and Ultra X. I also got to work with recreational athletes who are just starting their sports career and students who are part of a squad on campus. If it weren't for my volunteer roles, I don't think I would've had such an appreciation for the big range of challenges out there and just how much effort and planning goes into preparing athletes for them. 
I've also really enjoyed finding ways to bring in my skillsets to make a difference in my roles. For example, I never thought that working as a physiologist in a lab setting, I would end up creating databases and working on all sorts of cool projects that I didn't initially expect of a physiology role. It has been great getting feedback on my work from my mentors and other professionals and finding out how I can continue to improve even the most unconventional skills involved in my role.

How has being involved with Loughborough Sport helped you develop and progress (personally and professionally)?

Most importantly for me, my placement year has helped me to realise what working in the industry will be like in the future. Prior to this I had limited knowledge from my course about what working in sport was really like, and how the content we were taught will apply to a role in the future. Getting this experience has changed my outlook on how I might use the things I am learning in a job. I have developed a lot in the soft skills involved in being a sports practitioner as I had the chance to work with a broad range of athletes, from recreational to professional. There is more to working in sports than just knowing the science, such as how to interact with athletes, gaining their trust, and collaborating with other practitioners from different disciplines. I feel that I have a clearer outlook on how to progress my skills going forward so that I can get my desired role in the future.

What’s the best advice you could give to a Loughborough student looking to get involved in volunteering and gain the most out of their university experiences?

Firstly, be proactive - get involved in the things you enjoy and if an opportunity comes up then go for it! Examples are committee roles, planning an event, leading a training session or completing courses/qualifications outside of your university course. I started with getting involved in my own sports club more before going onto a placement year to help me build up my experience first. Getting experience doesn't have to be limited to sports, you can try voluntary roles such as media or leadership in other University clubs too. Don't be afraid to get involved in sports you are unfamiliar with too, or even a new discipline that you feel you know less about. Starting a new role will teach you a lot of things and the best way to know if it's the role for you is to try it. Every bit of experience will help you to narrow down what you enjoy and what you don't so why not give it a go?

Finally, what do you enjoy most about volunteering?

The people - Both my colleagues and all of the inspirational athletes I got to meet throughout the year. Every day coming into my work I wondered about who we will meet today and what kind of story they had to tell! My mentor was excellent with providing feedback and helping me with my personal development and the amount of effort the team put into helping the placement students is an experience I couldn't get elsewhere. 

Feeling Inspired?

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