Swimming, studying and securing a first: Five years I’ll never forget

Writing assignments to tight deadlines is tough at the best of times, throw in that you’re competing across the world for Team GB as a para-swimmer and things get slightly more difficult. Welcome to the world of Rosie Bancroft, a Zoology graduate from the class of 2019 who managed to juggle her elite level swimming career with her studies to obtain a first-class degree. Read all about her five years at The University of Manchester, in her own words, below… 

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I’m Rosie, I’m 24 and I’ve just graduated with a first in Zoology from The University of Manchester. My favourite subject at school was biology and I had a strong desire to work with animals, however, I originally wanted to study veterinary medicine. One month before the UCAS applications went in I went to South Africa and volunteered with a vet on a game reserve. This was a fantastic experience but it actually changed my mind about veterinary as I realised that I wanted to learn more about these amazing animals and, most importantly, how to protect them. Zoology seemed to be the perfect option!

I also didn’t originally plan to go to the University of Manchester, I started out at the University of Glasgow until I was offered a place training with the GB team at the national performance centre for para-swimming in Manchester. So my path changed quite a bit but I’m so happy with how it worked out as I have loved my time at UoM studying Zoology. During my time studying part-time at Manchester I was also competing at an elite level in international competitions for GB Para-swimming and worked a number of part-time jobs, so I have had a busy five years!

As I was born missing my right leg and wear a prosthetic, swimming has always been something I felt comfortable doing and not held back in any way. From a very young age I loved the water, this developed into swimming lessons before progressing through to the City of Oxford swimming club until I was selected for the world-class pathway program during my A levels. I used to be very self-conscious of my leg, but gradually through swimming for so many years and competing in front of a lot of people, I became very confident in myself and now wouldn’t change my leg even if I could!

I have also been able to experience some amazing things during my swimming career, I travelled the world for competitions (representing GB in the German Open and coming third in my second year at uni was one of my highlights) and for training camps such as three weeks in Thailand and four weeks at the USA Olympic Training Centre in Colorado. I would never have been able to pursue my goals in swimming as well as my academic goals during my time at Manchester had it not been for the support of my department and UoM Sport. As a sport scholar, they helped me through my whole time here with performance lifestyle advice, physio and strength and conditioning coaching. Also, as I would go on camp a few times a year every year, my zoology lecturers even wrote me separate assignments and tests for when I couldn’t be there in person. I once did a totally different field course because I missed out whilst training at altitude.

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During uni, I also started coaching the swim team when I was recommended to them by my old coach. It started out as a way to make a bit of extra money whilst training and studying, but the team soon became my closest friends and I felt the coaching allowed me to develop a lot of leadership skills. It showed me another side of the sport and was one of the best decisions I made at university. I also represented UoM at BUCS, which I attended for the last three years as a competitor and also as the head coach. The UoM swim team are known for being the loudest supporters on poolside, even getting the megaphone out for finals, and it creates an atmosphere that meant BUCS are now some of my favourite swimming memories of my whole career.

I have absolutely loved studying zoology, there were so many interesting modules and I have now left the uni with a real passion and drive to work in wildlife conservation. My highlight was my final year as the content became more specific to Zoology. I was able to choose extra modules that interested me and choose an independent research project. Throughout my final year, I chose quite a few modules not directly related to zoology but instead to do with climate change, which I have loved and is now something that I feel very passionate about.

UoM Sport can’t seem to get rid of me as I’m now working in the department in a one-year role as Sport Sabbatical Officer/AU Chair, organising and managing all 41 sports clubs we have at the University and acting as a student voice within sport. I’m excited to start putting my stamp on the role. After this year I would like to use the skills I’ve learnt from this role such as project management and take it forward into my long term career plan, which my dream would be to work in project management within wildlife conservation organisations.

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From my time at Manchester my main tips for new students would be:

  • Join a club or a society – There is something for everyone and is one of the best ways to get to know people and adds so much to your university experience!
  • Be organised – Being organised and managing my time meant that by not leaving everything to the last minute, I had time to fit in my training and a social life alongside my studies.
  • Without sounding too cheesy – When things don’t go the way you planned just embrace it, my path changed many times from what I originally thought it would be but I now wouldn’t change it for the world.
  • Enjoy your time here it goes by quick 🙂

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