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From triple jump to submission wrestling – Aalto supports students in combining sports and studies

Aalto University and Urhea have a partnership agreement. Whether your sport is basketball, synchronized skating, or something else, you get encouragement and support to combine practicing and studying
juoksurata, sports field
Otaniemi track and field. Photo: Aalto University/Mikko Raskinen

Aalto University student athletes compete in numerous different sports, only a few of which are listed here. Aalto students who are aiming for the top in their sport or are already there can apply for the membership of Urhea. The Helsinki Metropolitan Area sports academy Urhea is an official elite sports academy established in 2003 and approved by the Finnish Olympic Committee. Aalto University and Urhea have had a partnership agreement since 2015.

As a partner of Urhea, Aalto University supports students in combining sports and studies and takes into account the challenges and special needs of sports careers, for example by helping students in scheduling and planning their studies. The Urhea working group at Aalto serves as a link between Aalto University, Urhea and students and develops Aalto's practices to enable dual careers for athletes.

Low-threshold Urhea meetings received support

Aalto has dozens of Urhea athletes, twenty of whom participated in a spring meeting at the School of Business on 27 April 2023. The event was organised by Urhea contact persons at Aalto, led by Planning Officer Elli Hämäläinen, and the attendees also included Sami Itani, Professor of Practice at the Department of Management Studies of the School of Business and Head of Urhea at Aalto, as well as Juha 'Dallu’ Dahlström, Coordinator for Elite Sports at Urhea. The purpose of the meeting was to bring the Urhea students at Aalto together, to discuss topical issues related to combining sports and studies and to catch up. The low-threshold, 1.5-hour get-together received praise from the students.

‘Building flexible study paths is at the core of Urhea. The activities are being constantly developed, and we recognise that we need to increase the awareness of Urhea among Learning Services and teachers, and that's what we are doing. If you find it difficult to agree on flexibility with teachers or our other staff, you can contact me or the Urhea contact personnel at your school,’ Sami Itani says.

Triple jumper Veikko Nugraha, who is majoring in accounting, was one of the students who took part in the meeting. ‘For me, Urhea is part of my daily life. I practice at the Urhea hall and use many of their services, from physiotherapy to nutrition coaching. Thanks to Urhea’s contact person at Aalto, I can always discuss combining studies and sports with an expert, and you always get help when you ask for it,’ Veikko says. So far, Veikko’s highest achievements in his sport are bronze medals from the Kaleva Games in summer 2022 and 2018. 

Urhea-opiskelija, kolmiloikkaaja Veikko Nugraha. Kuva: Heidi Lehikoinen
Veikko Nugraha had a training camp in Portugal in May. Photo: Heidi Lehikoinen

Towards the summer

Elli Hämäläinen gave initial information about the Huippu-urheilijamyönteinen korkeakoulu (‘Elite athlete-friendly university’) pilot evaluation, which was conducted at the School of Business at the beginning of the year. A full report from the Olympic Committee is expected in June, when the evaluation results and development targets can also be reported. In addition, Elli presented Urhea's new website, which can be found in the Student Guide on the Aalto website (aalto.fi/en/student-guide: Support for studying > Support for Studying > URHEA – The Helsinki Metropolitan Area sports academy). Elli is happy to receive feedback on the new site.

The fifth and final period of the academic year is under way, and for athletes, too, thoughts are beginning to turn towards the summer. The student athletes’ wishes for the summer sounded familiar: warm weather, spending time at the cottage, competitions and festivals. Of course, the wishes depend heavily on whether the season is about to begin in one's sport or whether it has recently ended, in which case it is time for training. Regardless of the different annual clocks of the sports, Aalto University wishes all its athletes best of luck in training and competing as well as the much-desired warm weathers and opportunities to recharge batteries! 

Text: Terhi Ollikainen

Urhea-tapaaminen Kauppakorkeakoululla huhtikuussa 2023
A get-together for Aalto's Urhea athletes was organised at the School of Business on 27 April 2023. Donuts had been eaten and a glass of mead raised when the picture was taken.

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