Managing study and competitive sport required commitment. Luke Mitchell, who has recently graduated with a Bachelor of Teaching, Primary from the University of Waikato, knows just how much of a juggle it can be.
During his studies, Luke competed regionally, nationally and internationally as a competitive swimmer. And being a full-time student and athlete certainly wasn’t without its challenges.
“I knew going into my degree I was going to have to manage my study, swimming training and competitions, plus my social life,” says Luke.
Luke believes if it wasn’t for the support he received, he wouldn’t have been able to keep swimming and maintain his studies successfully.
“The support I received from the University staff throughout my studies was incredible. I wouldn’t have been able to get through my three years without my lecturers and tutors having my back,” says Luke.
Luke’s training regime was demanding but it certainly paid off, allowing him to compete in events like the Waikato Swimming Championships in 2019 and 2020, where he gained multiple gold and silver medals, and the NZ Open Water Championships, where he gained his first New Zealand title in the 2.5km Open Water Event in 2019, also going on to retain it in 2020.
His most notable achievement was competing in the FINA Swimming World Cup in Singapore in 2019, competing against some of the best swimmers in the world. Luke made the final for two Freestyle events.
On top of the demands of his training and his studies, Luke was also the St Peter’s swim captain for the 2019 and 2020 seasons and was reappointed for 2021. He was also the Waikato Regional Squad Captain and member of the Swimming Waikato Regional Squad. Luke advocates for other swimmers from St Peters and across the Waikato region by offering improvements to the sport, based on the swimmers’ feedback, to the coaches and trustees.
Luke grew up on a dairy farm in Otorohanga and attended St Peter’s School in Cambridge, so staying in the Waikato and going to the University of Waikato was a no brainer for him.
“The Waikato has been my home my whole life, and for me to continue being a swimmer at a high level, I thought the best decision would be to stay at my current swimming club in the region I know and love.”
Luke also knew that The University of Waikato had a great reputation for teaching. “I had heard from multiple people that Waikato would be the best place for me to study my degree. So when it came to making the decision about where I would go, it was pretty easy in the end”.
While swimming has always been a natural talent of Luke’s, he admits he hasn’t always found the academic side as easy.
“I had to work pretty hard to get through school, but I had lots of support from the teachers who were willing to put in extra time and effort to help me,” says Luke.
It was these teachers who inspired his decision to go into teaching.
“Knowing that I had the support of my teachers and that they wanted to see me succeed was so important. I want to do the same for other kids because any child deserves to be given the help and support to reach their dreams. I want to be there and part of that,” says Luke.
Now, while still training heavily for swimming, Luke is working as a relief teacher at Tauwhare Primary School, which was his last placement school. He thoroughly enjoyed the practical components of the degree and is loving spending some time in the classroom on his own.
“I’ve been lucky enough to get some relief teaching hours at my last practicum school, which has allowed me to spend some time with a class of students on my own, replicating exactly what it would be like when I get my own classroom one day.”
Luke wants others to know it is possible to pursue more than one dream at the same time.
“It is possible to be a full-time student and a full-time athlete/employee, you just need to surround yourself with the right support. I believe the University of Waikato can provide that for everyone.
“The University gives all of the teaching students every opportunity to succeed. I know that the degree has given me a lot of confidence to be in my own classroom one day and know that my students will benefit from my teaching” says Luke.