'Been there, run that': Hannah on navigating uni as an athlete

We sat down with Hannah England, an alumna of the University of Birmingham, having studied Biochemistry in 2005, and a now retired professional athlete who is now involved in coaching and mentoring current athletes.

hannah england

Coming to and studying at Birmingham

Originally from Oxford, Hannah stayed in the city citing it as a ‘great place to live’. When asked what made her come to Birmingham in the first place, she told us that she started training in the city when she was 14. Describing it as an ‘easy choice’ to relocate for athletics as well as her science course, Hannah’s love for the city is palpable.

Talking about her childhood and the impact of sports, Hannah mentions how she did ‘all sports as a kid’ despite lacking ‘hand eye coordination’. Science and maths were her thing though, explaining her degree selection, but running was another important element of Hannah’s life.

When asked about balancing the commitments of sports and study, Hannah admitted that it’s ‘hard but also special’ and that the intensity can be positive, since it ‘brings out the best in you’. Undeniably, it takes a lot of time management and sacrifices, such as not staying out as late, but Hannah tells us, ‘you can have a very fulfilling time at university’ nonetheless.

Coming to Birmingham also meant finding and building a support network. Hannah recalls, chuckling at the memory of informing her course mates about her passion for running to which she was met with ‘Cool!... What’s that?’. Speaking on her friends and peers at university, Hannah felt ‘accepted’ and ‘supported’ as she reflected on instances where due to training, she often missed last minute room changes for lectures and so was met with a ‘flurry of text messages at 5 to 9’ keeping her on track. Excuse the pun!

Speaking on the Biochemistry department, Hannah was not short on praise; describing them as ‘brilliant’ as she was able to take ‘a year out’ to go to America and compete in the Collegiate system. Accommodating with assignment deadlines also, Hannah describes how the Biochemistry staff ‘bought into her excitement’ while in the States, which was an experience that was ‘paramount’ to her progression as a professional athlete. Birmingham itself prioritises ‘well-rounded’ individuals, Hannah tells us, rather than limiting students to only focus on and prioritise academia.

Advice to other student athletes

Sharing her pearls of wisdom with other student athletes, Hannah sums up her advice to the following phrase: ‘hold your nerve’. ‘It’s not always going to be easy’, she goes on, but you have to be hopeful ‘that it’s all going to work itself out’ by staying dedicated and committed.

‘Oh 100%!’ Hannah exclaims after being asked if she’d recommend Birmingham to prospective student athletes. ‘The scholarship system here is brilliant’, she goes on, which is why when armed with the chance to go anywhere in the world, leaving the University of Birmingham was not on her mind. Honouring the ‘practitioners’ at Birmingham as ‘world-class’, Hannah expands that Birmingham would give any young aspirational sportsperson ‘the platform they need to be as a good as they want to’. High praise indeed!

Hannah’s ‘Ten Talk’ for UoB Xtra

Hannah’s passion for sports coupled with her love for Birmingham is unmistakable which is probably why she’s on the lineup for our ‘Ten Talks’; our series of unique talks taking place during UoB Xtra on Wednesday 12 June, 9:30 - 16:00 in Teaching and Learning. More on our summer programme UoB Xtra.

Hannah’s talk is on whether female athletes get treated differently than male athletes, except her talk comes up with an unexpected twist; while most would expect the answer to be yes as seen by pay discrepancies, Hannah notes that sometimes women athletes are treated the same when they ‘needed to be treated differently’ especially puberty which is a ‘period of massive change’.

Although she admits to feeling ‘nervous’ about the public speaking venture, Hannah also expresses how excited she is to be part of such a unique day where students can expect ‘ten totally different talks’ from people of diverse backgrounds. When asked why we should listen to her talk specifically, Hannah honestly responds, ‘Because I’m going to be really nervous and you can smile at me!’. You can book for UoB Xtra here.

Paris 2024 Olympics

Looking ahead to the Paris Summer Olympics, the opportunity to spectate is nothing short of a ‘privilege’, Hannah expresses, and it helps that she’s on the sidelines rather than competing which takes the pressure off!

In terms of exploring the city itself, it’s museums Hannah has on her mind – ‘give me any impressionist, I love Monet!’.

hannah 2

We’re so excited for Hannah to go to Paris, a city she clearly loves after Birmingham of course!


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