Life is a bit hectic at the moment for elite rower Marieke Keijser, 20, who embarked on a degree in Health Policy & Management at EUR this academic year. She graduated from secondary school in May, after having spent seven years in a pre-university stream. Two months later she successfully defended her lightweight single sculls title at the world rowing under-23 championships. On top of that, she won a silver medal at the senior world championships at the end of September. Due to all the rowing, her first month at university did not quite pan out as planned.

How do you expect to be able to combine a degree and a career as an elite athlete?

“I want to perform to the best of my ability in both fields. My programme has few contact hours and mainly requires self-study, so that helps. Thanks to rowing, I’m a very disciplined person. For instance, I’m used to getting up early for training. This academic year my degree will be my key priority. Rowing is not a very lucrative career, so having a degree is useful. Thankfully, the national team’s head coach is granting me enough time to study. As the 2020 Olympics draw closer, rowing will undoubtedly become more of a priority.”

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Marieke Keijser shows off her medal after coming second in the lightweight single sculls race.

Why did you opt for Rotterdam, Health Policy & Management and Skadi?

“I was born and bred in Rotterdam and have been living in a Rotterdam students’ house since last year. The choice of this EUR degree was an easy one: the combination of economics and health care appeals to me, and Rotterdam is my city. I joined Skadi last year, partially because I had a lot of time on my hands because I had divided my school-leaving examinations across two years. Skadi made an exception for me, a secondary-school pupil, because I had been a rower for a while. I come from a rowing family. In addition, I already knew several members, including my ‘rowing mum’, Rianne Sigmond, a former EUR student and world champion.”

As an elite athlete, do you have time at all for a social life?

“My next rowing training session won’t be for another month. I need that break before the start of a new season, both physiologically and psychologically. So at the moment I have more time to party. I feel right at home in student life. It’s great

living in a Rotterdam students’ house since last year. The choice of this EUR degree was an easy one: the combination of economics and health care appeals to me, and Rotterdam is my city. I joined Skadi last year, partially because I had a lot of time on my hands because I had divided my school-leaving examinations across two years. Skadi made an exception for me, a secondary-school pupil, because I had been a rower for a while. I come from a rowing family. In addition, I already knew several members, including my ‘rowing mum’, Rianne Sigmond, a former EUR student and world champion.”

As an elite athlete, do you have time at all for a social life?

“My next rowing training session won’t be for another month. I need that break before the start of a new season, both physiologically and psychologically. So at the moment I have more time to party. I feel right at home in student life. It’s great for an elite athlete to be no more than a fresher and to be treated like an absolute zero, just like everybody else. And it’s important that you create time for your friends, because you can’t always do everything on your own. Sometimes I will nurse a hangover while going about my rowing practice. It doesn’t feel great, but hey. I know that I need a bit of a party every once in a while. Of course you will make the odd mistake and stay up all night. I once fell ill a week after spending a night on the town because I’d had no time to catch up on my sleep due to my rowing practice. It was a learning experience.”