Sophie Szyszko

 Hi, my name is Sophie. I am the club Volleyball captain. I am currently balancing training hard to compete in volleyball with a Physics degree, and everything in between.


Undoubtedly, one of Durham’s great strengths as a university is its strong sporting reputation. I know for me, I would never have considered Durham when making my university choices if it didn’t have a strong volleyball programme. But as I discovered at the end of my first year, these teams are run by the students themselves.

In the summer of 2015, I was elected to be club captain for the volleyball club. At the time, I had very minimal experience in managing groups of people, and didn’t have a clue about how fixtures were arranged and the procedures behind them. Fast forward a year, and the club has achieved final finishes at championship level for the first teams, secured promotions for both second teams, leading to an expansion of the club and been nominated for Club of the Year at the 2016 Palatinate Awards. I enjoyed it so much I stayed on to be club captain for another year!

As a leader on the executive committee, I have scheduled match times, organised referees and transportation across the 6 teams that the club currently has. As a result, it has enhanced my organisational and communication skills, through organising meetings with executive members of the club and the university, and club promotion through social media. Planning for the fresher’s fair has always been quite fun, and getting you get a bit of marketing experience through posters, banners, flyers and online promotion. At times it can often be frustrating, and there have been times where I feel like I’m drowning under the amount of work from the club and my physics degree, but the skills I have learned and the experiences I have had have definitely helped me to become a lot more confident, not to mention the boost to the C.V!

Its also is a great way to meet students in other sports. Through meetings with Team Durham and other club captains, I’ve gotten to meet so many amazing people, who have been able to act as a support system, offering volleyballhelp and advice with problems that may happen in their own clubs. And even if sport isn’t your cup of tea, there are so many opportunities for leadership and C.V enhancement across music, drama and volunteering. I have been very fortunate to have been a part of the Experience Durham Leadership Academy for both years as club captain. Its a series of workshops and events designed to increase leadership skills and to develop key transferable skills for the workplace. I’ve been mentored by leading professionals and taken a lot on board. Whilst the skill seminars may seem like a lot of extra effort, I’ve had some amazing, unique experiences such as having an away weekend with the Northumbrian OTC, dinners in Clifford Chance with a spectacular view of London, as well as getting to spend a day on HMS Bulwark and watching the Sunderland Air Show from the flight deck.

I would definitely encourage anyone to get involved in their clubs and societies. There’s no better feeling, when you’re working with driven and motivated people, on a project that you’re passionate about.

You could be that driving force that turns an idea into something great.