Student Sporting Insight #10 – Jiaqi Meng
In episode #10 of the Student Sport Insights, we had the privilege of speaking with Jiaqi Meng, a gifted student-athlete who hails from China and has achieved extraordinary accomplishments in the realm of table tennis, all while pursuing her studies in the UK.
Jiaqi’s story serves as an inspiring testament to the boundless opportunities that await talented international student-athletes in the United Kingdom. Regardless of the sport or skill level, UK universities offer a nurturing environment that allows student-athletes to compete at a high level alongside their university studies.
We uncover her sporting and educational experiences, offering valuable insights to international students looking to combine sport and academics in the United Kingdom.
Institution: University of Nottingham
Degree: MSc Management Psychology
Jiaqi’s journey to the UK
From her earliest days, Jiaqi’s passion for table tennis has been unwavering. After training with the provincial team in Henan Province from 2010 to 2015, Jiaqi made the decision to stop playing professionally in order to pursue her studies.
Whilst attending Peking University in Beijing, Jiaqi continued to play, winning five medals at the Chinese National University Championships. Upon graduating with her Bachelor’s degree in International Relations, she began exploring opportunities to study abroad and continue playing table tennis.
Selecting the UK as her study destination was driven by Jiaqi’s desire to explore new horizons and experience different cultures.
“I always wanted to study abroad to experience different life and see a bigger world. I was pretty sure that I wanted to do work related to sports, so the UK was a good opportunity for me to get connections with people in this area.”
When faced with the choice between the US and the UK, an enticing scholarship from the University of Nottingham, the Deng Yaping scholarship, sealed her decision.
The Deng Yaping Sports Scholarship Award is named after one of the greatest table tennis players of all time, Dr Deng Yaping.
Named Athlete of the Century, Dr. Deng Yaping won 18 world championships and four Olympic gold medals and graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2003 with her master’s degree.
The scholarship not only covered Jiaqi’s tuition fees and provided a monthly living stipend, but also aligned perfectly with her aspirations of building a career in sports-related fields.
This is just one example of the many sport-specific scholarships offered by universities throughout the United Kingdom that are available to talented international student-athletes.
Sport-specific awards can provide students with reduced tuition fees, access to state-of-the-art sports facilities, dedicated coaching, and comprehensive support throughout their academic journey.
Success in the UK and Europe
After arriving in the UK, the abundance of playing opportunities for table tennis players exceeded her expectations.
The vibrant university table tennis scene offered her a variety of platforms to showcase her skills, from individual competitions like BUCS (British Universities & Colleges Sport) individuals to team matches, Open Tournaments (Grand Prix), and the mixed-gender TTD (Table Tennis Daily) events.
“The opportunities to play as a student in the UK are surprisingly much more than I thought. There are lots of opportunities to compete against strong players in BUCS and other tournaments.”
Her table tennis career at the University of Nottingham has been a remarkable journey of achievement and excellence, with victories in both BUCS and external competitions.
For two consecutive years, she has emerged triumphant at the BUCS Table Tennis Championships, sweeping the titles in the Singles, Doubles, and Mixed Doubles categories in both 2021 and 2022.
Most recently, she continued her winning streak at the European Universities Championships in 2023, again securing titles in Singles, Doubles, and Team events.
Advice to international student-athletes considering the UK
On top of all her sporting success, Jiaqi has equally enjoyed her experience as a student-athlete in the United Kingdom.
“I feel the whole environment is more relaxing and less stressful in the UK compared to China. The relationship between me and my classmates and teammates is friendlier and less complicated. The coaches and supervisors show more respect and give me more freedom which stimulated my inner motivation in both my academic and sports life.”
Having now graduated from the University of Nottingham with her Master’s Degree, Jiaqi envisions herself staying in the UK to continue her journey as a competitive athlete, fueled by her genuine love for the sport.
While the specifics are uncertain, her commitment to the game is clear.
For international student-athletes contemplating a similar path, Jiaqi encourages them to approach their experiences with an open heart, embracing diverse cultures and backgrounds.
“I would say firstly be open-minded and experience the different cultures and values in the society (especially for Chinese students) with your heart and try to get more involved with people from different backgrounds as this will enrich your life in a foreign country.
Secondly, just enjoy the sport with pure passion and have fun, no matter what level you are and no matter whether you are winning or losing.”
Helping you compete at a high level alongside your university studies
With 128 sporting events and 25,800 fixtures having taken place during the 2022-23 UK University sports season, BUCS provides an environment that allows students to improve their skills, gain experience, and reach new heights in over 50 different sports.
However, the opportunities for international student-athletes extend beyond national borders. The UK’s strategic location in Europe allows students to experience top-level competition from around the world, as showcased by Jiaqi’s triumph at the European Universities Championships.
Regardless of the sport or skill level, the UK offers a nurturing environment that provides the support and facilities necessary for students to excel both academically and athletically.
Learn more about UK University Table Tennis or register your details for our free service via the links below to see how we can help you take your sport and education overseas.
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