Case Six: Johanna Calleja

A University of Chester graduate is looking to turn her local experience into international achievement, as she graduates with a distinction in a Master’s degree that she hopes will have an impact in her home country.

Johanna Calleja, from Sliema in Malta, was drawn to study at Chester, as the course offered the best combination of her two main areas of interest - exercise and nutrition. The University provided the perfect blend of the two, through its MSc Exercise and Nutrition Science programme.

Johanna said: “My first degree was in Tourism Studies but, as an athlete, I was always very interested in exercise and nutrition. At times I was worried whether I could cope with such a big change, but I was given a lot of guidance and reassurance by the Department of Clinical Sciences staff.”

After moving to the city so that she could focus on her studies full time, Johanna was also able to experience the local area, as well as the rest of the country, through her abilities as a high-level triathlete. Once settled in, she took part in a number of activities during her time here.

She said: “Apart from the Master’s, I also undertook several fitness qualifications during my time in Chester and have become a certified personal trainer.

I joined the local triathlon club, as well as the university swimming and running teams, which gave me the opportunity to participate in a number of races across the UK.

“My best results included winning the Chester Triathlon Club Winter League and placing ninth in the BUCS (British Universities & Colleges Sport) Olympic Triathlon Championships. I also placed second in the Malta National Triathlon Championships.”

She now hopes her work will have an impact in Malta, as Johanna’s dissertation focused on tackling obesity through awareness in her home country. Her research investigated the level of physical activity promotion carried out by Maltese GPs.

Johanna explained: “The right promotion by GPs could have a significant public health impact, particularly since physical inactivity and obesity levels are very high in Malta.”

Now back home, Johanna is putting her skills into practice and hoping to make an impact of her own.

“I am using the knowledge from my MSc to consult a number of athletes, including two top Maltese triathletes and two top Maltese canoeists, to ensure that their nutrition supports their training programme and to help them to reach their goals. I am also helping other individuals to reach their fitness and weight loss goals through exercise and healthy eating.”

With a promising future, Johanna added: “Looking back on my year in Chester, I feel very proud of all that I’ve achieved, both as a student and an athlete.”

Johanna graduates at Chester Cathedral on Friday, March 16 and will be joined by her parents Louise and Victor who will be flying over from Malta especially for the occasion.