Being an elite athlete means hours of dedication to training and competitions. And studying a dual degree program means hours of dedication to projects and classes. Is it possible to be an elite athlete and a dual degree student? Carolina Villanueva is proof that IE University offers the tools and support to allow her to chase her personal and professional dreams.

Originally from Asturias, Spain, Carolina’s family took off to travel the world when she was just two years old. They lived in different places, but she spent the final two years of her high school studies in New York. When she was around 17, the Royal Spanish Equestrian Federation’s head of showjumping asked her if she would represent Spain. The first thing that came to her mind was her future studies. A conversation with her uncle, who works at IE University, led Carolina to pursue a dual degree program—an option she says was not open to her in the United States—allowing her to work toward her dreams of both representing Spain and studying a dual degree in the subjects she was most passionate about. 

Currently enrolled in the Dual Degree in Laws + International Relations, Carolina is using her innate soft skills to be successful in her program. A self-described extrovert who loves people and discussing new ideas, she believes the combination of her natural abilities and her newly acquired skills will help her in the future, whether she chooses a traditional role in a law firm or a role in the political or diplomatic spheres. 

Her education is not the only thing Carolina is focused on pursuing. Already ranked highly in Spain, she has dreams of representing the country as a showjumper at the Olympic Games. Being an elite athlete and a full-time student is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but Carolina is thriving in both worlds, with the support of the IE Sports & Well-being department allowing her to balance her study schedule with her athletic schedule. 

Each day for Carolina brings something different, whether she starts with her horses or with her studies, she remains focused, determined and consistent. IE University keeps Carolina disciplined, especially thanks to the launch of the IE University Elite Athlete Program. She is able to balance training, studying, spending time with friends and earning a degree. In fact, Carolina is enjoying this balance so much that she’s ready to continue her studies at IE University, noting that the institution has great master’s degrees on offer.

As for the future, Carolina describes it as complex. She’s got her eyes set on the Olympics, a master’s degree and a future career. And though Carolina doesn’t have time to take any days off—between the horses and her studies, hers is a seven-day week—she walks through life remembering what her mom always says: “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”