Carolina Villanueva Suarez is a third-year Bachelor in Laws and International Relations student at IE University, and she's also an elite athlete for the Spanish equestrian show jumping team. She recently spoke with Juan Barrio, IE Athletics and Student Relations Director. They shared their perspectives on how IE University supports and encourages student athletes to succeed both academically and athletically.

At IE University, life is all about learning, opportunity and balance. So, how do IE University students balance being top athletes and also getting good grades? Carolina shared some of her tricks of the trade. 

Use your resources

Competing every weekend while also attending classes face-to-face makes for a difficult and packed schedule. Carolina found that the IEU Athletics department was “super, super helpful in scheduling” and assisted her in keeping the two priorities in balance. It’s not uncommon for competition dates to overlap with classes or even exams. However, according to Juan, as long as students inform in advance, professors and coaches can “approve competition dates” and “coordinate the class, the teacher, the exams and the presentations” to make sure student-athletes don’t miss anything. 

Interestingly, the COVID pandemic has actually opened up some doors for student-athletes like Carolina. Now, traveling student-athletes can often attend classes online thanks to Liquid Learning. Fortunately, at IE University, “the professors are super willing to meet with you during office hours,” so if you need additional help, it’s there. Carolina recommends “taking advantage of all the help and resources in both the athletic and careers departments” in order to stay on top of assignments and career planning.

Carolina Villanueva

Stay passionate—and organized

How do IE University Dual Degree student-athletes like Carolina maintain such high grades? Carolina believes that the most important thing is “to love what you’re studying.” It’s the only way to be sufficiently motivated to dedicate the necessary time to both studies and athletic passions. With consistent work every day—rather than leaving things until the last minute—it’s possible to keep up with assignments without missing out on training.

Juan agrees wholeheartedly, sharing that “one of the most important skills to balance an academic career with athletics is to be very organized, very disciplined.” Students like Carolina who have these qualities are the ones that end up being equally successful in both areas. 

Choose the right university

IE University goes above and beyond to encourage their students to stay at the top of their game, and Juan has had the pleasure of working with many elite student-athletes. For example, Javier Fernandez, who is about to graduate after five years of study, won the under-23 fencing championship this year. The top Spanish aquatic water skier in his category also studied at IE University, as well as several competitive athletes in golf, tennis, dressage and more—and it’s no surprise.

This emphasis on athletics is one of the reasons Carolina chose to study at IE University. Living in the USA for many years, she was originally planning to study in California—but in order to pursue her sport at the highest level, suddenly Spain became the ideal location. Thanks to her dual citizenship, she was already in close contact with the Spanish equestrian team. As she looked for Spanish universities, IE University jumped out from the beginning. Since the courses are taught in English, she knew she would feel comfortable studying in a new country. Plus, it offered a teaching style that suited her. Carolina has had “a good mix” of theory-based classes and practical content in her law and international relations degree. Between all the different professors and types of content, she’s appreciated the versatility and the chance to apply what she’s learned in hands-on activities.

Carolina also really got a sense of “community” from IE University, which is “a necessity for athletes at top levels.” IE University is flexible and welcoming, working constantly to meet the needs of students and create more opportunities, whether in academics or in extracurricular activities.

Carolina Villanueva

The future of athletics at IE University

The future looks bright for IEU Athletics. Juan describes how he’s currently working with a team of student-athletes, including Carolina, to create an “elite program for different sports at the university to be presented soon to the board of directors.” The goal is to build—“step by step, and year by year”—a better program for various sports like horse riding, golf, tennis and more in order to support bigger and more competitive teams. And the fun isn’t limited to bachelor’s students. Master’s students at IE University can also participate in athletic teams, as long as they can commit the time and effort. Any student at either campus—Madrid or Segovia—can participate in sports, depending on the facilities available in that city.

No matter where you start, or what your academic and athletic interests are, IE University is ready to support you. Like Carolina, you could have the chance to merge multiple passions into one amazing study experience at IE University. For more information about IEU Athletics, visit the official webpage