During National Careers Week, we celebrate the Westfield Matildas who are forging careers on and off the pitch.
Swedish-based Westfield Matilda Emily Gielnik reflects on her second passion of fitness and exercise and the studies that will hopefully amass her success after football.
Currently, Emily Gielnik is enrolled in a Bachelor of Exercise Science, a complex and difficult degree for most full-time university students, yet Gielnik has the added weight of playing professional football on the other side of the world in Scandinavia.
Unlike many elite athletes who do not prioritise their qualifications post-degree, the Vittsjo forward is very focused on what she wants to achieve once she hangs up the boots.
“I've got a massive passion in the fitness industry. I've got more than enough things to back me up in terms of what I want to do now"
Where do I want to go? Potentially overseas, working with some of the biggest clubs in men's and women's football.
“I really need that Bachelor of exercise science. It just sounds so smart.”
With a crucial semester period coinciding with the upcoming Westfield Matildas friendlies and Olympic campaign, Gielnik is finding the balancing act more difficult than ever.
"It's a massive adjustment. But you know, I'm getting used to it."
"I went from having not too much other than football in my life to like, what feels like full time studying where I've got no social life."
Recently, Westfield Matilda defender Clare Polkinghorne shifted clubs in Sweden to join Gielnik at Vittsjo GIK. The two players will reunite after spending the last domestic campaign as Brisbane Roar teammates, along with numerous shared appearances at international level.
With Polkinghorne also enrolled in a Bachelor of Exercise Science, the pair will be spending a lot more time together off the field, as both balance the commitments of professional football and full-time studies. Often, Gielnik needs the assistance of her compatriot with the constant deadlines involved with university.
“[Polks] is my lifesaver because I am not very good at checking emails, I'm not very good at knowing when things are due.”
“She tells me the night before. ‘Hey, um, have you done this quiz? Because it's due midnight tonight.’”
The 29-year-old recognises the value in having Polkinghorne as a support network while she completes her studies due to their different personalities. Having recognition that someone is experiencing the same pressures as you both on the field and away from football is incredibly important.
"We are just complete polar opposites."
I'm getting better day by day but [Clare] has definitely progressed further than I have
“She's a very diligent study. I’m more like selective, very good at just leaving it all to the last minute, let the stress build up and then I attack it."
Having a familiar face is incredibly useful when living in the tiny village of Vittsjo in southern Sweden. To put in perspective just how much Vittsjo’s footballing team have been punching above their weight, many of their first division opponents reside in the capital city Stockholm.
The Australian equivalent would be a Westfield W-League clash between Sydney FC and a side from the small outback mining town of Broken Hill.