Hanna-Maria Seppälä has always been ready to work for her dreams. She is a former top-class swimmer, and is now working in sport spheres as a mentor and swimming coach. She also makes company visits giving lectures about well-being. During her active sport career, Seppälä completed two degrees, the latter of which at the University of Jyväskylä. 

The combination of top-level athletics and studying is never easy. On her study career Hanna-Maria Seppälä has encountered also other challenges. At elementary school she noticed that she learnt new things more slowly than her classmates. Finally at the general upper secondary school Hanna-Maria realised that she suffered from dyslexia. – Figuring out new things, in particular mathematical ones, has always been challenging for me, Hanna-Maria tells.

Just like as an athlete, she has been highly goal-oriented also as a student, constantly developing her skills. Athletics was easy to combine with school studies at the upper secondary stage. The school supported sport and the distance between the school and the swimming hall was short. Hanna-Maria spent one spring term as an exchange student in Sweden. She learnt Swedish so well that she pursued post-secondary studies at the Swedish-speaking Arcada University of Applied Sciences and graduated as a physiotherapist in 2009.

Next, her study career led her to the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä. It started a very intensive period in Hanna-Maria’s life. At the end of her studies she travelled a couple of times a week to Jyväskylä leaving her own training team in the Helsinki region. At times she would have wished for less traveling, since during the first year she could spend only weekends in Helsinki.

– There are only 24 hours  per day, so every hour and minute had to be taken into good use in the top athlete’s/student’s life. Wake-up at 5 a.m., swim training at 6-7:30 and from there to lectures to start at eight o’clock, Hanna-Maria recalls her daily schedule in Jyväskylä. Later, during the lunch break there was another training session, after which the lectures continued till late in the evening. Somehow I managed to keep the daily rhythm going on, as my motivation stayed at a sufficiently high level. I went to bed always at 8-9 p.m.

“What I enjoyed in Jyväskylä besides the studies were the breaks, in particular, with related training opportunities. As in Jyväskylä everything is near-by and there are diverse training facilities readily available, it was a pleasure to go occasionally to Hippos for running, or have a gym session or take a quick swim in the pool in between the lectures.”

The most significant skill she learnt during her study years in Jyväskylä had to do with prioritisation of things and time management. Very soon at the beginning of the studies it became evident that there is not enough time for everything at a 100% level. – I invested in sport to the full, because I wanted still to succeed in competition. As for my studies, then again, I concentrated on courses that were especially interesting or which I felt would be truly useful to me in the future, Hanna-Maria explains her choices.

Sport careers generally include a lot of failures as well, so Hanna-Maria is well-experienced in dealing with those. She has also learnt to reflect aptly on her actions and gain power also from the most difficult moments. She succeeded in combining intense studying and her career as a top-level athlete and so she graduated as a Master of Sport Sciences in 2017.

Hanna-Maria Seppälä’s study-related ambitions did not end with the Master’s degree. The next dream to be fulfilled aims at a medical profession as a physician. Hanna-Maria has applied primarily for the Swedish-speaking study programme of the University of Helsinki. The language choice is not surprising, given her earlier study career. Also in Jyväskylä, her study programme was partly in English. –I give presentations and lectures most preferably in English, Hanna-Maria says.

She is again ready to make an effort and work for her prospective third degree. – For me, continuous learning means interest and openness toward new things. When some interesting topic comes across, I start investigating it with an open mind and looking at it from different perspectives.

“I find that learning new things is one of the mainstays of my life.”


Hanna-Maria Seppälä is one of the keynote speakers at the EduFutura Forum in Jyväskylä on 15 November 2019. In this event she is going to tell more about the reconciliation of top-level sport and studying and also about her life with dyslexia.

Read more: https://www.edufuturaforum.fi/

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