Two Heriot-Watt students will embark on a trip of a lifetime to Barcelona's legendary Camp Nou stadium next week as part of Santander UK's initiative to support female talent in both their sporting and professional lives.
The captain of the university's women's football team, Emily Reynolds, and its Vice-President, Melanie Gines-Cooke, have been selected by Santander Universities to watch FC Barcelona in their upcoming UEFA Champions League match at the world-famous Camp Nou.
They are part of a select group of leading footballers from women's football clubs at UK universities who will join a programme of events, tours and training. Organised by Santander Universities, the programme is designed to help build critical thinking and management skills for female talent, both through sporting and wider leadership activity.
We are thrilled to offer this opportunity to top female football talent from across the UK to help develop their leadership skills, both within and outside a sporting context.
On March 12, the students will jet off to the Spanish city where she will meet with players from FC Barcelona Women's Team as well as senior executives from Santander during a thought leadership event hosted by the bank.
The following day, they will take part in a training session led by professional football coach and ex-player of both FC Barcelona and Chelsea FC, Chapi Ferrer, before watching the Catalan giants take on French-side Lyon in their vital, round 16 tie of the Champions League.
But that's not all.
They will also be treated to a tour of the iconic stadium, which holds almost 100,000 fans, before returning home.
Emily, a fourth-year Business and Finance student, said news of the trip came as a complete surprise.
“I was on the bus on my way to university when I received an email that said I could go to Barcelona,” she recalls.
“At first I thought it was a hoax but when in found out it was real it became a dream come true, there is no other way to describe it.
“I have watched Barcelona for as long as I can remember and they played a big part in motivating me to play football.
“Now, to have the chance to watch them in the flesh as well as take part in a training session is beyond what I could have ever hoped for.
“It's a 'money can't buy' experience and I'm so grateful to Santander Universities for this opportunity.”
Melanie is a 5th-year student studying MEng in Architectural Engineering and can't wait to board the plane to her native Spain.
“I have never watched a live Champions League game before so it's a very exciting for me,” said the 23-year-old.
“Meeting one of the female players is also something I am really looking forward. Having played football all my life it will be great to get an insight of people that have reached the highest level on this sport.
“But overall, I hope to have fun on the trip and meet as many different people as possible while developing my knowledge and career skills.”
Dr Gill Murray, Deputy Principal of Enterprise and Business at Heriot-Watt University was among the first to congratulate both women.
She said: “Well done to Emily and Melanie on this tremendous opportunity.
“It's thanks to our longstanding partnership with Santander Universities that our students are being given the opportunity to enjoy these incredible experiences.
“Only last year, one of our fourth-year civil engineering students was selected for a scholarship to attend a summer school at the world renowned Beijing Institute of Technology courtesy of Santander Universities.
“Through our partnership with Santander Universities, we're providing our students with unique experiences, encouraging them to think beyond borders.”
Santander recently became the official banking partner for the UEFA Champions League as part of a three-year sponsorship deal.
Matt Hutnell, Director, Santander Universities, said “We are thrilled to offer this opportunity to top female football talent from across the UK to help develop their leadership skills, both within and outside a sporting context.
“We are committed to supporting higher education and we know that those selected for this programme are equally committed to their sport, investing hours into training and are an inspiration to their peers both on and off the pitch. We hope the trip will motivate and support female talent with their career ambitions – whether in the world of sport, finance or beyond.”
Last year, Heriot-Watt was awarded £100,000 through Santander Universities' Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Fund, which was match funded by the University bringing the total to £200,000.