- Keeping Up with Alumni
Nutrition and Dietetics Alumni: Nikoleta Michaelidou
In May 2001, I graduated from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale with a Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition and I wanted to continue my studies and become a sports dietitian, which was my dream since the time I was 15 (I wanted to become a sports nutritionist and work at my favorite soccer team back in Cyprus). So, I applied at Saint Louis University because it offered a masters degree in Nutrition and Physical Performance. At the same time I wanted to become a Registered Dietitian so from 2001-2002 I was doing my RD and masters degree, and then I continued with my masters degree where I graduated in January 2004.
When I graduated in January 2004 I came back to Cyprus and in March I started working at my private practice as a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist (I still work at my private practice). Initially I was working with individuals that wanted to lose weight or had a health problem related to their eating habits, and at the same time I was seeing some athletes of various sports on an individual base.
In August 2005 there was an opening for a part time position for a sports dietitian in the Cyprus Sports Research Center. The Cyprus Sports Research Center is the biggest center for athletes in Cyprus where they can do physical performance tests and the results can help them with improving their performance. So I went for an interview and I started working there in September 2005 from 8-11 am (I still work there). After 11 o clock, I continue with my private practice where I work until 6 in the afternoon.
Seeing many children with weight and health issues at my private practice gave me an idea to create on an annual base a weekly summer healthy lifestyle camp for children ages 10-15 and teach them the importance of healthy eating and daily exercise for a healthy lifestyle. So in 2007, I created a group of people and we had the first healthy lifestyle camp and to our surprise we were able to gather 100 kids! I am very happy to say that that was a great success and we still continue to have this camp every summer, you can see pictures if you want from our website healthylifestylecamp.com (it will be hard for you to read however, it is in Greek!)
In January 2008 there was a change in the coaching staff in APOEL FC, a professional soccer team in Nicosia, Cyprus. The new coach wanted a sports dietitian in the team so I went and talked to him and I started working with them and I work there until now. That was my dream job! Being the sports nutritionist of my favorite soccer team and apply my knowledge to a very particular population like soccer athletes. Since then, the team won 3 championships, 2 cups and participated 2 times in the European champion’s league and this year we compete in the Europa League. The season 2011-2012 was a great one since we made it to the top 8 teams in Europe! This was so huge for a Cyprus team and I felt so happy and honored to be a part of that team and gain so much experience. We played against very big teams like Porto (Portugal), Zenit (Russia), Lyon (France), Shactar (Ukraine), Real Madrid (Spain) which was pretty amazing! Working with professional soccer athletes is very challenging since the needs of these athletes are pretty demanding and often their nutrition knowledge is based on false information and I have to convince them what is correct and best for their performance.
This is pretty much what I have been doing since I graduated from SLU. The knowledge I gained from the department of Nutrition and Dietetics gave me all the power I needed to start and build my career and I am very thankful for this!
If I were to give some advice to the current/future dietetics students I would say dream big, set your goals and follow them. At the end if it is something you really want you will work towards that direction and earn it!
Niki Michaelidou, MSc, RDN, CSSD