I am 18 years old and I was born in Windhoek. I am currently studying English literature at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) in Texas. This is my first semester here; I have been here a little over a month. I am doing a four-year programme. Initially, I was not a big fan of the idea of coming to America, but I received a chess scholarship and, of course, I couldn’t turn it down. The made it easy for me to apply to the university. Fortunately, due to Covid-19, I didn’t have to write my SATs or my exams (my university requires it). I just had to submit my final-year results (matric results, basically) and prove that I was proficient in English. Although I didn’t have to write my SATs, I had to write something called TSI. This is required by Texas state, it is not an admitting exam; it is more of a placement exam where they can see whether you need development courses or not. Then of course I had to sort out my fees at the US embassy; fortunately, things went smooth for me.
It was about three to four weeks from the time I received the scholarship and applied to the university to the day I actually arrived here. Fortunately, the chess coach and programme manager helped me a lot with the application process. I would say that the biggest challenge for me about studying abroad is that is it the transition from living with my parents to now living on my own and having to do everything by myself. Also, here in the US one of the big things is self-service: At the airport, at the grocery’s stores or at the gas station, everything is about self-service. At first all this was daunting: Checking in yourself at the airport or when you check out at the grocery’s store. Fortunately, I had my chess team members who helped me a lot and guided me because they have been here for quite a while. The chess director also helps me with everything like all the forms I have to submit and stuff. I think without them it could have been an issue. In terms of studying abroad during the pandemic, it hasn’t been that bad. My university required me to quarantine for about 10 days. Other than that, there are not many restrictions here in the state of Texas; we do not need to wear masks, it is not required basically in public and no curfew or anything like that. In general, I cannot complain. My move was quite smooth and easy. If I had to advise those who are considering studying abroad, I think I would mainly say you should get a support system from the place you are considering to study as soon as possible, because without them it will really be tough to adjust to everything, but with them they can help you when you don’t know about something or you need advice or anything like that. It is just crucial, I think, because sometimes you can just get lonely if you don’t have a support system. It can be really tough to succeed with your studies and interests in general for all areas of your life.