In the website of US Embasy in Latvia it’s said, that the USA university system is one of the biggest and best systems in the world with great study programmes in almost every field. The degrees are recognized worldwide for their excellence. Studying in American universities is very expensive. Consequently, for many who want to study in the United States, it seems like an unattainable dream. However, there are various options and support systems to keep tuition costs in the US lower or even non-existent.
So far, several former graduates of Liepāja Tennis sport school have obtained higher education in the USA, additionally combining it with a game of tennis. This year, two graduates of Liepāja Tennis sport school have signed agreements on studies in the USA – Elza Tomase chose to study in University of Tennessee, but Patrīcija Špaka chose Arizona State University. It should be noted, that in University of Tennessee last year her studies began Liepaja Tennis sport school graduate Rebeka Margareta Mertena. Meanwhile, Liepaja Tennis sport school coach Katrīna Samoilova studied in Western Kentucky University from 2009 till 2013. To find out how our girls managed to get into these universities, we invited them to share their experiences.
Rebeka Margareta Mertena – “Now, while at university, there is a much greater understanding of the admission process and it is interesting to see what schools made me offers.”
At the beginning of the conversation, all four Liepaja women shared their thoughts that studying in the USA has been their dream for a long time. One of the reasons is that while studying at these universities, you have the opportunity to play tennis at a high level. Extra motivation to study in the United States for Patrīcija occurred when at the age of 12, she along with other Liepaja Tennis sport school students had the opportunity to travel to the US for a month and take part in various training and competitions. Meanwhile, Rebeka received additional motivation by the study experience of other Latvian tennis players in the USA and she realized that it is something unique and such an opportunity should be used.. For Katrīna, studying in the USA was a goal at an early age, because she knew that several students of Liepāja Tennis sport school had gone there to study..
Patrīcija Špaka – “It is very important that in the selection process you have the opportunity to consult and ask for advice from people who have gone through this difficult process themselves! This is probably one of the main lessons – feel free to ask for advice!”
Responding to the application process at US universities, Elza noted that the process had been relatively difficult. It was necessary to pass two specialized examinations in English, as the requirements and assessment criteria of each university differed. Of course, the more prestigious and better the university, the stricter the entry requirements. Patrīcija said that the first interest in her was received from US universities when she was in 9th grade. At first, Patricia felt this too quickly, but later realized that the process was normal practice. In this way, universities show a genuine interest in attracting new students and players. Rebeka pointed out that the whole application process took her a year and a half. All three tennis players confirmed that the application process at US universities is long and tedious, as they have to choose a university from a wide range of offers and at the same time attend in interviews. As there is a difference of several hours between Latvia and the USA, the interviews with universities took place relatively late. Given that they continued to take part in various competitions, it happened that these interviews took place during the tournaments, when all the focus was on the games. However, these interviews helped universities to understand tennis, and they also gave girls the opportunity to understand what they would like to study and where to spend the next four years of life.
Elza Tomase – “I am very happy to be able to study at one of the best universities in the United States!”
Sharing her thoughts on choosing a particular university, Patrīcija mentions that she had identified a number of key factors: the university’s tennis and learning rankings, the curricula on offer, and factors such as the weather at the university’s locations. However, one of the most important factors was contact and cooperation with coaches and the team. Rebeka also based the choice of the particular university on coaches, friendly atmosphere and feeling of being in safe hands, as well as the location of the university. Elza, on the other hand, took into account the level of tennis at each university, but the final decision was made by choosing between two universities. The University of Tennessee was preferred because it is one of the 20 leading universities in tennis in the United States that met her criteria. Another important factor in the decision was the fact that Elza’s best friend Rebeka is already studying there.
Katrīna Samoilova – “While studying in the United States, I have gained a lot – education, friends, and life experience, which is a great value”.
When the contracts were signed, the girls felt great and filled with joy and, in a sense, relief, that they no longer had to worry about what to do after high school and that this difficult, tedious and long application process was over.
In describing her chosen University, Patrīcija emphasized that the Arizona State University is one of the oldest universities in the United States, with more than 50,000 students. The university is located near the city of Phoenix in Tempe and it is very hot there. The university also has a rich sports tradition in several sports – basketball, American football and also tennis, where it is a stable Top 20 team with great ambitions. The university also offers a very wide curriculum and has the opportunity to learn a variety of professions. Elza knew that the University of Tennessee, based in Knoxville, offers more than 170 study programs and is located next to one of the most visited national parks in the United States. Rebeka added that the University of Tennessee is a large public school that is good at both the academic and sports levels and that sport is a big part of the university. American football is very popular and the stadium of a university team can accommodate more than a hundred thousand spectators. Describing the Western Kentucky University, Katrīna highlighted the fact that it is an international university with students from many countries around the world, so there is an opportunity to get to know different cultures. Western Kentucky University campus is one of the 10 best university campuses in America, where everything is designed to make students feel good and safe.
Asked to describe her experience of studying at the University of Tennessee, Rebeka said that university life is cool, but the schedule for athletes is quite busy, because a lot of time is spent both studying and training. It was hard to get used to at first, but over time it became normal. In addition to training and exercises, of course, you must also participate in tournaments, to which the whole team goes to together. At first, Rebeka thought that it will be difficult to fit in, but in reality it was easy. The team and the university staff are very helpful in adapting and making sure that the new students cope with everything. Rebeka describes the first year of study at the university as excellent, because she got acquinted with many new people. In many competitions she started with good results. Asked for advice from others planning to study in the United States, Rebeka said that it is essential not to give in to the slightest hurdles, to take on challenges, and to see studying in the United States as a huge opportunity and not as something intimidating.
Sharing her experience of studying, Katrīna said that at the beginning it was very difficult for her to get used to it, because she had to get used to the new life and understand how everything is going there. She also lacked a family presence. However, gradually getting acquainted with the teammates, as well as other Latvians studying at the university, who trained in athletics, Katrīna gradually felt like in her second home. One of the first teammates Katrīna met, they developed a very friendly relationship and are still in regular contact. At the university, Katrīna studied hotel, restaurant and tourism management. She really enjoyed this educational program because the lecturers regularly shared practical examples from real life and their personal experiences. For anyone planning to study in the United States, Katrīna definitely recommends enjoying this time. As someone who helped her get to the United States had told her that if she could survive America, then life wouldn’t seem difficult anymore. Katrīna definitely agrees with this statement.