It was like a dream came true when I was selected for the SPICE (Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence) scholarship to study at the Webster University. Having a western education experience while working on my chess in a top-level collegiate team were pretty much everything I could hope for as a girl from the Far East. Not to mention the opportunity to live life independently in a super power country along with other precious life skills you can’t learn from school.

Coming from a totally different part of the world and culture, feeling excluded and different are normal things when you started joining a new society. These feelings came up to me naturally, but they immediately went away once I put down my old glasses and pick up the new ones. The general stigma that I used to believe in clearly did not apply here. I looked around once again and was grateful to the fact that the SPICE family and people at Webster University were so friendly and helpful. It did not take me long until I could feel home at this new place.

Learning at a private school always has its perks. Smaller class sizes guarantees more thorough attention from instructors. They even get to know you personally and call you by your first names! Surely this method of teaching really suits me in my graduate program in International Relations, a social science where everything is not exact, but processed through different platforms of analysis. Lively discussion always happened in every class that stimulated and encouraged students to voice their thinking and opinions toward particular matters.

But, it was not all! I have always been taught by my parents to surround myself with people that can add value to yourself. I believed they would be far from disappointed if they knew what kind of chess community I was in at Webster University. When the outside world seems to drag you down, I found a family that motivated ourselves from within at SPICE. Thanks to our coaches, Susan Polgar and Paul Truong, for always reminding us the importance of working hard, we now believe that we can be anything we want to as long as we set our mind to it.

Last but not least, after 18 months spent at Webster University, not only a degree of Master of Arts in International Relations that can be added to my resume, but also a readiness to face challenges in real life. Thank you Webster University and SPICE!