SINGAPORE - Track and field athlete Tia Rozario expects her impending move to the United States to be "a bit tough" as it will be the first time she is overseas without her parents.
The 18-year-old, who has been accepted to Princeton University, will leave armed with the advice of a fellow athlete who has done the same and succeeded - Olympic champion Joseph Schooling.
Rozario is the first recipient of the Joseph Schooling Sports Grant, a $5,000 cash award to support talented Eurasians in their sporting and academic pursuits.
The grant was launched last year by the Eurasian Association, Schooling and his parents.
Schooling, who handed out the award on Saturday (March 2), drew on his own experience of attending the Bolles School and University of Texas in the US.
He said: "I told (Rozario) a lot of people are going to try to tell you to do different things... never listen to all these things, you're doing it for yourself and not for anyone else."
Recalling that it was his circle of friends that kept him going through hard times, the 23-year-old added: "I told her college is a huge melting pot... some people are there to do athletics, some people are there to be heart surgeons, some people are just there to have fun.
"You need to very quickly differentiate which group of people you want to be with.
"It's very important for your future, so once you figure that out, get into the groove and be more comfortable, everything will start clicking."
Singapore Sports School graduate Rozario hopes she can do the association and the Schoolings proud, and inspire younger athletes.
"In receiving this, I'm an ambassador, a student-athlete who is going to pursue sport in university while also studying.
"It shows people that you can and should do both. There's a 'prime time' to pursue both, but you should never give up one for the other," said Rozario, who won the 100m hurdles event at the National School Games (NSG) from 2010 to 2018.
Speaking of transitions, Schooling himself is trying to get into the groove, having returned to Singapore for good last month after being based in the US for 10 years.
"The coaches are doing a great job so far at being patient with me, taking things slow and I really appreciate that," said Schooling, who will compete at the Singapore National Age-Group Swimming Championships this month.
"If I get into the groove of competing again I know the times will come, it's more of readjusting to life in Singapore and also finding a very good balance between social life and practice.
"Everything has changed from what I'm used to. I need to take this adjustment period slow and not rush anything, and I'll be set."