SINGAPORE - National swimmer Gan Ching Hwee had her sights set on attending a local university after completing the International Baccalaureate programme at Anglo Chinese School (Independent) this year.
But that changed when Indiana University reached out to Singapore Swimming Association high performance manager Sonya Porter last December as they were looking for swimmers to recruit.
After about five months of almost weekly conversations with the school's coaches, including women's head coach Ray Looze, the 17-year-old had a change of heart as she believed that a move to Indiana would be beneficial to her academically and as an athlete.
The teenager will join Indiana University in January on a partial scholarship to study nutrition science.
"I started becoming a bit more curious and I could see myself being part of the team. I could feel that they were a really bonded team and I could communicate really well with them," said Gan, who is the women's 1, 500m freestyle national record holder.
She was also part of the 2019 SEA Games 4x200m free relay team that holds the national record for the event.
At the 2019 SEA Games, she won two golds and a silver, while she bagged a bronze medal at the 2017 edition.
It was also important to Gan, who is aiming to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics, that the school, which participates in Division 1 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Swimming and Diving Championships, had a good distance swimming programme.
The recruitment of other distance swimmers such as 2019 Pan American Games silver medallist Mariah Denigan was also an encouraging sign for Gan as she often trains on her own for distance events in Singapore.
She said: "Having that team of distance swimmers really makes me feel not so alone anymore because sometimes in Singapore it can get quite lonely. I'm the only distance swimmer in my squad and sometimes I'm doing stuff all my own.
"I really wanted to have something for a change; I wanted to see if a change of environment would help me even more and fulfil my potential. I just want to see how far I can go."
Alumni of the school's swimming programme include breaststroke specialist Lilly King, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and a seven-time world champion.
Currently, three national swimmers, Quah Zheng Wen (University of California, Berkeley), Quah Jing Wen (Texas A&M) and Darren Lim (Georgia Tech) are training and studying in the US, while Christie Chue will be enrolling in Florida International University in August.