This time last year Aanchal Thapa left her family and friends in west London to begin life in the US and the start of a four-year degree at Rice University

Aanchal, 19, is believed to be the first student at Rivers Academy to attend the prestigious Texas-based university which is dubbed the ‘Harvard of the South’.

A year on she reveals the highlights of her 12 months at Rice University to Radio Jackie – the interview is available to listen to in full, below. 

Aanchal’s A-level results saw her secure an  A* for Biology, A* for Chemistry and an A for Maths.

It is believed up to 30,000 students apply to Rice University every year with only 2,000 places awarded and only 10% of those to overseas students.

Aanchal’s decision to study abroad was prompted by the annual NASA trip organised by Aspirations Academies Trust in 2019 and a visit to Rice University’s campus: “Attending the NASA trip was an amazing opportunity to have a glimpse at a university system outside of the UK, which gave me my first taste of what studying in a different country would be like. We had a lecture with Professor David Alexander which was absolutely brilliant.

“But what made me fall in love with the university was walking through the Science QUAD and seeing little geeky scientific references on the walls, which I found really endearing and could envisage myself there!” she added.

Aanchal’s year in Texas has flown by and has been filled with lots of exciting experiences: ”I’ve had the opportunity to work in a lab with real scientists and have that hands-on experience which has been incredible. 

”For the longest time, a big part of me has been trying to force myself to try new things. Spending time in a new country with new people was really exciting for me and is one of the best ways that I grow personally and academically.”

Aanchal describes the cultural differences she has encountered: ”They don’t have the same childhood experiences as me. My sarcasm sometimes didn’t hit, my puns just didn’t work” and her plans for the future: ”The first year has gone by too quickly. I feel like I haven’t done as much as I could and I really want to try and make the best of this experience.”

Listen to her Radio Jackie interview in full here: