Aspire Atlantic, a USA University Educational Consultancy that helps talented students play sports and study in the USA, caught up with Gerald Lowe, a South African rugby player who double-majored in Finance and Personal Financial Planning and played Rugby at Kutztown University. After graduating in 2021, Gerald was drafted by the Giltinis, a Major League Rugby team based in Los Angeles, California. He’s what he had to say about his time in the USA.
Gerald, when did you start thinking about studying in the USA?
Towards the end of my grade ten year, I started looking at some of my university options like NWU, UP-Tuks, and U.J. I was amazed at how expensive it would be to study in South Africa as we often don’t think about a lot of ancillary costs; housing, petrol, spending money, health insurance, auto insurance and books. At this point, a friend told me about Aspire Atlantic, and I contacted them to get a better understanding of what becoming a student-athlete in the U.S. would entail.
After learning about their program, I had what some might call “restless feet”. At that point in my life, I had never been overseas, and I had minimal prospects of doing so in the future. I knew that I wanted more – I wanted to see new places, meet new people, embrace new cultures, test my steel in a completely different part of the world to see if I could make it – and I couldn’t have been any happier about my decision.
When did you start the process of going to the USA?
I started speaking to Aspire Atlantic in 2015, but I will never forget when I finally submitted my application on October 15th, 2015. I remember sitting in front of my computer, nervously sweating and meticulously going over my application, my photos, report cards, video, and essay outlining why I would like to study in the U.S. Little did I know that that would be one of the best decisions (if not the best I’ve made) in my entire life.
What was your experience like studying and playing Rugby at college?
To sum up my experience in one single sentence would be: “Your experience is entirely up to you – it is what you make of it.” The universities in the U.S. are incredibly student-focused, there are so many resources at your disposal, and they go out of their way to ensure that you have what you need to be successful. The universities realize the importance of your well-being as a student and your academics, and they do everything they can, to best prepare you for life after college. The only caveat? It is entirely up to you to decide if you want to use these resources.
As a young kid in South Africa – in grade four or five – we went over our rights and responsibilities as South African citizens. The teacher outlined how important the responsibility part was and how our rights are dependent on our responsibility towards them. It wasn’t my right to pursue a bachelor’s degree, but once I decided to do so – I knew that I was responsible for my decision (and to the people who supported me along the way). As I sit here, I can truthfully say I took the most out of the experience. I travelled to 39 states, visited over a dozen national parks, made lifelong friends, played at the highest level of USA college rugby, and graduated with a world-class degree and more professional experience than I could have ever dreamed of.
Still, all of these things are dwarfed by the most valuable lesson I learned: I realized that the only currency we should value in life is memories and relationships. These things withstand the test of time and are more valuable than any paycheck could ever be. The life you lead is entirely up to you, and if you choose to see the good in people, you will be rewarded tenfold.
What are you doing now since you graduated?
After graduating from Kutztown in 2021, I was drafted by the Giltinis, an MLR professional rugby team in Los Angeles, California, where I’m currently playing for their development side. I was also very fortunate to get a job as a business analyst for a local logistics company. Even though I’m not considered a student-athlete anymore, I still lead the same lifestyle – working hard to stay sharp in the office and on the field, both mentally and physically.
Any advice for aspiring athletes looking to study overseas?
I hope Nike doesn’t sue me for shamelessly using their slogan, “Just Do It”. It has been the single most rewarding decision I have ever made. If I went back to 2015 with my current knowledge, I would make the same decision without hesitation.
I do have to add a disclaimer – your experience is entirely up to you. It is ludicrous to think that a life-altering decision like this comes without its trials and tribulations. You will have some difficult times and difficult choices to make, and to be that far away from your friends and family isn’t always easy, but the reward at the end of it all is worth it.
Article compiled by Aspire Atlantic.