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Ivy Richter: Life as a Former Expat

When Ivy Richter started college last fall, she had more adjusting to do than most first-time college students.

"Everything was new, I was acclimating back into the United States," Ivy said.

Before coming to Miami, Ivy had been living in Hong Kong for the past 10 years with her family since they moved there from Massachusetts in 2008 for her father's job.

"The typical expat stint is about two to three years, but when our time came up we decided to stay," Ivy said.

An expat, short for expatriate, is someone who spends time living outside of their home country.

Ivy attended Hong Kong International School where she met a diverse group of people and became involved in different organizations.

"I loved every aspect of it. It was a really cool experience and I definitely felt at home there," Ivy said.

It was after the move to Hong Kong that Ivy stumbled upon a new passion: swimming.

"I definitely didn't want to swim, but my sister wanted to and I was like, 'Why not?' And then I've stuck with it ever since," Ivy said.

Ivy did more than just stick with the sport. She earned numerous accolades during her high school career. She set the record in the 100-meter backstroke in the Asia Pacific Athletic Conference (APAC) and China Cup Division three years in a row and won the APAC and China Cup all four years.

She had known for years that she wanted to swim in college and decided that Miami was the best place for her to do that.

"I had a dream that I could go somewhere with swimming and I realized that in seventh grade," Ivy said. "Miami really excited me and I felt it was the best place for me to develop in and out of the pool."

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Swimming may have been a major part of Ivy's choice to come to Miami, but it wasn't her only interest. Ivy also has a passion for the fashion industry, which developed in part from growing up in a global fashion destination like Hong Kong and also from her family.

"My dad is actually really interested in fashion, and when I started developing an interest in it, he egged that on and we formed a bond and relationship around it," Ivy said.

When Ivy came to the United States for college, her family came with her. They now live in Rhode Island where they used to spend every summer, but Ivy says the transition has still been difficult.

"In Hong Kong they see me as a foreigner and part of the international community, but in the States I'm not seen as being a full American because of little things like not going to homecoming or not understanding football," Ivy said.

Ivy says one of the hardest parts of life at Miami is answering a simple question: Where are you from?

"Personally, I wanted to say Hong Kong because that's what felt right, but socially I felt I had to say the U.S. Then I didn't know where in the U.S. -- Rhode Island or Massachusetts?" Ivy said.

The transition has gotten easier for Ivy, thanks to the new friends she's made both on and off the swim team, and she says she feels more comfortable with the United States as her home now. However, she says Hong Kong will always be important to her.

"I'll go back to Hong Kong this summer and feel at home, but since my family doesn't live there anymore it won't be the same as before," Ivy said. "I'd love to go back at a later stage in life, but I also want to explore other parts of the world. I want to keep my international experience alive."