One Student Pilot’s Advice on Applying for Flight Training in the USA

Private Pilot, Lechelle Dippenaar traveled across the world to take the next step in her flight training, coming to Guidance all the way from South Africa. Here, Lechelle shares with us the some of her story and what it was like enrolling for flight school in the U.S. as a foreign citizen.

What was your flight experience before studying abroad?

I am a SACAA commercial helicopter pilot. I have done most of my flying in the wildlife industry, working on game farms and ferrying the machine from one farm to the next to build my commercial hours.

After I received my commercial license I was offered a job to fly a private owner around within his company, unfortunately this job moved me away from the bush areas right in the middle of the city.

After flying with the company for a year, I resigned as the big city life wasn’t where I wanted to be. Work in South Africa is hard to come by, so I started volunteering my time to help in the wildlife industry again, flying any opportunity possible alongside the bush pilots.

When you first came to the U.S., did you experience any culture shock? If so, please explain.

Yes, there is definitely a big cultural change. I would say that my experience in the US has really been wonderful, all the people have been very helpful, understanding and friendly.

However there are many areas I do feel the cultural differences and for me its been mostly in the language and different sense of humor. My first language is Afrikaans and of course within my own language and culture I would say something funny and have everyone laugh, while here I feel I can sometimes just get a straight face stare or awkward silence lol.

However, everyone at Guidance Aviation has been extremely helpful and understanding and Google translate has been a wonderful friend.That’s just one of the examples of the culture differences, I enjoy discovering more each day.

What has been the most difficult thing about getting enrolled into a flight school abroad?

I would have to say the Visa process has been quite a hassle, just figuring out how it all works and what the steps are from A to Z, making sure you don’t miss a step and then being denied, costing you a lot of money and time. I have gone through the Visa process twice.

The first time I went through the process, I applied to do my commercial rating. It was very frustrating and time consuming in the end to find out I missed a step and had to go back to South Africa. After receiving the Guidance aviation instrument scholarship and going through the M1 Visa process the second time was much easier as the school helped guide me step by step through it all.

What do you wish you knew before studying abroad or wish the flight school would provide more information on?

I wish I would have studied the written test portion of the course before coming for training, this way my full attention could be in the training portion of the course alone as its a lot of new information and terminology.

Was there anything you did not think about before coming to the U.S. (insurance, transportation, lodging)?

No, I would say that Guidance Aviation has done a excellent job in discussing all the necessary details and the transportation and accommodation was all arranged before I arrived in the USA.

Do you have any tips or advice for future international students coming to train at Guidance Aviation?

Yes, I would suggest that any international student coming to do their training at Guidance Aviation inquires about their college program. If I could have changed one thing, that would have been that I applied for the exact same training course through the college program.

This would have given me the opportunity to complete a semester through the college and opened that door for a future degree in aviation which is always a good thing to have.

Then also, a little tip for any foreigners coming this way, Prescott is even more beautiful then what you have seen on Google, I would bring a decent camera and maybe even a go-pro for your flying and hiking scenery, this is definitely one of the most beautiful areas I’ve flown in.

Applying for flight training in the U.S. from abroad is certainly a big undertaking. But, it doesn’t have to be a struggle. If you’re interested in coming to Guidance from outside of the United States, we have student services representatives who can help you understand the process step by step.

Check out our international students page for more information about training at Guidance Aviation as a foreign citizen.