Men’s basketball player details journey from France to Detroit

One of the most important things, if not the most important for me Alex Tchikou, a 21-year-old from Paris, France living in the United States as a student athlete for the University of Detroit Mercy, is to constantly make sure that all my paperwork related to my visa and scholarships are up to date. The consequences of some of my paperwork not being valid or being expired could be very severe. 

Indeed coming to the United States for the first time seven years ago, I have always been aware of the most important rules and instructions related to my F-1 Student Visa that I had to follow in order for me to be in this country legally. A couple of these rules are that in no shape or form am I allowed to get a job and/or paid here since I am here as a student. Another of one the rules would be to always be registered to classes on time each semester.  

Last October in the middle of the month, on a weekday, I had urgently got convocated in my head coach’s office for a real sensitive topic. I remember being in the locker room getting ready for practice when my phone started blowing up from all my coaches. When I got to my coach’s office, all my coaches were in there and the person that was also in that office that made me realize that something real serious had happened was the athletic director. They all sat me down and started to explain to me the fact that my visa had been terminated and that I have been illegally living in the United States since October 2022.  

My heart literally dropped. I started thinking of the worst before I asked any questions. They called me down, and they told me that the reason for that situation was a “failure to register to class.” That reason was completely unbelievable to me because I have been attending classes each semester for the past seven years that I have been here.  

I then had to do my own research for the source of this information. I started by calling my last school, the University of Rhode Island, which told me that even though I was there during that time they were not the one that had terminated my visa. Surprised by their answer, I called the University of Alabama which is the first college that I ever attended and they confirmed that they were the one that terminated it. When I told them that I had transferred that summer and that I was attending University of Rhode Island, they told me that they never informed the athletic department that I did transfer, and for them I was still attending their school and just failed to register.  

I had now the source of the issue that I shared with the international department at UDM, who then told me what the next steps were going to be. They told me to first find and print out all the emails that I had sent to Alabama asking them to transfer my visa over to Rhode Island, which they never did. I then had to urgently schedule a flight back to Paris and find an appointment at the US Embassy to get a new visa. The earliest date that was available was Dec. 5, which I scheduled. I can’t express the stress and anxiety that came with that situation. I was asking myself a ton of questions and was scared to never be able to come back to the United States.  

On Dec. 5, I went to my appointment where they asked to tell them the whole situation and show them the proof of me attending class the dates Alabama claimed that I was not. When I showed all the proof and documents, they came back a couple minutes later telling me that my visa had been approved and they kept my passport but they would need me to email them additional documentation like my URI transcripts to finalize the process, which I sent as soon as I got home.  

It took them about six weeks to mail me my passport back to my house with my new visa inside of it. The bigger problem was resolved but now I had got way behind with all my classes from the semester that I had started two weeks prior to them sending me my passport, which brought a new source of stress and anxiety to me.  

Once I got back to the states 10 days ago, I felt blessed and relieved having to deal with all this stuff from the past three months. Being home was really difficult in so many aspects. The time difference created some technical issues with Blackboard especially during finals week, and I could not find any gyms to workout in to keep myself in shape. 

I am so happy to be back and up to date.