National Student Exchange offers alternative to overseas exchanges

BY Abigale Reilly-Reed

reillyreab@mnstate.edu

Ever thought about being an exchange student, but thought it was too scary or expensive? Well, the National Student Exchange (NSE) program is another option.

Sherry Estrem, the NSE coordinator at MSUM, says that NSE is a group of about 175 institutions throughout the U.S. that have worked together to allow students to go on exchange to their institution for up to a year.

Students have many options within those 175 schools. They can go to 49 of the 50 U.S. states, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. Delaware is the only state that students cannot go to because they don’t have any schools in the program.

“It is usually an easier step for students to take,” Estrem said. “It is not as expensive [as an international exchange]. They have an opportunity to experience different teaching styles and different environments, but it’s still relatively close to home.”

“I wanted to experience going to a different school in a different area of the country without leaving MSUM,” junior Laura Baker said. Baker went to the University of Tennesse at Chattanooga in the Spring of 2014.

Unlike going on an international exchange, students don’t have to be at a certain grade level. “Anyone who is a full-time student at MSUM that has completed at least one semester with a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher [can do it],” Estrem said.

The only other restriction is that a student cannot have any holds on their account, whether it be with the business office or student conduct.

This makes it an easier option for students who want to experience something new without having to wait until they are in their higher level courses. They can just take general courses that will transfer easily to MSUM. Baker took a couple of each saying that she really enjoyed the change.

“I feel like I actually learned something. The classes were less complicated. I learned a lot while I was there,” she said.

Another notable aspect of NSE is that students have options on how to pay. They can either choose to pay the resident tuition price at their host university or pay tuition at MSUM. That way students can chose the cheapest or easiest method.

Baker chose to pay to the university she attends. This can be good sometimes, but in her case, Baker ended up paying a lot more because she wasn’t able to get as many grants as she would have gotten going to MSUM.

Students can also go together, meaning their applications will be reviewed as a pair. There is a good chance of being accepted, even as a pair. “Two years ago 100% of the students got placed at their first choice school,” Estrem said. “Last year two got placed at their second choice. All students get placed. We send out about 40 students a year. We bring in about two.”

The application process is easy. All that is needed is a filled-out application, a personal statement of why the student wants to go, two letters of recommendation (one from faculty or staff on campus) and the $175 application fee. These need to be turned in by the first Friday in Feburary; the next is Feb. 6, 2015.

Estrem said interested students should visit with her for more information at Owens 206, attend the informational meetings or go to the website, NSE.org.

The website allows students to search for different colleges by major so they can find one that fits their needs. All a student needs to do is plan with their advisor on what classes they should take. “Every class they take comes back on their transcripts to MSUM,” Estrem said.

When Estrem talks with students after they come back they tell her that it was the “best thing they ever did.” This is easily understood because the three top choices for students to go is Hawaii, California and Colorado.

“I really enjoy working with the students through the process and to hear about their ex-periences when they return.” Estrem said. “It’s a life-changing experience for them.”

This experience can really affect the students who go. “I think about it all the time. It was very scary, even though my boyfriend that I have dated for two years was there [living in Georgia] I was still on my own,” Baker said. “I learned about my independence and it would be different if I went there for a vacation than living there.”

Baker has advice for interested students: “Don’t  be  afraid  to  go  if  you   want   to   go somewhere,”
she said. “It is a very scary, very surreal feeling when applying.”

Still, she said that she would love to go back and do it all over again.

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