New places and experiences with the National Student Exchange

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The National Student Exchange is a study-away experience that fits into university initiatives for globalization, diversity and engagement. NSE provides study-away opportunities to students enrolled at its 170 member colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Established in 1968, NSE has provided exchange opportunities to more than 110,000 students. For many students, the chance to explore new environments are experiences that wouldn’t be possible without NSE.

Kaliegh Hayes, from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, describes coming to Alaska as “something different.”

Hayes had a rather slim chance of traveling through the program.

“I walked into the NSE coordinator’s office, and was like, ‘Hey I want to go to Alaska,’” Hayes said. “She told me that wasn’t going to happen, she said I had a 10 percent chance, because I did the application in September and it was supposed to be in by March.”

Now that she is here, Hayes has a fondness for the state.

“It’s very different up here,” Hayes said. “I like the mountains… I like the scenery, the environment, I like that it’s different than anything else in the world, but I miss Dunkin Donuts.”

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One of Hayes’ friends from NSE is Nathalie Trow-McDonald, who is from the University of the Virgin Islands. The university is only a five-minute walk to the beach.

“I’m not used to having to wear pants every day, and not wear flip flops… For a long time I missed the feeling of the sun on my skin,” Trow-McDonald said. “I think there are certain things on campus that I miss, ’cause I was really involved in certain things and they keep happening when you’re gone… I miss my radio station.”

What Trow-McDonald likes the most about UAA and Alaska is its proximity to the mountains and trails.

“I like that you’re in a city, but you can drive 20 minutes and be hiking up a mountain,” Trow-McDonald said. “The views are really nice, and I enjoy the ice-skating.”

Rachel Barclay is another participant in the NSE from the University of South Dakota. Barclay has been to 49 of the 50 states and that was a big reason on why she decided to come to UAA.

“It’s not as flat… and I like seeing the random moose,” Barclay said. “It’s a lot prettier here, and I like the mountains.”

The three women have since become friends since they met, and have done everything from going UAA basketball games and participating in nature excursions.

“I went whale-watching in Seward with Kaliegh, that was fun,” Barclay said. “I can’t remember everything we’ve done, we’ve done a lot… so much fun, so little time.”

Adventures aside, NSE does serve as a large time commitment.

“I miss my family a lot,” Hayes said. “I think that any prospective student that wants to take the NSE program has to consider how long they’re going be away from home. But it’s a great experience all students should consider. I highly recommend NSE if you want to expand your horizons and try something new… and you can open doors to new places.”

UAA also provides the opportunity for students to participate in NSE and travel to one of over 200 colleges in the U.S. Applications are due in February.