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UMN students learn beyond boundaries with National Student Exchange program

NSE offers students an opportunity to study away with over 175 campuses to choose from.
Image by David Holliday (courtesy)
The program allows students to travel and study at other colleges in the United States.

Walking through the shops of Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas with her mother, Addie Warg came across the gallery of a contemporary street artist named Spencer Couture, where she met him and asked to be his intern.

Now, Warg works alongside Couture, who teaches her different practices with spray paint, social networking and order fulfillment, while she also creates his newsletter.

“It has been a really eye-opening experience to see how somebody runs their business and promotes their personal brand, which is something I want to do when I graduate,” Warg said. “I love him, and it has been a great community to be a part of.”

Warg is a fourth-year student majoring in art, mass communication and retail merchandising at the University of Minnesota and is participating in the National Student Exchange program (NSE). Since January, she has been studying journalism and media studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as part of a year-long program through NSE.

“I started college during the pandemic, which didn’t allow me to travel outside of Minnesota to go to different schools,” Warg said.

According to Warg, NSE gave her an opportunity to be comfortable in her skin and in a time where she could leave Minnesota without worrying about how long she would want to stay away for.

“The biggest thing that I have gained from this experience is confidence in myself,” Warg said. “I feel like I can do so much more on my own.”

Along with working for Couture, Warg works for a merchandising company and at TAO Asian Bistro & Nightclub.

“After graduation, I want to come back here,” Warg said. “I just love it here.”

NSE brings students many options

NSE is a study away program which gives students access to other colleges and universities across the United States, including Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada, according to David Holliday, the assistant director for domestic off-campus study programs.

Every single state is represented in NSE except for Delaware, Holliday added.

According to Holliday, NSE also includes 13 Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU), 30 Hispanic-Serving institutions and 10 Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving institutions.

“First of all, this is an academic program,” Holliday said. “It gives students access to courses that maybe are not available here at the U of M.”

According to Holliday, NSE is popular for students who have not traveled much, are not quite ready to go abroad or their families are not fond of them going far away from home. Many students want to gain the experience of going someplace else, becoming more independent and navigating a new academic environment.

One advantage of participating in NSE is it is affordable, Holliday said.

“Most students pay U of M tuition while they’re on exchange,” Holliday said. “Other students are placed on host pay, where they actually pay the resident rate or the in-state tuition to the other school.”

According to Holliday, NSE is great to put on students’ resumes.

“It shows that the student is willing to get outside of their comfort zone, take risks and stretch themselves a little bit,” Holliday said. “There’s also some benefits for students that are thinking about graduate school, and this is a chance for them to go to that school or that region and see if it’s a place they want to move to for grad school.”

Holliday said he thinks the U.S. is divided in many ways, but NSE can create bridges to a greater understanding among people.

NSE students describe their experiences

Kylli Anderson, a fourth-year student who participated in NSE in fall 2022 at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS), studied fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology with a minor in horticulture.

“The program really deepened my connection to nature and to place,” Anderson said. “Everyone there is super outdoor-focused, and so we were always climbing mountains and jumping in the Pacific.”

According to Anderson, there was an outdoor studies program at UAS where she was able to do backpacking and backcountry navigation. As a part of a class, Anderson went on a three-day backpacking trip where she was given a map and a compass to get to a cabin four miles away in the woods.

“Everyone there pushed me to be more adventurous and not to be scared of the wild, which was super cool,” Anderson said.

Anderson added after she finishes college, she wants to go back to Alaska and work there for the rest of her life.

Kiah Shepherd, a fourth-year student who participated in NSE in spring 2023, went to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), a HBCU, and studied psychology with a minor in creative writing.

“In terms of my personal growth, I would say I understood myself and my placement within the Black community a lot more once I got there,” Shepherd said. “My eyes are open now a lot more than they were before, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.”

Shepherd was able to take a Black psychology class where she learned about her Black heritage and fostered her longtime goal to help the Black community.

“The information I learned helps me better help or better understand why somebody might be going through something and peel those layers back,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd said she walked out of her experience with NSE at FAMU with a newfound pride for her Identity.

“Before I was kind of like, ‘Yeah I’m Black’, and called it a day,” Shepherd said. “But now, I am proud to be Black. I want everybody to know, and It’s just integral to my identity.”

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