The National Student Exchange (NSE) is a program that allows college students to study at another university for a partial or full school year. Participating universities are located both domestically in the United States, as well as in Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Canada. Where NSE differs from traditional study abroad programs is that it allows students to use financial aid and students can pay in-state tuition, so the financial burden is much less than other programs. Likewise, students are able to take classes that directly apply to their university’s requirements, which allows students to experience new cultures while still working toward their degree.
In November 2018, WOU alum Emmanuel Macías became the coordinator of the program, and since then, the program has seen a 400% increase in accepted applicants. Macías, who participated in both NSE and study abroad as a student, recognizes the importance for students to explore other cultures as they further their education. While he was a student in the NSE program, he traveled to Puerto Rico and realized, unfortunately, that it was not the right fit for him. However, that experience helped Macías realize that he wanted to study abroad in Argentina, which proved itself to be an incredibly formative experience for him. He mentioned that sometimes an experience can be deemed a failure, but in reality, it can lead you exactly where you’re supposed to be.
Before he took over the program, it was well-known around campus, but had low application numbers. To increase those application numbers, Macías made active recruitment a huge focus. These efforts include highlighting student stories on social media, as well as regularly held information sessions, the next of which will be taking place in January. He continuously meets with students to discuss the program, and he mentioned that he tries to draw “connections between [the students’] goals and how NSE can help them achieve their goals.”
Macías has also worked to develop key relationships with WOU departments, like sociology and education, in order to determine when it is best for students in that program to participate in NSE. He has been able to connect with student programs, like the Student Enrichment Program (SEP) and Multicultural Student Services and Programs (MSSP). He said that it is a collaborative effort to inform students about “really cool, transformative experiences that not only align with our mission as a university, but also with [the students’] goals.”
As for the application process, students complete an information form, a personal essay, and submit a letter or recommendation. Students will also need to decide which terms to study away from WOU. Fall term is the most common session for students, as it fits best with other universities’ semester systems and WOU’s quarter system. During the process, students will identify their top three choices of universities. Typically, applicants are accepted to their first choice in placement. Once accepted, students meet with their advisers to determine their upcoming classes. Students often take 12 credits, which translates to 18 credits at WOU. This year’s deadline for priority placement is February 14, 2020.
As part of the program, there are two types of students: incoming and outgoing. Outgoing students are WOU students who leave to study at another university, while incoming students are from other universities who come to study at WOU. Students can choose whether to live on-campus or off-campus, but students should take their chosen university’s cost of living into consideration.
Outgoing student Mackenzie Oliver, a Psychology major currently studying at Mississippi State University, spoke a little bit about her experience with the program. She mentioned that she’s had “the greatest experience and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve met some really great people and the town is so much fun to be in. Southern hospitality is real and genuine down here. People really care about you and could carry a conversation forever.” Oliver also emphasized how much Macías helped her throughout the process, and how encouraging he is to the students: “You can see the joy in his face when he gets people who are interested in the program. Emmanuel helps a lot and ensures you that it is worth it. If it wasn’t for him being more excited than I was, I probably never would have done it.”
Macías also spoke about some of the benefits of the program. One of the biggest takeaways from the program is personal growth. He mentioned that “putting yourself somewhere else is to put yourself in a vulnerable situation, but in a situation that you’re going to grow from… You’ll be in awe of how much you learned.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the program, you can check out WOU NSE’s website, as well as their Facebook and Instagram pages. Macías is located in the Vice President for Student Affairs office in room 203 of Werner University Center. Students can stop by with any questions or concerns about the program.