How to: Starting Your National Student Exchange Journey

I admit, I really am that person that goes on their exchange semester and never stops talking about it.

However, it was the best decision of my life so I want to encourage everyone to take a semester for themselves to explore! This blog post will highlight where to start, the steps I took, and the reasons why I would never regret my decision. I wish I had something to refer to while going through the process of getting my credits, classes, payments, and everything else in order so, here it is!

The Decision Making: Where Do I Want To Go?

My Experience: So a lot of people ask, how did you choose Hawai’i? The decision came to me when I was walking on campus in February of my sophomore year, thinking I wanted to go to Paris or Hawai’i for my junior year Spring semester. I was FREEZING. I had my “ah ha” moment and decided the warmth was calling me. It also helped that I was a Hospitality & Tourism major and the University of Hawai’i Manoa had a Tourism Management School. But…also… the warmth.. and the palm trees.

My Best Advice: Narrow down where you want to go and why. Do you want to be immersed in a new culture or do you want to see another part of your own country? What season do you like the most & what semester aligns with that? Are you okay with missing holidays with family? Where are you at with credits and gen eds? After answering these questions for yourself, you’ll have an easier time choosing a foreign program or domestic exchange.

I Decide on National Student Exchange, Where Do I Start?

My Experience: Once I made up my mind, I did some research on the National Student Exchange website. I then attended an information session with my school’s NSE Counselor. At the session we went over how to navigate the website and then find out if the school we were looking at had our major and the prices of each semester before financial aid. I then talked it over with my parents and went through with my application.

My Best Advice: Do your research before meeting with an advisor! It will eliminate any shocking news like the exchange school not having your major. I suggest seeing an advisor a year in advance. The reason being, the advisors attend a meeting and literally place/exchange each student that applied and sometimes only have a certain number of students able to attend a school.

I’ve Been Accepted, What Should I Do Now?

My Experience: I got accepted and obviously posted about it then watched a million Youtube vlogs of Waikiki. I then met with an academic advisor to plan out my classes to make sure I had electives and gen eds I could take on exchange. I had taken two extra gen eds to make up for discrepancies in transfer credits so I could graduate on time. I then contacted my bank about switching my payments to my exchange school for the semester.

My Best Advice: Be on top of it. Your advisor will help with getting you in but you have to make sure you’re on the track you want to be on with classes, credits, etc.

Registering For Classes

My Experience: Registering for classes for UH Manoa was very different from my home campus at UMass, especially as a transfer student. I first got my classes approved from UMass to see if they would count/ be accepted as exchange credit upon my return. When registration came around I thought I signed up for all my classes on UH’s website and then found out I had to get overrides from all of the professors. I then emailed each professor and they accepted me into their classes.

My Best Advice: Thoroughly go through your exchange school’s class catalog and see if they offer classes in your major that your home campus does not. For gen eds, see which ones compare and interest you the most. Narrowing down the classes you want and having a few back ups will make it easier when it comes time to register. Get all of your classes approved by your home campus advisor. When it comes time to register, take into account any time zone change you have from your home and exchange school.

Housing

My Experience: Before going my roommate and I really wanted to live in one of the apartments on UH’s campus. We were kind of shocked when we got a suite that didn’t have a kitchen. However, when we actually got there, the apartments we wanted were super old and the dorm we actually got was new, very nice, and had air conditioning. Most people on our exchange ended up moving into our dorm because the others were not what they expected.

My Best Advice: Thoroughly research and read reviews on housing before you make your selection. UH seemed to accommodate changes for housing but sometimes you are placed right where you are supposed to be!

Before You Go

My Experience: My roommate and I booked our flights about 3 months before. We found cheaper flights for the day before our move in day. Luckily we were able to stay with my dad’s close friend from the military for one night and saved on a hotel stay. Moving 6,000 away for a few months can be stressful so plan your packing. My roommate and I ordered dorm bundles on roomify and had them shipped to our dorms. I also had prescriptions transferred to a CVS close to school but in the past I have used Express Scripts. I then put a travel notice on my banking app so they wouldn’t hold my card for fraud.

My Best Advice: Book your flights once you get your move in date. This will be in advance so flights should still be on the cheaper side. Start making a packing list well beforehand. Order new clothes or products you would want to bring a month in advance. When making your packing list, include everything you use on a daily basis or may need in a 5 month time period. I again suggest thinking of prescriptions, banking needs, and personal records you will use in the coming months. When you finally pack, consider how many bags the airline allows for free and what bags you will need to pay for.

Going into my NSE semester, I was new to all of these steps. Hopefully this helps anyone considering or embarking on a domestic exchange semester!

My final & actual best advice would be to go into the experience with minimal expectations. Yes, have activities and sight seeing planned, but let everything else be a surprise! Your favorite adventures, best friends and memories will be unexpected 🙂

Always,

Ari


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