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.


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 🙂



21st in NYC

Back with another throwback! This time I’m sharing how I celebrated my 21st birthday.

Twenty-one is truly the best age; some may ring in their legality by getting belligerent while others prefer a low key celebration. I’m not the biggest party person so I decided to spend the day in one of my favorite places with my sister, her boyfriend, and my best friend.

My birthday is super close to Christmas so for many birthdays in the past I opted to go see the Christmas lights in NYC over a gift or a party. For my 21st, I kept the tradition alive but this time I was able to have a few drinks.

For most trips to NYC we drive and stay over for a few nights but, for this trip we just had the day. So that means a nice early wake up call to drive 3 hours. Once we get into the city we typically park in a garage on 44th street for $40 a day, there are about three garages on this street to choose from and all are typically around $40/$45 for the day.

We were starving once we got their so we stopped at URBANSPACE where we each got what we wanted from different vendors. I had my first sushi burrito and I highly recommend.

You can’t go to NYC without having an SJP Sex & The City moment so our next stop was The New York Public Library right by my favorite Bryant Park! Classic spot where Big leaves Carrie at the alter but somehow everything works out in the end? Anyway, I swear the library is closed every time I go to NYC, it was a Christmas miracle that it was open and it was beautiful.

After we headed over to the Plaza Hotel and then Central Park for some shopping and a walk. Our next food stop was The Roof at the Viceroy for my first legal drink (didn’t get carded even though I look roughly 17 years old) and some appetizers. We then stopped for some Italian food near Times Square and Broadway, walked through Rockefeller Center to see the tree and headed home. It was the perfect start to my favorite year so far!!

For anyone in the North East region looking for a fun day trip with friends, if you’re willing to get up early and stretch your day, NYC is perfect! The whole day cost about $120, mostly for transportation and food, and was entirely worth it.

Thanks for reading!!



Sister Trip to Disney

“Walt Sisney Trip”

I’m throwing it back to my sister & I’s “Walt Sisney Trip”. Yes, you read that correctly. We’re weird, we know. Before I get into it I’ll link my sister’s blog of our trip here.

My sister, Emily, and I took this trip in September of 2018 during the first week of fall semester. On our itinerary we planned to hit Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Food& Wine Festival, & Toy Story Land as it had just opened. 

As a college student, I was obviously balling on a budget so I’ll break down the logistics of prices and where we cut costs. The biggest help for this trip was my sister & I did not pay for our villa at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort. Our parents were about to sell their Disney Vacation Club membership and let us use the rest of their points (thanks mom & dad). Typically a night at the Boardwalk is more on the expensive side compared to other Disney resorts.


Flights: $200 (ORH-MCO, Jet Blue)

Transportation: Free when you stay at a Disney Resort- Disney’s Magical Express

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Ticket: $89

Park Hopper Ticket: 1 day pass $185

Food: $200

Rough Total: $700

My recommendation for saving on lodging while still having access to Disney pools and transportation is staying at a Disney All-Star Resort. My advice for students or someone on a budget is buying your flights first and then spacing out buying park tickets as the park fares do not fluctuate like flight prices. Lodging fare will also be lower in September as occupancy rates drop when most family’s with kids start school and lack vacation time.

Now, the fun stuff!

Day 1

We arrived in Orlando, FL on Wednesday night and left to return home Sunday morning so we had 3 full days to enjoy all we could. Our first full day, Thursday, we grabbed breakfast at the bakery and walked the loop to the Yacht Club & the Beach Club. We then spent most of the day laying by the pool. At night we went to Disney Springs and of course got Earl of Sandwich for dinner. Every trip we stop at Earl of Sandwich it is literally to die for and the line is always out the door.

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Disney’s Boardwalk Resort

Day 2

Friday was the second day of our trip and we headed over to Magic Kingdom around 2 for my first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. When you buy a ticket for MNSSHP you are able to get into the park for the later half of the day, that is of course if you didn’t purchase a whole day pass. Honestly this was my favorite day of the trip! The party started off collecting a goody bag (lol) and then treats are handed out throughout the park, basically trick-or-treating. We then watched the Not So Spooky Spectacular while enjoying Maleficent cones. The spectacular ended in perimeter fireworks and we finished the night with the Boo to You parade.

Day 3

Our third and final day started off with walking over to Hollywood Studios and ended at Epcot. The Boardwalk is perfectly located in between Hollywood Studios and Epcot so we were able to walk to both parks. We got to Hollywood studios super early and the line was already extremely long because everyone was trying to get into the new Toy Story Land. We then waited in line for about 1 hour for the Slinky Dog Dash, walked around and then headed over to Epcot. Food and Wine Festival was going on but I sadly was not 21 yet so I enjoyed the food part. Of course we hit my favorite rides Soarin’ and Frozen Ever After. After our walk around the world showcase we headed back to the Boardwalk and sat on the lawn to enjoy ice cream.

For the time and money spent on the trip, Emily & I got the most out of it! We keep talking about more “Sisney Trips” in the future (we’re so lame). For anyone looking to have the most fun in a few quick days at Disney, I highly recommend going in September to attend these two celebrations. I also recommend going with your big sis ❤


Ari ❤