Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The benefits of domestic exchange

By Alexa Hoyle

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Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism/Flickr

Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism/Flickr

Everyone has heard of studying abroad – you choose a semester or a year and spend it studying in a country of your choosing. It has become a typical facet of the college experience. But have you heard of domestic exchange? I’m guessing probably not.

I didn’t know about it for a long while either. But one day, as I gathered my books to rush out of class, I saw a poster on the wall that read “National Student Exchange Program” (NSE). It piqued my interest so I inquired further and I found myself participating in the NSE program during the first semester of my senior year.

The NSE allows students to study at another school domestically, meaning within the United States. While it may not seem as glamorous as studying in a foreign land, it presents its own set of benefits.

First, there’s the opportunity to explore different ways of life in your own country. I went to Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, a town I’d visited previously but never really engrossed myself in. While I don’t want to generalize any entire group of people based on the part of the country they live in, it’s undeniable that life out there is noticeably different. Aside from the fact that they call soda “pop” and make fun of some of colloquial expressions like “wicked” and “word,” everything just seems more relaxed.

There’s more to life than our little coastal state, and living in a new place for six months began to teach me that. Going to school in a state characterized as a “swing state” as opposed to liberal Massachusetts threw me for a loop; it’s fascinating how many different opinions I’d hear during debates in my history class about anything from abortion to feminism. The exchange reinforced my belief in respecting others opinions, despite how different from my own they may be. That’s certainly a valuable skill for anyone to learn.

Experiencing a new way of life isn’t the only benefit, though. There is one absolute truth associated with post-graduate life: you will never be able to pick up and move for six months and then just come back. But with a domestic exchange you can do just that; you can explore another part of the country that you otherwise would have no access to.

Who knows what wonders may await you in California or Colorado; you may just find that Massachusetts is not where you want to spend the rest of your days. With over 180 state universities and colleges throughout the country that participate in the program, it’s hard not to find somewhere to go.

There is also the benefit of being able to access courses at other schools that the University of Massachusetts has no equivalent to – and that doesn’t just mean classes for your major. At Kent State I took a class called “Vampires in Film and Television” and it was absolutely enthralling. The class traced the ascent of the vampire in the modern culture landscape, citing historical events that shaped the blood-suckers presence in popular culture. UMass surely doesn’t have a class like that. With a new course catalog at your disposal you may find a new passion or a fresh twist on your major.

And lastly, a domestic exchange program is much cheaper than a semester abroad. While you may have to find transportation to the state of your choice, the cost of a train ride or a flight will be paltry compared to the cost of flying to Australia. That means you can use all that money you save to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Everyone needs at least one semester away from UMass, but it doesn’t always have to be in a strange land. Take that trip to California you’ve always want to take, or maybe just go to another UMass campus to take some new classes. With relatively low costs and numerous benefits, there is nothing holding you back from exploring your own country.

Alexa Hoyle can be reached at [email protected]

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