WKU has a new partner in studying abroad, giving eight students the chance to explore different parts of the country next semester.
The National Student Exchange (NSE), a non-profit institution, is the newest addition to WKU’s study away and study abroad programs. Currently, NSE has nearly 200 universities participating in student exchanges, including schools in Canada, Guam, and the Virgin Islands, according to the organization’s website.
WKU joined the program in November 2011, but Study Away Director Jerry Barnaby said WKU started talking about joining NSE in January 2011.
“They sent us the materials we needed to get started, and then we started getting different offices involved in the process,” he said. “It took seven to eight months to put together everything we needed.”
Barnaby said students interested in NSE must apply through the study away office, where their applications are checked by the department. Then, they are put into the NSE system where students are placed based on which university of their choosing accepts or denies their application. Barnaby said he suggests students have at least three universities as options “just in case the top choice falls through.” Alternately, if a student from another university wants to come to WKU through NSE, the process works in the reverse, Barnaby said.
Currently, the study away offices offer advising “mini-sessions” regarding the NSE application process and the organization itself. Barnaby said if students are interested in the program, planning ahead is crucial to getting the study away program they want.
“Follow-up meetings are more in-depth,” he said. “We’ve got to plan ahead for these things — what classes they’ll take, how it fits in with their degree program here.”
History major Michael Wilbanks said NSE became a high priority opportunity for him since he found out about it earlier in the semester. Wilbanks, who will study at the University of Idaho, is excited to explore a different part of the country.
“I’ve always wanted to see the west of the United States since I was a small child,” he said. “This opportunity is going to allow me to do that.”
Wilbanks said, as a history major, NSE seems like the perfect fit to grow as a scholar.
“I see it as a way to expand my horizons, academically and spiritually,” he said. “The more information I take in, the better I’ll be able to understand other cultures… Hopefully, when I return in the fall of 2013 to Western, it will be as a changed and better person.”
Barnaby said the biggest advantage he sees with the program is its ability to complement a student’s previous studies at WKU.
“You’re living in a different part of the country, different city, different town, and it’s a different landscape,” he said. “But the universities still provide students with a familiar campus setting, just in a completely new place.”