As the famous song goes, I’m “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” No, that doesn’t mean I am going away today, although with finals looming it would be nice.
Nor am I going away for Christmas break this year – although merely taking a break from studying will be nice enough. This jet plane will hopefully lead to spending a semester on another college campus.
I’ve decided to take advantage of the opportunity to study at a school in the Northeast through the National Student Exchange (NSE). Yet, before the merits of such a decision to pack up and move can be explored, it suffices to say that my time here has been memorable. Although the term “diversity” is often overused on college campuses today, we certainly have a great deal of it and I was lucky to experience so much of it.
Yes, we have numerous students from different countries, just as other universities can boast. More importantly, however, we have a depth of life experiences represented on campus. We have the retirees who have always wanted to learn more about a particular subject, military veterans taking advantage of federal tuition assistance as well as students directly out of high school.
So why even consider applying for a student exchange program or study abroad for that matter? While I am admittedly not a spokesman for these programs, they offer the opportunity to explore another academic culture full of different ideologies and learning methods.
Let’s face it: Just as the weather and median income differ between states so, too, does the learning experience. For example, states such as Michigan, where labor unions dominate, may take a different approach to the teaching of labor economics than right-to-work states such as Florida. Deforestation concerns may affect the teaching of a conservation course in Colorado, while the potential for oil spills impacts the same course taught in Mississippi. Now this isn’t meant to say that some states have it right while others have it wrong – individuals will debate that ad nauseam – but rather that learning different perspectives is a good thing.
Another advantage to studying at another college campus is that whether you plan on attending graduate school or relocating permanently after you receive your bachelor’s degree, it allows you to scout out the potential area.
Many colleges, through the NSE, allow students to study at their campus while paying USF tuition; although we complain about increases, it is still quite reasonable compared to other states. Whether you fall in love with the area or decide it isn’t for you, it is better to learn it first-hand now rather than later.
I realize that not everyone is able to take advantage of the opportunity to study for a semester or a school year, at another college. The same depth of life experiences on our campus that I talked about earlier may preclude some from making such decisions.
Financially, some students may not be able to afford to move away from home or travel thousands of miles away. I’m not suggesting that you are getting any less of a college experience if you’re not able to take advantage of the opportunities offered through an exchange program; but if you’re able and willing, go for it. The same as a summer abroad or a two-week overseas program, the NSE will offer you a unique experience on life beyond Tampa.
So where does that leave me in this process? After submitting my application to the NSE, I will wait to see if I get chosen to attend my first-choice school. The opportunity is something I look forward to, and I know that it will be an experience I won’t soon forget. The jet plane isn’t leaving quite yet, but rest assured – if I get the acceptance nod, my column will be taking you along for the ride.
Students interested in learning more about NSE and the 181 member campuses should go to www.nse.org, or visit Joanne Pieri, USF coordinator for special programs, in ADM 102.
Aaron Hill is a senior majoring in economics.