I was born in California but raised in Tennessee and even though I was a little girl when my family moved I always wanted to come back to the golden state. It was a dream of mine to go to college in California and continue to live here after but attending college in California as an out of state student is a big expense. My freshman and junior year of college, which also ended up being my senior year since I graduated in three years, were spent at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I am a dreamer and I like to figure out how I can make my dreams come true which meant figuring out how I could go to college in California.
I started doing research on different options that my university offered to make my college experience the best that it could be. That was when I learned about the national student exchange program. There are approximately 200 different schools that participate in the program. Through the program you can switch schools for up to three semesters if you attend a different school each semester. However, you can not be an exchange student at one school for more than two semesters. Depending on what you are looking for just choosing one school to exchange to for one semester might be the best choice for you.
You have two options in paying for the program you can continue to pay in state tuition to your home school and pay room and board to the exchange school. Or you can opt to pay the tuition and room and board at the other school. By continuing to pay in state tuition at UTC I was able to still use my scholarships. I was immediately interested in applying for this program that could help make my dreams of attending college in California come true. I met with the student exchange representative from my school who explained the application process to me and let me know that they recommend having three choices of schools in case your first or second choice aren’t able to take you.
My first choice was CSUMB (California State University at Monterey Bay) and I think if I remember correctly my second choice was a school in Pennsylvania and my third choice was a school in Montana by Yellowstone. I was incredibly tempted to put a school in Hawaii on my list but they didn’t provide housing so finding an apartment in Hawaii would have made it too expensive. I was so excited when I got the call that I would be going to my first choice. Originally I was only signed up to do the exchange program for one semester but after falling in love with the school and having such an amazing experience I extended my exchange for a second semester.
I was a little nervous about picking a school that I had only seen on the internet but God led me to an incredible experience. My parents and I flew out to Southern California to spend some time with my grandparents before driving up to Monterey. We took highway one so that we could stop at Hearst Castle on the way up which was a great experience. We also went up to San Francisco before I started school and it was so much to fun to explore all these different places in California with my parents. Before we left Tennessee we went shopping for my dorm stuff at Bed Bath and Beyond but had it set up for us to pick it up at a store in California so that we wouldn’t have to fly with it.
When I moved into my dorm at CSUMB I could have never imagine the impact that this school and the people I met there would have on my life. I auditioned for a Midsummer Nights Dream and made a lot of great friends through the play many of whom I still speak with weekly. I had really great teachers and loved my classes especially a politics and participation class. One of my favorite things that I did was go to an anti war rally that I used to count as my political participation. There were many things about the campus that I loved especially that I could walk to the beach from my dorm which was so amazing to me. And of course I loved getting to explore Monterey and the nearby areas.
I joined an intramural bowling team and volunteered at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Through the campus recreation group I also went hiking in Big Sur which was gorgeous. When my family came to visit I loved taking them to 17 mile drive in Carmel. I also got to go with family and friends to Santa Cruz and San Francisco a few times which was nice. I had no idea what to expect when I got to CSUMB and it was the best part of my college experience. It was really hard to go back to UTC after my year in Monterey but I am so thankful that I got the opportunity. I met people from all over the country who were also at CSUMB through the exchange program and I think it is a wonderful opportunity to try out a new area without having to pay out of state tuition. I would highly recommend this experience for anyone who can take advantage of it.
For more information please visit: http://www.nse.org