This semester, Fresno State sophomore Jessica Harper has journeyed more than a thousand miles away to live on her own for the first time as she attends the University of Idaho.
Through the National Student Exchange (NSE) program at Fresno State, 19-year-old Harper has the opportunity to travel and earn college credit towards her degree in liberal studies.
“[Students] report to us that it was their best experience of their college career,â€ said Marcia Romsa, the NSE program coordinator at Fresno State. â€œThey learn a lot about themselves.â€
Qualifying students can transfer to any university participating in the NSE program. There’s almost 180 universities for students to choose from in 48 statesâ€”all except North Dakota and Delaware. Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands participate as well.
Essentially, the NSE program was designed to give students a chance to travel outside of their home state and to experience diversity while attending another university.
â€œItâ€™s a way to get away from home for a while and experience a new culture,â€ Jamie Anderson, 22, said. â€œNSE can only help you as you move through life because it gives you experiences to live from. Everyone should do it for at least a semester.â€
Anderson, an advertising major from Minnesota State University Moorhead, came to Fresno State in fall 2005 and again in fall 2006.
To take part in the program, a student must be a sophomore standing, have an overall GPA of 2.5, be in â€œgood standing,â€ be a full time student before applying and continue to be a full time student while abroad, Romsa said.
A student can enroll at another university for up to one full academic year or at two different universities for a period of one academic semester each.
For students like Carla Zamora, the program is worthwhile because they can choose to take advantage of the opportunity to attend two universities.
Zamora, 20, is a history major who attended the University of Texas State-San Marcos in fall 2006. This semester, she is attending William Paterson University in New Jersey.
Students can enroll at another university, but only during the fall semester. Because university-sponsored events tend to happen at the beginning of an academic year, the NSE feels that students in the program will benefit from attending such activities as club rush and new student orientation.
The entire time a student is studying at another university, he or she remains a student of the home university. Because of this, a student can attend another school without having to fill out another college application or pay out-of-state tuition fees, Romsa said.
For students worried about the hassle of finding transferable credits, the NSE ensures that any course taken at another university will transfer to Fresno State.
Before enrolling in any courses at the host university, every student will have their course selections reviewed by the NSE.
A student can take any elective or major course offered at the host university.
â€œI took a few kinesiology activity classes for fun which was a great way to meet more people and get away from the stresses of regular classes,â€ Anderson said.
Some students take advantage of the opportunity to enroll in classes not offered at their home university.
â€œThe Student Recreation Center at Texas State offered belly dancing classes, rock climbing trips and a bunch of other fun things,â€ Zamora said. â€œFor electives I took Arabic as a language class, which is something Fresno State does not offer. The classes were a bit more difficult, but I learned a lot academically while in Texas.â€
However, a student may not be allowed to take a course if it is a part of a closed program. The nursing program at Fresno State is an example of such a program, where the courses are highly impacted and available only to the students majoring in that field at that particular university.
Because there is a requirement that each student must remain a full-time student while studying at other universities, the average coursework load is 16 units.
â€œThey try not to stretch themselves too thin,â€ Romsa said.
Though the program encourages academic excellence, it also encourages students to explore the culture around them, which would be hard to do if a student enrolled in too many courses.
Because of the low cost, many students find the program to be an inexpensive way to travel and continue their education.
â€œI love to travel, so I try to make it school related so I can receive financial aid, finish up units and learn about different people and places,â€ Zamora said.
There are two payment options available for studentsâ€”Plan A or Plan B.
When students choose Plan A, they pay the in-state tuition fee of their host university. This means students will be paying the same cost as any other student attending the host university.
The more popular option is Plan B, where students pay the tuition of their home university. Because the cost of tuition at Fresno State is among the lowest in the country, students at this campus tend to choose this option.
Regardless of what payment option is chosen, students can still qualify to receive financial aid, grants and scholarships. An additional cost is the application fee of $85.
Because of the short distance to classes and ability to make new friends, Romsa said on-campus housing is usually what students find to be the best option.
â€œYou get to meet new people with a totally different mindset,â€ Anderson said. â€œItâ€™s amazing how different people are in different areas of the U.S.â€
Students are forced out of their comfort zones and learn to socialize and meet new people of various lifestyles and cultures, Romsa said. Because of this, she has seen firsthand how much students grow from their experiences in the NSE.
â€œIf you learn nothing from participating in NSE other than how to do laundryâ€”because youâ€™re away from momâ€”then so be it,â€ Anderson said. â€œThatâ€™s knowledge you can use forever.â€