The phrase “study abroad” may fun and exotic, but for many ISU students, it also sounds expensive. Fortunately there are other options.

Iowa State is part of a national program that offers an affordable alternative. This program is known as the National Student Exchange.

The National Student Exchange allows students to be an exchange student within both the continent of North America and within U.S. territories.

Students may exchange to and from any participating university in the United States or to more exotic locations such as Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Debra Sanborn is the director of Iowa State’s National Student Exchange program encourages students to start thinking about the National Student Exchange as soon as possible, preferably as soon as their freshman year.

“But students can just decide to do it, and we can make a plan [of action] in a day,” Sanborn said.

The reasons that ISU students use the National Student Exchange program vary greatly. Some students participate in the National Student Exchange as an opportunity to be near a loved one or family. A few students exchange to universities that are located in areas that the student is thinking about moving to after graduations.

“We see students who have a variety of reasons for moving [through the program], but a lot of it is academic,” Sanborn said.

One concern that students might have regardless if they study internationally or nationally, is whether or not the time they study at a different campus will affect their graduation plans.

“Students plan very closely with their academic adviser which classes they’re going to take. Their adviser then signs off on that before the exchange,” Sanborn said.

Each student’s individual academic adviser will look at the courses offered at the host university. They can determine what classes will go towards a student’s graduation requirements and what classes would merely be classified as electives.

Students who visit Iowa State’s National Student Exchange website will likely note that there are deadlines listed on the site. These deadlines are for priority placement purposes. The National Student Exchange office accepts applications all year long.

“We are always accepting applications to plan for the next semester ahead,” Sanborn said.

The National Student Exchange program offers two ways to pay for the program. The student can pay tuition to the home university or pay tuition to the host campus.

Allison Severson is Iowa State’s National Student Exchange program adviser. She works with students to ensure they get the best National Student Exchange experience they can.

Students will meet with her to discuss their financial options, including federal financial aid, whether scholarships are available and what other aid programs the students may apply to.

“I’m surprised more students don’t take advantage of the program,” Severson said.

Both Severson and Sanborn often keep contact with students who go through the exchange program.

“They definitely enjoy [the experience],” Severson said.

Because students can participate in the National Student Exchange for one spring, summer and fall semester each, students may study at multiple campuses if they desire.

Sanborn said that many students who participate in the National Student Exchange are students who haven’t really been outside the Midwest.

The program gives students the opportunity to experience life in many parts of the country. It also gives many students a taste of independence.

“They make the most of it and they come back with pictures and adventures,” Sanborn said.

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