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Study Away at an HBCU - NSE Study Break

Stories and Updates

Hello! I'm Natasha (Tasha). And welcome back to the NSE study break. And I'm here with our guest star Natasha! She's actually a former NSE student who actually went to our host campus, Alabama State University last fall, and Natasha, Hey, can you tell us, you know, where are you from? What's your major, what school you went to? What year you are in?

Natasha: So, I went to University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. I'm from Minnesota. New Hope Crystal. Small suburb out of the Twin Cities. Um, I majored in Sociology of Law, Criminology and Deviance with a minor in African and African American studies. Um, and I graduated this past May, so I got that degree.

Tasha: Ahhhhh! One degree hotter! Okay, Okay. So, tell me, um, what made you like, how did you learn about the NSE program?

Natasha: I think I learned about the NSE program because I had gone on this trip with, um, one of our like local organizations, uh, down south to like Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana. And I was like, I want to go to an HBCU. Like no one ever talked about HBCU's was when I was growing up. And I was like, I'm kind of tired of going to predominant white institutions. So, um, I was like, how do I do this? Can I do this? And I was talking to my, um, my major person forgot what they're called. Yeah. And they're like, Oh, National Student Exchange. And I'm like, Oh bet. Sign me up. What are my options?

Tasha: Okay. Okay. So, if you would have learned about the NSE program earlier, would you have transferred if you could of?

Natasha: Okay. That's tricky. I don't think I would've transferred because I love my home university and all the things that they have to offer as far as coursework goes. But I feel like I definitely would have, if I had learned about it earlier, I would have gone to Alabama State and then I would've gone to another HBCU too.

Tasha: Oh, so we just doubling up the NSE program.

Natasha Yeah. Yeah. Because I went so late in the game that I couldn't even stay a full year because my home university requires me to finish my last semester at home. I mean COVID but.

Tasha: Okay. No problem. So actually, what were your top three choices when you were doing the NSE program?

Natasha: My top three choices were Alabama State, Tuskegee, and I think North Carolina Central.

Tasha: So, you just, you just wanted to come down south. You just wanted to go to an HBCU. You didn't think of like anywhere else to go? It was just between all those states?

Natasha: Well, it was mostly like, I wanted to go to like Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, like Texas was an option, but then I also had to take and consider like what is going to align with my major. And like those three schools had like specific, um, specialties that they like aligned with my major and my minor.

Tasha: Okay. Okay! So, like, what were your favorite parts of the exchange?

Natasha Honestly, my favorite part about the exchange was, well, the food. Not on campus, but like off and on campus, because so much better seasoned than Minnesota. Um, by honestly, living on a smaller campus. My campus holds 30,000 people. 40,000 people. I mean, our enrollment's 50,000. So, living on a campus where on campus, there's like at most 2000 students that live there. And you see the same people every single day. It's so much easier to make friends and have connections and just go places. Like literally walking to class: two minutes. Walk to the library: two minutes. Walk to the cafeteria: two minutes. Like everything was two minutes, not 20. Yeah.

Tasha: So, what were some things that actually like surprised you going to Alabama State University versus coming from your university?

Natasha: So, I go to a very big public school. And while Alabama State is a public school, um, and it's in the South. There's religion that are around a lot of our events. So, like praying before events, praying after events, that was not something that I was used to. And I don't have an issue with it. I'm just so used to people not talking about Christianity so often and involving it within our activities. It kind of shook me the first time. I was like, Oh, we're praying right now.

Tasha: Very true!

Natasha: Sounds good. But also, I think it really like my host or like not my host, but my home school offered a lot events, which is great. But I feel like at Alabama State University, they were a lot more accessible, um, because everything was such a small - on such a small campus. So, you could go to an organizational meeting, and then you could go to a basketball game and then you could hang out with your friends all within like four hours.

Tasha: That's very true.

Natasha: And I just feel like I was so much more engaged with the school activities and events that they hosted at Alabama State than I was ever at my school. I go to like big forums at my school, but at Alabama State, I feel like it, if I saw something, they're like, Hey, this is going on tonight. I'd be like, okay, cool. I got 30 minutes. Let's go.

Tasha: So, what were like your favorite like campus traditions at Alabama State University?

Natasha: I know we, it's not like necessarily, I guess it's a tradition, but Labor Day Classic.

Tasha: All the football games.

Natasha: That was poppin. That was poppin. All the parties that weekend. I've never been to an HBCU game. It was so great. That was probably one of my favorite things. And some of these, I guess, like they're not big traditions, but just like the sense of the sororities and fraternities on camp and like seeing them, or like some of them did like, uh, volunteer opportunities. And just like, they hosted like barbecues in the quad. I'm just like, okay, I'm down for free food. So I guess it's just like the sense of like having a community and a family. And it's not like necessarily like one specific tradition that we had. It was just like, when we do things, we do it together.

Tasha: That's nice. And like how, like, how did the people differ from like Minnesota? Well, from your campus?

Natasha: Besides racially? Um, it was a whole flip flop. Um, I still, I think it was a lot easier to make friends at Alabama State. I feel as if, when at my home school, like you can make friends, um, by like engaging in classes I guess, or going to football games. But I don't know, just the culture was so much different. You - like, if - people were so nice. They say, Hey, like ask you how you're doing. Like people in Minnesota don't ask you that when they pass you. We, we, we don't make eye contact. People at Alabama State make eye contact. Make it all good. It was a whole different environment.

Tasha: Woooooow. I was just like, yeah, it was like Oh, is Natasha from - Dr. Wind said there's Natasha from Minnesota. And I was like, I'm Natasha too. So actually, what was the challenge you had to overcome while being at your host institution?

Natasha: Roommates. I mean, like, I've lived with people in the same like I lived in a four-bedroom apartment before I went down there. So, I know what it's like to have roommates in that sense. But I think just living in a freshman dorm with so many rules and regulations as a 21-year-old who's about to graduate. I was like, why do I have a roommate? Why are we all so close to each other? Why do we all share a bathroom. Why do they check my room every day? And there was just so much, and then, you know, visit-visitation. That was probably my, like, I'm not, I don't have anybody over. But like the fact that they put on a regular, like a strict regulation, like you can't have people sleep over. You can't, people can only visit you from noon to midnight and they can take it away and not tell you why.

Tasha: Yeah oof.

Natasha: I was like, I'm a grown ass woman. Why are you doing this to me? So that was probably like, my biggest adjustment was like, just trying to adjust to a new living space. I'm not used to living with five other girls sharing one bathroom, making sure people take care of themselves. They're clean. We don't like mess up with any of the rules. But having people telling me when I can have friends over. So yeah.

Tasha: The freshman dorm was pretty tough living there.

Natasha: Yeah. And it's fun. It's just a lot. I know what it's like to have my own space. So, I know it's a lot more fun to have my own space. Um, but also like I learned a lot from it at the same time. Cause I learned how to live with people. Before I like, kind of knew how to live with people, but it wasn't such like close interactions all the time. And I feel like I had to learn how to deal with other people, living certain ways. Like some people like to leave their toothpaste out. Going to have to have to live with that. Some people like to just be messy. I'm going to have to live with that or learn how to communicate or just do it for them. Problem solving. I learned a lot of problem solving,

Tasha: Okay, okay. So, given that well, outside of like Alabama State University, you know, it's in the middle of a historic town. What was that like? Like how did you see the attractions in Montgomery, Alabama? Like the new Rosa Parks statue? What did you do outside of ASE?

Natasha: I honestly didn't go to the main attractions that were at Alabama, like around Montgomery. I was trying to look for some things that like I would be attracted to. Of course, I went to the museum, um, and the national like monuments that they have downtown. But besides that, like I would, I went to like the orchestra one time. And I would go and find random parks to just hang out at because I wanted to be off campus. But like, that's something that I do at home. And so, I feel like there's definitely, there's a lot to do around Montgomery. Um, you just have to figure out like what you like to do.

Tasha: That's very, very true. And another thing. Whew, you know I had to bring this up. What was the weather like? Those are different. That Alabama heat hits on certain days.

Natasha: I'm definitely an outdoor person. So, trying to adjust to 95 and sunny, which feels like 110 and sunny every single day for two months. And it rained for two months, two months. And having to adjust to that, like I didn't wear pants for too much. I wore shorts or dresses or skirts. I never wore long sleeve t-shirt. But the nice thing, it was 80 degrees at night.

Tasha: That's very true. It was 111 degrees, like one day and then it just drops like, Oh, okay. I like this. But it was very, very hot.

Natasha: But I love the sense of always feeling like summer, even though it was November.

Tasha: That's very true.

Natasha: Like Minnesota right now. It's like 60. And it's August. I bet you it's like 95 and sunny in Alabama right now.

Tasha: So, the next question actually is, if you had to do NSE all over again, would you choose an HBCU?

Natasha: A hundred percent. If I had to do college all over again, I'd choose an HBCU.

Tasha: And what advice could you give to like any students coming, wanting to apply for the NSE program?

Natasha: Make sure you're okay with long distance from your family. That is straight up facts. Cause I know if you're in NSE and you've already completed one or two years at your college, be okay that you're going to be away from your family and friends for four months. Also accept the fact that it's like starting college all over again, but as a freshman. But you're not a freshman. Um, but like patience. Open mind. Like you're going to go to a different environment for a reason. Have an open mind. Don't compare it to your last one. If you're comparing it, be like this one's better than my host, like better than my home. Like don't like always put your host campus, like at the top because it'll always like open up things for you. I, there was so many things that I got connected to at Alabama State and I would never have realized that. Also make sure the place you go is a place you can live for four months. There's a reason I chose Alabama State because it's warm. I don't want to choose Maryland. It might get cold. I don't want to be in the cold. Or like make sure like, if you're going to like Hawaii, like, are you okay with being a tropical place where you can't really like leave the Island if you need to. Um, just factor in those things. But honestly be optimistic about it and be secure in your choice. Because I, for a while, like Alabama State was not my number one choice. It was, I think Tuskegee was. But then I realized that Alabama had a lot more to offer for me. And it seemed like it was a lot like Tuskegee's in the middle of nowhere. Alabama is around a whole city. You have to weigh the options of where it is too. Location.

Tasha: And we were like two hours from Atlanta. And we can be able to travel wherever we want to.

Natasha Atlanta, right? Flew out like three times.

Tasha: One of them was Cali. We were out there!

Natasha We was out there!

Tasha: We were out there!

Well, that's actually all the questions that I have for you for this interview. Thank you for coming on this call for the study break. I hope you enjoy my first interview with one of our former NSE students, Natasha from Minnesota. Um, I'm also Natasha. Thank you for checking us out!

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