The reason I decided to participate in the National Student Exchange is because I have always wanted to travel, meet people from different places, and experience new and exciting things. At Montana State University, students come from all over the United States to go to school here. Some of my closest friends are from California, Colorado, Idaho, and Washington. It’s really interesting to learn about their unique experiences and how they grew up. I’m from Wisconsin and I have only met two other people from my state. When I signed up for NSE, I knew that I would be going somewhere no one knew my name. Although at first this was very intimidating, it was also exciting. I was about to make new lifelong friends that I would be going on crazy adventures with and I was about to experience what it’s like to live near the mountains.
I chose to study at Montana State University because of the outdoorsy and adventurous feel of it and because of its location in the center of a bowl surrounded by the mountains. With the mountains being so close, they were irresistible. My friends and I planned a hike every weekend. The very first hike I went on here was one of my favorites to this day. I hiked Sacagawea Peak with my roommate and a couple new friends. The reason this hike is one of my favorites is because when we reached the peak, we were approached by three mountain goats. They were about 15 feet away from us and continued walking along the ridge. This was my first time seeing a mountain goat and it was a very surreal moment. This was also the first big hike I had gone on and I was amazed at how cold and windy it was as we reached the peak.
I was advised to pack layers of clothing when hiking and I didn’t understand because the weather in Montana in late August is fairly hot. That very first weekend helped me to understand why people in Montana pack multiple layers. On all of the hikes I’ve gone on, which is more than I can count now, I’ve had to put on and take off layers of clothing. On many of my hikes the beginning is often very warm but will soon cool off as you gain elevation and are exposed to more wind and snow. After living here for a while, I know that the weather can change multiple times throughout the day, and it is better to have some extra clothing articles available on hikes and other excursions.
Every Saturday morning, I grab my hiking pack, meet my friends for breakfast, and head towards the mountains. A couple of times we have tried to find certain trails but took a few wrong turns and ended up hiking on a trail that no one has heard of. These are the best adventures. One of my favorite hikes happened because I accidentally misguided my carpool of friends down a very bumpy backroad through the woods. We decided that we would hike on the first trail that we saw, and this is how we ended up summiting Ross Peak. This hike was by far one of the hardest hikes I’ve accomplished but it was also one that I am so thankful for. It was towards the beginning of the year, so I was starting to get closer to my friends and nothing brings you closer than blood, sweat, and tears! The hike was long and intense but the whole crew was able to summit. It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced. I love hiking in groups because everyone is so encouraging and upbeat. While on these hikes I learned a lot about my friends and it’s definitely brought me closer to a lot of people. It’s so great to make all of these connections and friendships that last a lifetime.
I highly recommend getting a group together to do an activity in the first couple weeks of the semester while on exchange because everyone is looking to meet new people. I am not the most outgoing person, but since being on exchange I have really put myself out there. NSE has encouraged me to be more spontaneous and to let my true colors shine.
Submitted by Cathy Johnson