When I first started looking into the National Student Exchange Program, I took into consideration is where I would like to complete my exchange. The states that interested me the most were Montana, Arizona, South Carolina, and New Hampshire. I knew that whatever state I chose, it would be its own adventure. When I was in middle school, my older brother Tom went on a missionary retreat in Montana and road a train throughout the state. His stories and adventures fascinated me and since then I have always wanted to see Montana. I decided on Montana State as my host campus and started to prepare for my journey!
I was most nervous to be so far away from my family, to navigate an airport, and to meet new people that I would eventually be able to call my friends. My home campus, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, was only three hours away from my home. It made me a little anxious to know that there would now be a couple states between my school and my home, but my parents reassured me that they would always be just a phone call away.
As I prepared for the exchange, I experienced a range of emotions. I was excited and hopeful while also being a little nervous. What I didn’t realize is that I would be making friends from around the United States. Being from a small town, this was a whole new experience for me. I thought that a lot of the students would be from Montana, but I was surprised to find out that most of the people I met are from different states. A lot of students are from Colorado and have come to experience the mountains of Montana. Washington is also a common state that students are from. When I ask the people I meet why they chose Montana State, the main response that I get has to do with being near the mountains. I also chose Montana State for its beautiful mountains and outdoor activities. But meeting people is a big part of the experience too. The activities, mountains, and scenery are all an amazing part of this exchange but the community here is something that I will always appreciate. Everyone has been so supportive and encouraging throughout my exchange. National Student Exchange gives you the opportunity to study on a new campus, but it also opens doors for you, your family, and friends.
My family is planning on making a trip out to Bozeman, Montana to see me! I send them photos of all of the activities that I participate in and in response my family expresses how beautiful it is there and how much they want to visit. My closest friend even made a trip out to visit me and she was able to experience Montana for the first time. Soon I will get to introduce my little sister to the lifestyle and community of Bozeman, Montana.
Exchange has a great impact on the life of the individual, but also their family and friends. I found it interesting how different places have such a different community of people. Here in Bozeman, the students are friendly outdoor enthusiasts who are welcoming and outgoing. I’ve met a lot of interesting people who all have their own unique stories and backgrounds. I value having friends from all over because there are so many stories and experiences to share and I’ve already started planning trips to visit friends in the future. Having these connections open up doors to new and exciting experiences. For spring break, one of my friends invited a few of us to stay at her house in California. Before exchange I never would have imagined traveling to California! National Student Exchange has opened doors for me that I could never have imagined and is something that I will have with me for my entire life.
Submitted by Cathy Johnson