The Westfield Voice

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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

National Student Exchange: University of Manoa

Most people can barely conceive studying abroad once, but twice? That’s practically impossible! Rachel Nicholson (WSU ’18) disagrees. She participated in a direct enroll program in Dublin, Ireland, as well as a National Student Exchange (NSE) in Hawaii.

First view of Hawaii

According to Nicholson, this double study abroad experience was one-hundred percent worth it, despite the cost and two full semesters away from WSU.

“Don’t let the question of ‘what if’ define your life. What I mean by that is if you think you want to study abroad, just take the leap and do it. I know it can be scary and I know it can be expensive; I’ve done it twice and I’ve thought this both times. But I also know that it can be the best experience of your life if you take the leap.” Said Nicholson.

National Student Exchange provides an opportunity for students to study abroad in one of two-hundred plus universities in the United States, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The University of Hawaii alone has ten separate universities spread across the islands, including the University of Manoa, on the island of Oahu, where Nicholson studied. 

Nicholson’s biggest fear going into the experience was not making friends and spending the entire semester alone. These fears, however, were for naught. She explains, “A lot of students participating in NSE or study abroad go into it not knowing anyone and end up leaving with friends for life. Just about everyone who participates in NSE are doing so because they want to experience something new, go on an adventure, and meet new people that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet back home.” 

Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, HI

Nicholson had plenty of adventures while in Hawaii. The bus system on Oahu is free with a student I.D. and easy to navigate, meaning Nicholson had the ability to explore the island at her leisure.

She visited many of Oahu’s different beaches and hikes. Nicholson also traveled to the island of Kauai where she drove through Waimea Canyon State Park. Waimea Canyon’s breathtaking views made this trip her favorite part of the semester. 

Waimea Canyon State Park

Nicholson’s experience was not all rainbows and butterflies, but she hopes this won’t deter prospective study abroad students. There will be challenges like delayed flights, getting off on wrong bus stops, and homesickness.

“You will borrow your friend’s car and get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, or maybe that’s just me who that happens to,” said Nicholson, “Just know that even though there are going to be moments where things go wrong, you will always figure out how to get through them in the end. You are going to learn so much about yourself and realize that you are capable of so much more that you ever thought was possible.”

The delayed flights were one aspect of the trip Nicholson wishes she had been better prepared for. Perfect flights are rarely a reality, but she hadn’t been expecting the five-hour delay she encountered in California. 

Kauai, HI

Otherwise, Nicholson felt prepared for her semester. Getting in contact with the director of the NSE program at the University of Manoa was a huge help. The NSE members were more than happy to address any questions or concerns Nicholson had. 

Another piece of advice Nicholson offered was to eat at the dining commons to save money, rather than order food or eat out every night.

The food in Hawaii has a heavy Asian influence which Nicholson enjoyed, despite the fact this was another step outside her comfort zone. She saved her meal money for the food and smoothie trucks, her guilty pleasures, that were always parked around campus.

Sunset view in Honolulu, HI

Nicholson certainly did not let the question of ‘what if?’ control her. She returned from her study abroad experiences changed for the better, “I have learned so much about myself with each experience. I have become so much more confident in my abilities to handle challenges in life and I am so much more comfortable in my own skin. I have also realized that travel is a priority in my life and that experiencing new things and going on adventures is something I’m truly passionate about.” 

For more information visit the website or stop by the Office of International Programs in Parenzo 130.

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