As a student at California State University, Northridge, Haley Holston said she always felt like something in her college life was missing.
“I always had an itch to travel and go to new and exciting places,” Holston said.
Today, Holston, a senior majoring in public relations, studies full-time at The University of Alabama through the National Student Exchange program.
NSE is a network for inter-university exchange within the United States, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to nse.org.
“It’s kind of like studying abroad, but not,” said Stacy Jones, assistant dean of students and UA campus coordinator for NSE. “It’s like getting a cultural experience without going abroad and doesn’t cost as much.”
Jones said approximately 200 colleges around the United States, in territories and in Canada exchange students, and 50 percent of students who do the program through The University of Alabama end up transferring here.
Holston along with Drew Pflughoft, a junior majoring in exercise and sport science who is currently taking part in the NSE at The University of Alabama said they will be transferring to The University of Alabama in the fall semester after completing the NSE this spring.
“I am not going back to my home institution next year,” Pflughoft, who attended the University of Wyoming, said. “I’ve always wanted to come to a big school like this, so I figured I would give it a try before I officially transferred. I wanted to see if I wanted to do it, and I did, and I always thought it would be cool to go a big SEC school, and now I can do it.”
NSE is a tuition-reciprocal exchange program that uses two different plans for payment and fees – Plan A and Plan B, according to nse.ua.edu. Plan A allows students to pay in-state tuition for the host campus, while Plan B allows students to pay tuition depending on their residency status. Although they are both out-of-state students, Holston and Pflughoft pay in-state tuition to attend the University through NSE.
“There is an agreement among the colleges that participate,” Jones said. “We agree to a set of rules, and one of the rules is that if a student is part of the National Student Exchange, they will meet with an advisor and they will come up with a list of courses they want to take at the host institution. The goal is for the student to graduate on time. They have to take courses that will help with graduation.”
Holston said this requirement has been one of the downsides in her NSE experience.
“It was really hard for me to get into classes,” Holston said. “I am not a degree-seeking student in the computer system, and they also put NSE students at the freshman level, so I had to get access codes to get into every single one of my classes because they are all upper division.”
Because of her registration issues, Holston said she will not be able to graduate on time and will be returning as a fifth-year senior next fall.
“I looked at this program as an adventure that could enrich my life, which it has,” Holston said. “Whatever it was that I thought was missing isn’t anymore.”
Jones said a popular reason for students to take part in the NSE is the concept of a large SEC school.
“We have a lot of students come from far away to try to get a traditional football school experience,” she said. “Students come from California and Canada to get that experience or if they are interested in greek life.”
Holston said going to Miami, Fla., for the BCS National Championship Game has been one of the highlights of her experience at Alabama.
“I didn’t actually have tickets to the game, but my roommates and some friends rented a condo down in South Beach for the weekend,” she said. “From a California girl’s perspective, I never knew that I could love football and the culture so much. There was never a dull moment, and hardly five minutes would pass before I heard someone yell ‘Roll Tide!’”
While Pflughoft said he enjoyed the football in the fall, he said he has most enjoyed the cultural differences in the South.
“I think people here don’t really realize what they have down here,” he said. “They don’t really realize the appeal of living here or having that experience. Most people question ‘Why do you want to come here?’ and I just say ‘It’s nice. I really like the South in general.’ Wearing shorts in December is pretty nice, and I like to do a lot of outdoor stuff such as bass fishing, going hunting or going to the beach.”
“People get really excited about the mountains here, where I am from, but I am the opposite, and I get excited about all the southern outdoor stuff that they may take for granted.”