NSE: A New Experience

Hi, I’m Madison Livengood.  I am a full time student at Emporia State University. Currently, I am a sophomore majoring in chemistry at the University of Arizona with the National Student Exchange Program.  I was born and raised in Salina, KS but would travel to Arizona several times a year to visit with family.  I fell in love with Tucson on those trips, so when the opportunity to study in Arizona became available I applied right away.  I am loving every minute of my experience.  Studying in a new place definitely presents challenges, but the experience has been completely worth it.

The first question my colleagues and professors ask me when I tell them I am an exchange student is, “what led you to come here and study?” To be completely honest, I never thought I would study abroad because it was a little too far out of my comfort level to leave my friends and family for so long. I also found that the studying in another country would be cost prohibitive for me.  I discovered NSE at an activities fair my freshmen year at ESU.  The program has allowed me to study in a completely different and new environment without feeling too different from my normal life. It also has been great as far as the cost because it wasn’t that expensive to fly here and my expenses are similar to the ones I have had in the last couple of years.  I decided to study in Arizona because it has always been one of the schools I dreamed of going to and I have an aunt and uncle that live here. Having family in the same city has been amazing because they are always there if I need anything.

Besides visiting national landmarks and hiking various trails, I hope to become more independent from my study abroad experience. Moving to another state and being away from my grandparents and siblings has definitely been a challenge, but learning to cope with this has definitely made me more self-reliant. I also hoped that I would gain the confidence to study in a different country eventually.

The biggest fear I had with my study abroad experience was leaving my friends and not being able to make any new ones. I was concerned about my class sizes as it seemed easier to make friends in a smaller classroom setting. I did have trouble making friends the first month of school. Being in classes with over 500 people was a little overwhelming, making me even shyer than I already am. Eventually, I made more of an effort to talk to others and engage in activities and clubs on campus. I now have many friends, making my study abroad experience much more enjoyable. I even joined a sport that I have never done before, which has forced me to meet lots of new people.

So far, my experience is going very well, but I have felt very lonely at times and missed home more than ever. I never thought I would miss home that much, but I do every now and then. I see my friends posting pictures and updates on social media about things they are doing in Emporia and I instantly start to miss home. I have definitely had a few melt downs and wanted to fly home the next day. To cope with this, I just remind myself that I chose to study abroad and that I am going to make the most out of my experience. I then try go to local events, museums, and fun activities on campus to remind myself that I came to Arizona to gain a different experience.

-Madison, Arizona

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