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C:\fakepath\Kayla Degnan camping crop.jpg
Kayla Degnan '15 camped along the Appalachian Trail during a semester at the
University of Tennessee. 

National Student Exchanges, travel courses provide view of America


C:\fakepath\NSE FloridaVertCanoes.jpgFor a number of our undergraduates, studying away from campus doesn’t necessarily mean travel overseas. Through travel courses, our students recently visited the South to discover the Civil Rights Movement, and explored the Florida Everglades where they canoed alongside American alligators.

During last year’s bus tour of the American South, students sang with one of the original Freedom Singers, spoke with the wife of civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy, and met the sister of one of the four girls killed at the 16th Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.

“Going on this trip, I realized there is more to the Movement – beyond what I was taught in the classroom,” said Samantha Beaton ’17. “Being able to walk the ground where history of the Civil Rights Movement took place put it all into a new perspective for me.”

The opportunity to go someplace new, while earning upper level course credits before she graduated, appealed to Alacin Fanning ’15, a student in Dr. Dan Shustack’s “The Environment of South Florida” class.

Besides developing a new respect for the wildlife the group encountered, “I’ve always enjoyed the natural world, so it was cool learning about it,” Fanning said.

In addition to travel courses, through the National Student Exchange (NSE) program, students may choose to take courses at participating universities throughout the United States.

C:\fakepath\NSE Kayla Degnan bw mug crop.jpgThey include India Prevost ’14, who spent a semester at Alabama State University; Hannah McClearnan ’15, who studied at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania; and Kayla Degnan ’15 (middle right), who spent the last fall semester at the University of Tennessee in Martin, Tennessee.

In addition to taking classes on that campus, Degnan drove across Tennessee to meet up with a friend from home who was hiking the Appalachian Trail, and traveled to Georgia to attend an “amazing” music festival, the “Fly Free Fest.”

At the University of Tennessee (UTM), Degnan (middle right) took classes in astronomy, advanced grammar, American literature, juvenile justice and social work mental health. She particularly enjoyed astronomy, which provided the opportunity to work a lab partner with whom she developed a good friendship.

In addition to attending universities throughout the United States, students may study at nearly 200 accredited, baccalaureate-granting universities in Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They pay tuition and fees to MCLA, and room and board to the host university. 

C:\fakepath\NSE TaylorJae crop.jpgEstablished in 1968, NSE has provided exchange opportunities to more than 105,000 students, who gain insight into the historical and cultural makeup of different regions, learn about others from different backgrounds, and prepare to live and work in a culturally diverse society.

TaylorJae Taber ’17 (bottom right) wants to specialize in wildlife conservation and saving endangered species, so she spent a semester at the University of Alaska, where she took classes in geology, wildlife surveying, horticulture, anthropology and arctic survival.

She plans to return to the Fairbanks campus as a graduate student to study bears, including polar bears and the Alaskan grizzly bear. 

“My experience was fantastic,” said Hannah McClearnan ’15, who aspires to become an American Civil War historian. She spent a semester at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. Located on the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, that campus is the only college with a Civil War era studies minor.

“Every weekend I traveled to a different Civil War battlefield and got a tour from the experts that wrote the premier book on the subject,” McClearnan explained. “I met countless historians whose books I had been reading for years.”

For more information about study away programs, go to