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Two Texas A&M-Kingsville students to participate in National Student Exchange Program

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National Student Exchange (NSE) provides accessible collegiate study away to undergraduate students at member colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

KINGSVILLE (March 21, 2024) — In an effort to broaden their academic horizons, two Texas A&M University-Kingsville students will be participating in the National Student Exchange (NSE) Program during the upcoming Fall 2024 semester.

Senior history major, Eli Garces will attend the University of Guam, while sophomore Range and Wildlife Management student, Grace Sagebiel, will venture out to the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“For our students, the NSE gives them the opportunity to experience somewhere else very different and it’s a good way for them to show their independence,” Texas A&M-Kingsville NSE Chapter Director Dr. Thomas Spencer said. “We always encourage our students to choose a very different institution so they can see what it’s like to live in a different part of the country or out of the country. Sometimes, students choose to do NSE somewhere where they are thinking about doing graduate or professional school.”

Such is the case for Garces, a Rio Grande Valley native, set to leave the country for the first time to study at Guam University.

He said he is participating in the NSE for an opportunity to study in a diverse atmosphere that will help him not only experience new things but have more to offer in his future profession. 

“I want to be a teacher that can tell you things that don’t just come straight out of a book,” Garces said. “I wanted to explore more into my history and anthropology profession. I will be able to work with new people on projects across Guam. It will be a new experience for me because I am going out of my way to do stuff most people will not be able to.

“I want to get my History Ph.D. out of the country,” Garces added. “To be able to work with people I usually do not see will help me learn about a lot of things. This will help my growth.”

The NSE, which Texas A&M-Kingsville has participated in since late 2021, helps provide accessible collegiate study away experiences to undergraduate students within a network of more than 170 colleges and universities throughout the United States, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The program differs from traditional study abroad programs in a few ways, including the option to choose schools within the United States.

“When you look at Global Learning, which is what our students are doing when they are participating in these types of programs, it doesn’t necessarily have to focus on the modality,” Office of Global Engagement Program Coordinator Nicolette Dacke said. “That means it doesn’t have to be international for them to gain the global skills that are necessary, because what global learning is, is looking at the diversities in your culture, region and state.”

“Our students being able to go out of South Texas alone is a whole other world,” Dacke added. “They are experiencing not only different societal cultures, but they are having to deal with things like weather. There are all these different experiences that build upon, even though it is still staying within a national location.”

That was the experience for Mary-Anna Roberts, a senior environmental engineering major who has experience with both the NSE and Study Abroad programs.

Roberts attended West Virginia University (WVU) with the NSE in the spring 2022 and said her experience was both rewarding and challenging.

“The NSE Program left me with lifelong lessons and memories,” Roberts said. “Engaging with diverse peers challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, fostering a deeper appreciation for the cultural diversity within the U.S. Having the opportunity to experience life at a large university like WVU and then return to Kingsville, my smaller school, provided me with a unique perspective on academic life and community dynamics.”

Another way the program differs from traditional study abroad programs is that exchanges are not simply swaps.

Through the NSE, the number of students sent to participating schools become slots that can be filled by other institutions who deem their university aligns with a student’s desired location.

While students have a bevy of options, they pick three to five desired institutions, though, none are guaranteed as they must fit their academic needs as well as location desires.

A student must have a 2.5 GPA to qualify (it may vary by institute), and their desired host school is required to have courses that align with their respective degree plan and are equivalent to what they would take at their home institution.

Credits earned while studying away will not be considered transfer credits and students are not required to pay any additional tuition fees to their host school.

It is an effort to ensure that a student will stay on track with their degree plan and will not extend their time as an undergraduate if they choose to participate in the NSE Program.

“It really depends on where they're at in their degree plan and what availability (the host institution) has,” Dacke said. “Because any experience that we have, be it study abroad or study away, these are here to enhance their academic journey, not hinder their journey. A big misconception is that students think if they take opportunities like this, it is going to further extend their time here at TAMUK. We do not want that to happen. Our goal is to always make sure our students stay on track.”

The Texas A&M-Kingsville NSE is currently direct placement, which means students can still participate in the NSE program and get placed in time for the Fall 2024 semester.

For more information on the NSE Program, contact Dr. Thomas Spencer by calling 361-593-4410 or send him an email at





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