Liz Jurado studied away at the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana.
How did you become interested in the National Student Exchange?
“I grew up in Athens, Georgia and I started college a year early. I have been in Athens a long time and I was looking for a way to not be in Athens and see something new for a little while.”
Did you benefit from seeing different parts of the United States?
“Definitely! Growing up and going to college in the same place limits the amount that you get to see, and I had never been to the other side of the county. I had never seen the West Coast before or the Midwest so that was a completely different experience.”
Once you decided to study away, how did you choose your campus?
“I kind of just chose Montana at random. It ended up being really good because I study ecology and that campus is one of the most beautiful natural states and places in the world and definitely in the US … They have a great compatibility for environmental studies and biological ecology there, so that was a factor...”
Where did you study away and what types classes did you take?
“I was in Missoula, Montana at the University of Montana. From an experiential perspective, this is completely different from Athens because here we have hills everywhere and it is very hot and it is a struggle to get across campus. They have a tiny campus and it is completely flat because it is in a valley and is surrounded by mountains. On a day to day level that was really different”
“I was taking classes that were relevant to my field that were also fun. I took environmental politics and policy, which is not a course offered at UGA. I took biochemistry, which may not have been a great choice because it is a very hard class. I took anthropology, a basic elective I got out of the way. I got rid of core curriculum requirements and took some classes that were interesting to me.”
What was the most memorable moment you experienced while studying away?
"In the last two days I was in Montana and all of my friends were determined for me to have the quintessential Montana experience. So we drove to Idaho...and we had real snow... we drove 2 hours through these tall evergreens and it looked fake. We got to the national park area called “Jerry Johnson” and we climbed the mountain for a mile in the snow. Not as hard as you would think! Very wet though. And there were natural springs. We got in the hot springs and sat there for a couple hours as the snow fell. That was surreal. Definitely my favorite memory."
What are some of the benefits you experienced through the program?
“The sense of independence is really important. When you are from one place and stay there long enough, you can start to fall into the trap – “Am I my history?”, “Am I the activities I do every day?”. Your sense of identity can be muddled. When you go somewhere and remove the context of who you are, I think you know yourself better … it was very confidence building for me.
What advice would you give to someone considering studying away?
I would say get involved immediately. The best thing you can do is to have a plan, join clubs as soon as you get there, and be friendly and open minded ... If you are open to experiences – and more than that if you are trying to have new experiences, it will happen. So join a club. Join a couple clubs.”
Learn more about Liz Jurado’s experience by reading her guest column in the Red & Black.