NCHC Chicago 2015

November 12-15, six of us traveled to Chicago for the 2015 National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) Conference. We had a wonderful experience learning and would like to share with you our favorite aspects of the conference.

NCHCAshley Kanak, Lexi Turgeon, Dr. Anne Dahlman, Rachael Igo, Tyler Keller, Katelynn Malecha

Ashley Kanak

Student lead presentations and roundtables at NCHC are a way to measure and assess what students want from their honors education. There are many great ideas from university honors programs and colleges from courses to peer mentorship which elicits lively conversations about what works best at their institution. Making connections, learning about best practices, and discovering new techniques for honors education is what the conference is about. What I find to be the most evident is that many programs discuss the value of leadership development, research presentations, and opportunities for community and cultural engagement. This brings a sense of great pride knowing that these values are deeply-rooted into our honors program at MNSU. I believe that in sending students to learn about new ideas our honors program understands that there is always room for growth when it comes to honors education.

Lexi Turgeon

Attending the National Collegiate Honors Conference was a wonderful learning experience! I was able to attend a number of sessions put on by different Honors Programs from around the country. One of the main things I took away from these sessions is that our Honors Program is pretty great! As Honors Student Council President I plan to communicate with the students about some of the ideas we brought back from the conference, and continue to shape the program!

Dr. Anne Dahlman

The trip to NCHC was a very enriching experience.  Hearing about the programs and experiences from many other Honors Programs across the nation reaffirmed that our Honors Program is an excellent one and that we do many things well.  At the same time, we came home with our heads full of ideas for improving our program.  You will see these improvements put into practice starting already this spring.

Rachael Igo

My favorite part about the NCHC conference was building community with others.  The six of us who traveled to Chicago from Mankato got to know each other really well during our trip. It was really fun to learn about Honors Programs and explore Chicago together, and we enjoyed discussing our ideas with one another. It was also a great experience to meet other members of the honors community from places all over the nation.

Tyler Keller

My favorite part about attending NCHC was participating on a panel with other students across the nation talking about our Honors Program. Through this panel I had the chance to brag about how awesome our program is and offer advice to upcoming Honors Programs. It made me realize how successful our program is but also showed me ways our program can be improved. I hope to be able to use some of the ideas we learned to implement in the future.

Katelynn Malecha

Attending NCHC was one of the best opportunities I’ve had in my whole college experience and education. One of the most impactful sessions included the “Honors Living/Learning Communities.” Being the First-Year Honors Learning Community Coordinator I found this session extremely beneficial to hear what other universities are doing within their Honors Programs, Honors Colleges, and Learning Communities. This session was a roundtable in which the audience is encouraged to share or ask questions to the presenters. I found this useful in the way I could ask other directors opinions on the program here or their programs. NCHC was a wonderful experience and I hope to present at it next year.

My Study Abroad Experience in Cuenca, Ecuador

by Anna Rice, ’16 (Biomedical Sciences)

As an incoming freshman, I knew I wanted to study abroad, but I was unsure about where and for how long. As I continued my Spanish language classes through my freshman and sophomore years, I explored the idea of studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. Through the individual study program at Minnesota State University, Mankato I chose to travel and study in Ecuador for 8 weeks to further my Spanish language skills. Because it is an individual study program, I was responsible for booking flights and traveling to Cuenca, Ecuador on my own. I was extremely nervous, as I think most people would be, but I said my goodbyes and boarded a plane to South America!

Once I arrived, my host family picked me up and took me back to their home. They were warm and welcoming and did not speak a word of English! I was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I tried to catch as much as I could and with in a week, I could already understand ten times more Spanish than the first night of my trip. It just goes to show, things that you aren’t comfortable with don’t have to be uncomfortable forever. I started classes at Estudio Sampere, the sister university through Minnesota State University, Mankato. There were a handful of Mankato students involved in my same program. We had not all met before arriving, but we became quick friends. We attended school from 7:30 am to 12 pm every day, taking grammar and discussion based courses, with around 5 to 6 students each. After class, I would return home for lunch, and do some homework until mid afternoon. Almost every day I would meet up with the other students from school and hang out at a café or go explore the city. We tried to immerse ourselves in the culture as much as we could by visiting markets, restaurants, cathedrals, orphanages etc. We had our fair share of fun, and my Spanish greatly improved as I was speaking more and more each day. By the end of my trip, I would go to class and not even think about what I was going to say, or worry about not understanding an assignment. By the time I finished my 12 credits at Estudio Sampere, I was ranked the level below a fluent Spanish speaker.

As we only had class Monday through Friday, on the weekends we were free to roam. The school did offer optional weekend trips like hiking through the Andes or visiting ancient ruins, which we took full advantage of. Other weekends we took off to explore on our own. One of my favorite parts of my study abroad experience was the trip we took to the Amazon Rain forest. After riding a Grey Hound bus for nine hours through the winding roads of El Cajas National Park in the Andes Mountains, we arrived in Puyo, a small town in central Ecuador. We stayed in cabins at what I would compare to a camp ground run by a local family. We went on hikes, canoed, swam in waterfalls, and visited a village of indigenous people. We were fortunate enough to spend the day learning how they make jewelry to sell, how they hunt, and their traditional dances and foods. I was immersed in their culture and was able to see first-hand how different their lives were compared to mine without running water or electricity. Interacting with the natives and learning about their culture was incredible. It was an absolutely amazing and eye-opening experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. The weekend to the jungle was definitely one of the best weekends of my trip.

Ecuador was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I would absolutely recommend studying there or just visiting. I made so many memories and had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world with whom I have made life-long friends. Anyone pondering the idea of studying abroad anywhere, DO IT! The experiences you gain and the people you meet will have a lasting impact on your undergraduate career and your life.