JSC joins International Student Exchange Program


Sara Kinerson

For many years, Johnson State College students could participate in the National Student Exchange, which enabled them to study for a semester or two at another participating institution in the United States. Those opportunities have now expanded, thanks to the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP).   


The program, overseen by Sara Kinerson, director of advising at JSC, allows students to spend a semester abroad in countries around the world while international students come to JSC for the semester.   


Not only do JSC students get to learn in different cultures, international students will get to experience life in Johnson. “If we send a student out abroad through ISEP, we should expect to receive an international student here in their place,” Kinerson said. “It’s not necessarily going to be a student from the country that our student is going to.”  


According to Kinerson, this will bring a diverse cast of new students to join the JSC community, each bringing with them a part of their own culture. ISEP currently offers 240 programs for JSC students, of which 181 are English speaking schools. 


Programs range from Canada to Argentina, from Norway to Australia, and many places in-between.  A map can be found on ISEP.org, under Northern Vermont University, which gives the option to filter out the colleges that don’t match specific criteria. The map includes filters for language, field of study, location, and year.  This makes it quick and simple to find colleges that accommodate any course of study.  


A student’s opportunities are only limited by their major. “What your major is at Johnson State may make it more possible or more difficult for you to participate,” says Kinerson. “I wouldn’t say there are any that it’s an impossibility, it’s just that some take a lot more planning to make sure you put your experience in the right semester to not throw you off track.” 


Courses taken abroad will need to be preapproved by department faculty and the colleges have to offer courses for relating to the student’s major. Information on all of the available study abroad programs can be found on ISEP.org. 


In past years, JSC has sent 12-15 students to colleges across the nation through the Nation Student Exchange (NSE) each year.  Internationally, JSC has only sent out three or four a year. 


A semester in a foreign country attracts a large crowd, but many eager applicants are faced with a common deterrent among college students “One of the main things that seem to prevent students from going abroad is the cost,” Kinerson said. “I meet with a lot more than three or four students to talk about studying abroad.”  


This financial barrier is now lifted by the implementation of ISEP this school year. “It’s hard to anticipate what we are going to see with ISEP, as far as participation goes, because students pay Johnson’s tuition, and Johnson’s room and meals, and all they pay in addition to what they pay here is a $100 application fee and a $400 exchange fee,” says Kinerson. 


The reduction of cost is opening the door for many JSC students who couldn’t afford the previous prices, with the only downside being that students may not get their first choice of program.  Popular programs, such as those in Australia, have many applicants and not everyone makes the cut. Direct programs are in place so that students, with the financial means to do so, can pay program fees and go to the school of their choosing. 


Prospective students will receive guidance from multiple JSC and ISEP faculty to make sure everything runs according to plan.  Students will be aided by their academic advisor, Sara Kinerson, and the ISEP student advisor, Jacob Gross. After a student is accepted into the program, Gross works with them to finalize semester details and keep them on their path to graduation.


“Everything except for airfare is included; you get meals, your housing, your tuition, all for the same price as here,” says Kinerson. “I get goosebumps when I talk about it! I’m so excited for students! I think that it’s really going to open up opportunities that didn’t exist purely because of finances.”


JSC is accepting applications for next fall semester and the following semesters.  The deadline for next fall, or the full school year, is coming up in early February.  Prospective applicants can address Sara Kinerson with questions about ISEP or the application process.