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Students study afar through college exchange program

Published on December 12, 2023

Students study afar through college exchange program

Leon Guerrero (left) and Hebert
Neleh-Jan Leon Guerrero (left) and Marie-Pier Hebert

Just as some Eastern students choose to study abroad, others come from far away for a semester at Eastern. Through the National Student Exchange (NSE) program, two students from Guam and Canada joined the Eastern community this fall while several students from Eastern studied at institutions far away.

Marie-Pier Hebert from Quebec, Canada, and Neleh-Jan Leon Guerrero from Guam just concluded the fall semester at Eastern. 

“My favorite part about attending school in Connecticut has definitely been the size of the campus and all the amenities available here,” Hebert said, such as the Student Center Café and fitness center. “It allowed me to get back into sport without too much pressure. I was always worried about paying a subscription to my home university gym and not going enough.”  

“Studying abroad at Eastern has allowed me to blossom into a braver, more adventurous individual,” said Leon Guerrero. “As a Warrior for the semester, I have been given the privilege to be involved in such a welcoming and lively campus.” 

“There’s so much encouragement here from the school to join clubs or activities, and just so many opportunities to connect with the other students through school-organized events,” said Hebert. 

“One of the opportunities Eastern has provided me with is to play rugby in a different part of the country,” Leon Guerrero said. “I’ve met many women who share the same passion for the sport. Being able to play with new teammates and against other universities is definitely a new challenge for me. Back at my home campus, I didn’t get to challenge other universities or colleges. Being here, I get to travel to different schools and experience playing rugby from a different perspective.” 

Leon Guerrero
Leon Guerrero

“I also feel like it is a big priority here for the school to make students feel like they belong here,” said Hebert. 

“Living on campus has become a big adjustment for me but the girls that I dorm with have made my adjustment so much smoother with their support and guidance,” said Leon Guerrero. “As I live on campus, I’m in the middle of an array of events that promote self-improvement to mental health awareness. These allow me to meet other Eastern students and create a close-knit community. It’s something I have grown very fond of and grateful for.” 

Leon Guerrero also said her time at Eastern allowed her to tell others about her home. She’s taught friends and peers about her culture and been able to connect with those who may not have known much about Guam before meeting her. These experiences have helped her to deepen her appreciation for her home.  

Both Hebert and Leon Guerrero have had time to appreciate the New England weather on campus. 

“I’m a really big fan of the beauty of the campus, all the greenery,” Hebert said. “I’m also very happy to see the leaves change here and the beautiful colors that the campus is slowly getting, even though I’m also used to it back home.” 

“As the leaves started to change this season, it has become my favorite sight to see,” said Leon Guerrero. “The environment back home in Guam is tropical, and as I grew up I didn’t usually get the chance to experience the fall weather throughout the months of September to November. The leaves changed into colors I had never seen before.” 


Herbert said, “Outside of campus, I really appreciate being this close to big cities like Boston and New York.” 

“I’ve had the opportunity to travel to different parts of the East Coast and continue to cross places off my bucket list,” said Leon Guerrero. “The convenience of traveling to see family and friends I have not seen for long periods of time is more than I could ever ask for.” 

Eastern students experience life outside of Connecticut 

While students from afar come to Eastern, Eastern students also travel far from campus. Kiara Thornton-Bey ’25 is studying at the University of New Orleans in Louisiana. 

She noted that both schools are very similar in their smaller sizes. Her new location has allowed her to take courses like “History of Jazz.” 

“To learn the genre’s history in the city where jazz was created is an incredibly humbling experience,” said Thornton-Bey. “I have been having a phenomenal time learning about the history of this great American city and the deeply rich, cultural music it produced.” 

The NSE program has allowed Thornton-Bey to connect with students from Louisiana as well as others studying abroad.  

“I’ve recently become close to another NSE student from Canada, which has been amazing. She's been helping me brush up on my French,” she said. Thornton-Bey has also met students from India, Kentucky, Côte d'Ivoire in West Africa, Brazil, Honduras and more.

“As a political science student, it has been both wonderful and enriching to talk with these students about the issues that plague their home countries and states and expand my knowledge about other countries and cultures.” 

Kiara Thornton-Bey

Speaking of New Orleans, she added, “The city is just overflowing with life and history. Just walking through the French Quarter or down the street from campus, everything holds history. There’s art everywhere — it’s truly magical. I’m originally from Manchester and I’ve lived in Connecticut all my life. I’ve never lived in a city before and this place exceeded my expectations.” 

Being in the South has also allowed Thornton-Bey to expand her knowledge of birds, a personal passion she’s developed over her life in the Northeast. One of her goals has been to draw and learn about the birds she sees while in New Orleans. She said, “Coming to a Southern state near a large body of water has allowed me to draw other types of birds that you don’t see in Connecticut.” 

“I truly do miss my friends back home, my family, and rainy New England,” she said. “The heat was a big adjustment. But my body acclimated. I feel like a true Southerner. Overall, I’ve been having a great time taking classes, building independence and just exploring this great city.” 

Those interested in the National Student Exchange can visit or contact for more information.

Written by Marcus Grant