Article by: Connie D’Agostino
Have you ever felt stuck on campus, limited by course options, or curious what life could have been like at another college? Do what I did and enroll in the Baltimore Student Exchange Program (BSEP). If you have never heard of it, you’re not alone – the BSEP is a well-kept secret at Goucher that needs to be shared. The program allows students to take classes at other colleges in and around the Baltimore area, providing the opportunity to study subjects not offered at Goucher, all while earning credits toward your degree. This means that if you are in or were thinking about declaring one of those unfortunate majors that have undergone “revitalization” you have more options then you may think.
Most students should meet the basic criteria to qualify for the program, so to get started all you need is a general idea of what and where you want to study. However, as I and other students who have done the program found out, the BSEP is only for students who can self-advocate. Registration, preparation, and transportation for the class you enroll in falls on you alone, so be prepared to plan ahead. To help get you started, I have interviewed some student veterans of the BSEP and compiled a list of pro tips for a successful experience. This list is by no means complete but should give you a foundation of what to expect and how to make the most of the opportunity.
- Start planning for next semester now.
Get an idea of what courses you might be interested in by checking out the course catalogues of the different colleges in the BSEP, all of which are listed here. The class schedules will not be posted until later in the semester, but many course catalogues will at least indicate if the class is available during fall and spring semester. Give yourself a few classes to choose from, since you’ll still have to work this class around the other classes in your schedule at Goucher.
- Begin your registration marathon.
You will need to fill out and hand in this form to Goucher’s registrar to enroll in the BSEP. Afterword, you should get an email confirmation from the host institution that you are registered for the class you wish to attend, but this part of the process looked differently for each of the BSEP vets I spoke to. One student was immediately notified, while another was sending emails for months over break trying to get confirmation. I ended up having to drop in at the host registrar’s office to get my emails answered – this is where self-advocating is key, so don’t get discouraged.
- Transportation by any means necessary.
Most of the schools available through the BSEP are on a Collegetown Shuttle route which provides a map tracking the bus routes in real time, located During the week, these buses are regularly late, so don’t choose an arrival time within twenty minutes of when your class starts, or you will be late. If you choose to take a class at Towson U, it’s about a thirty-minute walk, so wear some comfortable shoes and watch out for construction around the traffic circle by the mall. Parking passes at host institutions are also available to you through the BSEP if you already have a Goucher parking pass, but be wary of driving to a new college without knowing what the parking is like there – having a parking pass does not guarantee you will find a parking spot.
- Prepare yourself for everything that Goucher is not.
After making it to the host institution, it’s time to reacquaint yourself with what it feels like to be a freshman, having no idea where you are, how to get to where you’re going, or who anyone is around you. Many schools in the BSEP are multiple times the size of Goucher which can be disorienting but is all a part of the experience. Depending on where you go, class sizes will be undoubtedly larger and, more times than not, favor a lecture style class as opposed to the small, discussion-based classes at Goucher.
Though experiences may vary, the student vets and I agree that the BSEP is a crazy, challenging, but worthwhile opportunity for any Goucher student feeling stuck or limited to life on campus. The BSEP provides an avenue to study subjects that may have seemed out of reach and to gain some perspective on why we are all at Goucher in the first place. College is a time to learn more about the world around you, so why not use the tools available to venture out and see what else there is to offer.
Photo credit: Goucher College