Students should use exchange program to follow dreams



Column by Timothy Kroboth

The Cats have not let me down.

I understand you are still disappointed. Coach Cal and his Cats took 19 games to claim the top ranking in the country, only to squander it away in one game.

But for me, being a student at any university while its men’s basketball team has been ranked No. 1 already has been a dream come true.

You may recall from my columns last semester that I am a national exchange student at Winthrop, a small public university in South Carolina, and that I came to UK this year through the National Student Exchange program.

Although NSE includes nearly 200 member universities and colleges in the U.S., including beach-side schools in Hawaii and the Caribbean, I picked UK as my NSE destination.

As a life-long college sports fan, I wanted to attend a college that not only fit me academically, but competed in the realm of major college sports as well. However, as a high school senior, the dream of going to a major sports school faded when I decided Winthrop University was my best option educationally.

The Winthrop Eagles compete in a Division I conference, the Big South, and its men’s basketball team went to the NCAA tournament eight times between 1999 and 2008, but Winthrop definitely is not a sports school.

Winthrop football is still undefeated, but only because there has never been a football team. And the Winthrop teams that do exist hardly generate any excitement among the 6,000 students. This is understandable because the biggest home games are typically men’s basketball matchups with the likes of East Carolina and Charlotte.

Although I appreciate Winthrop’s academics- and socially-appealing small school environment, I knew I was missing something in my college experience.

I was willing to sacrifice a year on the tight-knit campus that I have grown to love.  So, when I applied for the NSE program, I knew what I was looking for: a member institution of the greatest sports conference in America, the Southeastern Conference.

And UK has not disappointed.

At Commonwealth Stadium, I attended all seven home games during the 2009 season. I witnessed two Heisman Trophy winners: the 2009 winner, running back Mark Ingram, and the 2007 winner, quarterback Tim Tebow.

I saw the defending national champions, the Florida Gators, and the eventual national champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide, display their dazzling talent against the Cats.

I watched nail-biting classics as the Cats held on late against Louisville, as Anthony Dixon rushed for 252 yards to rally Mississippi State and as Tennessee’s Montario Hardesty sprinted into the end zone to end a drama that had gone into overtime.

The UK basketball experience has been just as memorable.  Attending games at legendary Rupp Arena, regardless of opponent, has been a special experience.

I was there when the Cats beat the defending national champions, the North Carolina Tar Heels, 68-66. From front center of the eRUPPtion Zone, I witnessed John Wall hit a jumper in the closing seconds to beat Miami of Ohio in his first official college game.  And I was at Rupp again when the Cats blew out Arkansas 101-70 to claim the top ranking.

Tuesday’s loss cannot diminish what I have experienced as an NSE student at UK thus far.  I have been living a dream.

Did you have dreams of college that you let go when you came to UK?

You may have wanted to attend a beach-side school in Hawaii.  Or perhaps you wanted to study elsewhere for a semester but found study abroad to be prohibitively expensive.  But with NSE’s nearly 200-member institutions, there are many opportunities to fulfill that dream at the same cost as UK tuition.

Don’t let your dreams die.  Visit UK’s NSE Web site at