I was so fortunate as to receive a scholarship that covered two semesters abroad, at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). In the fall of 2015 I left home to embark on a journey that would end up being more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. The housing staff took good care of me when I arrived, and the international student service helped me and made me feel welcome. Upon my arrival in Anchorage I got in touch with one of my professors who met me in person before the start of the semester to go over what the college was like and what I could expect from the classes. It gave me great confidence, and studying was just so much fun. I was fortunate to be able to experience the Alaskan nature through a field-based biology class and a backpacking class.
In the spring I started working at the campus residence life as a residence advisor, which enabled me to learn about the local culture, meet a lot of different people and find my place in the community. Because I enjoyed Alaska so much, I tried my best to extend my stay, and at the end of the semester I was fortunate enough to be accepted as a field technician on a project in which UAA participated. After some training and preparations I flew out to western Alaska, the Yukon‐Kuskokwim Delta by the Bering Sea. We were four people camping in the wilderness for three months, working, watching birds, enjoying the camp sauna and just having a good time! Out there I also got some valuable insights into the subsistence life style, partaking in the local community and listening to stories about the area and its people.
I stayed on for an additional semester on my own, working for the residence life and in the lab crunching some of the data collected during the summer. At the end of the field season I was offered the opportunity to continue as a graduate student, participating in an upcoming research project in northern Alaska. This went beyond anything I could have ever imagined!
I went back to my hometown in late December 2016 to finish my Bachelor’s degree in Biology, and I’m now set to return to the US, with the field season starting soon. I am an enrolled graduate student at South Dakota State University, and going to spend my summers in northern Alaska.
I wish to thank UArctic and the north2north exchange program for providing a springboard into my academic adventure!
Originally published in the UArctic Shared Voices Magazine 2017
Watch a clip from the field project