I’ve participated in three different UArctic Thematic Network courses while a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. My initial goal for participation in these exercises was primarily for academic reasons, and my expectations were certainly met and exceeded. Course dialogue with other participants from diverse areas with diverse perspectives made for lively and stimulating learning environments.

Each thematic network course was academically stimulating in its own regard; however, I often found that a long-lasting and rewarding aspect of participation was the connections made with other students and faculty from around the Circumpolar North. The meaningful friendships that I made during these courses continue to enrich my life. In addition, the opportunity to travel to places that I would not otherwise likely have been able to visit and learn about the local culture made a profound impact on my experience. I can still taste the local musk ox from a celebratory end-of-class dinner in Sisimiut, and hear the laughter from favorite jokes told over dessert at a celebratory dinner in Mirny, and see the March light shining through the circle of flags representing the 8 Arctic nations at the Model Arctic Council simulation in Fairbanks.

These experiences exposed me to new ideas, places, and people which led to a broader understanding of the diversity, and the surprising similarities, of life around the Circumpolar North. I am grateful to the professors at UAF who supported my applications and found funding for me to participate in these experiences: Terrence Cole, Mary Ehrlander, and Brandon Boylan; and in the case of Terrence Cole, who made the time to attended a course with me.