When I moved to the north of Sweden two years ago to pursue my studies and sports dreams, I didn't expect seeing myself on my mountain skis looking at fjords and whales in Alaska.

Alba Puigdefabregas Sieso 2

My name is Alba, and I am a Life Sciences student at Umeå University. I am originally from Spain, but I moved to Sweden three years ago to study molecular biology and train for cross-country skiing. I am proud and forever grateful for the opportunity I had to represent Umeå University in the north2north exchange program during the spring of 2022 in Anchorage (Alaska).

I chose Alaska for its iconic wilderness, landscapes, and the sake of a promising adventure. I have been a skier my whole life, and I grew up in the Spanish Pyrenees, so Alaska provided me with the perfect balance between my passion for being out there with my skis and my interest in focusing my studies on Northern ecosystems.

Alba Puigdefabregas Sieso 5

The classes they offered at Alaska Pacific University were utterly different from what I had experienced. I had courses such as Conservation Biology, Scientific Writing, Avalanche Forecasting for Professionals, and Winter Wilderness Skills that have inspired me deeply. During one of these classes, we prepared and performed a two-week expedition into the wilderness of Alaska, where we melted snow every day to prepare food and drink water. We transported ourselves with our skis, sleds for our food, tents, and warm clothes, and we learned how to safely guide a group with only a map and a compass.

Alba Puigdefabregas Sieso 4

I lived on campus, and everything felt quite different from our European system, but the University administrations in Umeå and Alaska were very helpful. I was lucky enough to share housing with a Yupik person, Native from the southwest of Alaska, from whom I could learn a bit of their culture and traditions.

This exchange has undoubtedly opened my eyes, mind, and heart to new opportunities for my future.

Of course, not everything was easy and pleasant, these experiences are always challenging and emotionally intense, but it was in the struggle where I learned a lot about myself. And, of course, the best thing a take from this exchange is all the people I met that I can now call friends.