In the spirit of winter and the completion of Cal Poly’s Fall Quarter, this week’s post comes to us from Lauren Moss. Lauren is a Cal Poly Agriculture Education student who has spent this past semester studying in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Story by Lauren Moss
A few weeks ago, Jennifer Ray asked me to write a post for the Brock Center blog about my exchange experiences up here in Fairbanks. I eagerly accepted because I want to share my story, but I faced the great challenge of what to say in just one blog post.
Denali Mountain, known as Mt. McKinley
In August, I made the journey to Fairbanks as a member of the National Student Exchange program and began my semester at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). I have always told my parents I wanted to go to Alaska or Australia and finally I had my chance. I dove into the Alaskan lifestyle and learned all about the state, its people and agricultural ways.
48℉ is warm in Alaska; notice the shorts.
I quickly realized being in Alaska for just one semester was not going to be enough to get the full effect. On October 31st, I officially extended my stay for the entire school year. This meant that I wouldn’t be graduating on time with my peers this coming June, but I would have the experience of a lifetime and many stories to share.
This is a “cache” where all goods are kept: wolf, beaver, fox, wolverine, mink and all sorts of furs.
This semester, I took History of Alaska, Alaska Native Cultures, Narrative Art of Alaska Native Cultures, Native Alaskan Art, Alaskan Fly Fishing & Tying and Introduction to Winter Camping. I have learned so much in all of these classes: the Russian invasion of Alaska, how to stay warm in a nylon tent in negative temperatures, and even how to tie a wooly bugger (an artificial fly). Here at UAF, the classes, professors and the university are so different from Cal Poly. I feel so blessed to experience both of these wonderful universities.
Camping in the snow
The experience has allowed me to be a part of a different lifestyle and culture. I have done things I could never do back home in California. I have bathed in the Chena Hot Springs in -36℉ weather. I have watched the northern lights dancing across the sky.
My experience has also given me a new perspective of agriculture. Alaska is not a strong agricultural state. I am used to going to the grocery store and having fresh fruits and vegetables available year-round at a reasonable cost. Store-bought, fresh fruits and vegetables are extremely expensive because of the transportation cost of getting them up here. Alaska’s farmers supply less than 2 percent of food consumed in the state and 40 percent of feed for animals. Most of Alaska’s agriculture land is located in the Matanuska Valley north of Anchorage and in the Tanana Valley east of Fairbanks. The state’s top five commodities are greenhouse/nursery products, hay, dairy products, potatoes and cattle.
I am a strong Alaska supporter and may even up in this great state permanently in the future; only time will tell.
For a chance to find out more about my Alaskan adventure, be sure to follow my blog, Braving Alaska.
This was me getting ready for winter in my dorm.
Sitting in front of the Chris McCandless bus from “Into the Wild”