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Interested in studying at UAF? 

University of Alaska Fairbanks is renowned for its leadership in Arctic research, 
and the wide variety of programs it offers with a focus on northern topics.

Contact your home instituion's north2north offices for more details, or contact us directly: 

Nicole Balazs, UAF's Study Away Advisor

 

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Matthew Balazs

Went to Alta, Norway Spring 2008

From University of Alaska Fairbanks

There were a series of courses offered to study the Norwegian/northern perspective on sustainability and resource management; community and regional economic development; and northern governance systems. I also took a geography of Norway course, and an outdoors leadership course while I was there. The course in Svalbard focused on studying the Quaternary geology of the western portions of the archipelago. Specifically, we looked at the stratigraphy of the sediments in order to understand historic relative sea level changes in the region.

Academically, I gained a better understanding of the practices implemented in the North of Norway, specifically as they related to resource management and governance. One thing from the regional economic development class really sticks out, and I think back on it a lot: an idea that it can make more financial sense for businesses in the same geographic region to cooperate rather than compete with each other. For example; rather than trying to attract the customer to your place of business, attract them to your region so everyone can benefit. We were presented with case studies that showed businesses who cooperated with each other to attract tourists and outside business to the region saw higher income from tourism and commerce than from those in communities where they were more competitive with each other. I have since applied this lesson directly to my own business here in Alaska and have already seen real benefits of the cooperation over competition model.

The graduate level geology course was research based and had a lot of fieldwork associated with it. In addition to learning about the regional geology, I wanted to experience doing fieldwork in very remote, places. I took this course during my last year as an undergraduate student, and it was a large reason why I decided to study geology in graduate school the following year. Being that far north also solidified my love for the arctic and the people who call it home.

I am currently writing my dissertation for my PhD where I study natural hazards in the fjords of Alaska. I hope to finish this summer. My wife and I enjoy traveling and more often than not find ourselves exploring other arctic countries or parts of Alaska.

Be prepared to fall in love with the Arctic! There is truly no place like it on Earth.

 

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David Broome

Went to Tromsø, Norway Spring 2013

From University of Alaska Fairbanks

The motivations for my north2north experience were many! Although, I can say with absolute definity that it was a passion for the American West, and an interest in the circumpolar North, that brought me from Colorado to study at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. I have come to recognize that there was always a significant undertone of romanticism in what made these places so alluring; indeed, there is something that excites the old American heart at the call of the "last frontier".

In similar regards, Europe and Scandinavia had always been a particular interest of mine. With a burgeoning education in Geography, these places only became exponentially more interesting. Following my first year of studies at UAF, I met so many wonderful international students from abroad, and I came to realize what an immeasurable experience it would be to also have the opportunity to cultivate my own education in the far reaches of the globe. I began to question where it would be most suitable to forego this initiative, and without question, the remarkable geographic qualities of Norway, both naturally and culturally, became my primary objective.

The unique geography of Tromsø, in particular, caught my attention. For those who know the town, they will easily understand - after all, it is a European city, on an island, in the middle of a fjord, surrounded by mountains, under the northern lights! Such a destination was all the more alluring as a photographer, and in the end, only Svalbard was a close second. But thankfully, even Svalbard was just a short hop away.

Among the primary objectives of my studies abroad, I hoped to see, learn, understand and capture the unique geographical qualities of the northernmost regions of Europe - both naturally and culturally. Such an experience would surely be invaluable to a young man hoping to better understand the values of the world, through the cultivation of mind and character. Additionally, it was my hope to continue building my professional network in Northern Europe. In the end, I don't know if it could have been possible to make a better choice.

I was very fortunate to fulfill the objective of my studies abroad, which continue in to this day. The knowledge, education, experiences and development that I have had the privilege to immerse myself in have given so much, for which I am compelled return a lifetime of gratitude.

Of course, there were plenty of unexpected accomplishments along the way. For one, I was most thrilled to discover that Tromsø has a wonderful ice hockey community. From the day that I arrived, I was welcomed, and had the honor of participating in one of the most defining communities of my youth. While studying, I had the opportunity to play in an international hockey league, even taking me to Northern Russia.

And of course, I never could have expected to meet the wonderful friends that I did, who did so much to make the experience the deeply cherishable one that it was.

The impacts of my studies abroad in spring of 2013 have been most profound in directing the course of my personal academic and professional journey. Following my semester abroad, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to return the following autumn to debut with Tromsø Hockey in the Norwegian Second Division.

During this time, I was able to develop my leadership skills through volunteering and working part time as an ice hockey coach. By further progressing my network within Norway, I was later able to work with the Norwegian Red Cross, the Tromsø Kommune, restaurants and cafés, and, most excitingly, as a northern lights tour guide for Arctic Explorers. These years in Norway have also allowed for me tackle a Master's degree in natural resource management, specializing in Geography, at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim.

I am currently in the final stretch of my two year Master's program at NTNU, with my research focusing on visitor's perspectives on the newly established UNESCO Biosphere Reserve at Wester Ross in Northwestern Scotland.

While studying in Trondheim, I have also been fortunate to stay active in the ice hockey community, training with the former Rosenborg IHK (now, Nidaros II) last season, and the university team (NTNUI Flyers), this season. In addition, I was able to continue northern lights tour guiding over the holiday season last year, while working at a cozy café on the cobblestone streets of Bakklandet, this year.

Advice to students:

Don't be intimidated - be strong, be bold and have courage. Although you can expect to encounter many unexpected twists, turns and surprises along the way (for better or for worse), be sure to plan ahead and incorporate foresight into the decisions that you make. And, too, do not underestimate the reality of "culture". If you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study abroad, I think that this will be one of the key lessons that you can expect to take away!

Advice to leaders

With admitted room for poetic abstraction: politics are down wind from culture. Do the very best to protect and nourish the goodness in the world; sanction the toxic and corrosive. People respond to "heroes", and a little injection of hope and inspiration can go a long way.

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Tara Hutchison

Went to Svalbard, Norway Spring and Fall 2008

From University of Alaska Fairbanks 

My experience with north2north exchange began in the midst of the “dark season” in Svalbard. I showed up for the Spring 2008 semester at the University Centre in Svalbard in January, not realizing I wouldn’t see the sun return until early March. Coming from my home University of Alaska Fairbanks, I thought it would be somewhat similar climate wise, but wanted to adventure away from my home and travel outside my comfort zone culturally.

I had heard about Svalbard from a Norwegian friend at UAF. I immediately jumped at the opportunity when I saw the north2north application, without thinking about the consequences that I might actually be accepted! I am so happy I was. My first semester was filled with astonishment at the nakedness of the landscape and the hardiness of its travelers. I found the curriculum challenging and exciting. With only two classes per semester, we studied topics thoroughly and participated in exciting field excursions around the archipelago that gave hands on learning and practical field experience.

After one semester I was eager to continue living in Longyearbyen for the remainder of the year. I was accepted for the fall semester after inquiring and was so grateful for the opportunity. It seemed there was so much more to experience, such as watching the sun once again leave the land and meeting a new group of students that would have the same enthusiasm I had when I arrived. It was a great experience being able to share how things worked in our tiny community with the new students. 

Besides learning a great deal about geology that year, I learned that it really doesn’t hurt to ask for things that you want; that’s how I was able to stay for a second term. Also, that you can get renewed enjoyment in things that may start to seem mundane to you by sharing with people who are unfamiliar with it.

Currently, I work as an underground production geologist at Pogo Mine in interior Alaska. Everyday we open up new ground and to me, it feels special to be somewhere where not many people have traveled to. Similarly on my time away from work, I continue traveling and exploring new parts of Alaska and the world. My time on my north2north exchange gave me confidence to travel to other regions of the world, knowing that all people like to feel connected to one another as we did at UNIS.

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Anna Liljedahl

Came to University of Alaska Fairbanks       Aug 2004 to 2005

From Umea University, Sweden 

This experience has deepen my MSc studies and knowledge in cold region hydrology while also experiencing and learning a new culture and language. My primary accomplishment was to write my MSc thesis while studying abroad. An unexpected accomplishment was that my contributions were appreciated to the point that I was welcomed back to start a PhD at UAF and that my MSc research was published in a good peer-reviewed journal. A totally unexpected accomplishment was that I found my new home and husband of 15 and 10 years, respectively.

Impact(s) on your academic, personal, professional journey?

Huge! Both professionally and personally. My ticket to Alaska and UAF was truly a life changing experience for me. I became a US citizen in 2009 and have now a 7yr long career as a soft-money researcher where I write grants to do what I want to do. I love the combination of being surrounded by top-notch Arctic researchers 10 min drive from my home, while being able to enjoy the outdoors just outside our doorstep and lose cell phone reception less than a half hour drive from our home. It feels like a luxury to have my permafrost hydrology field site down the hill and my glacier studies viewed from my kitchen table. People fly hours otherwise just to get here for field work. I much value the ability to fill our freezers with local food that we harvested: one with wild berries, one with Copper River salmon and another with caribou.

Your current position

Research Associate Professor at WERC-UAF.

Advice to students

Your mind is the biggest obstacle. Decide on a path, vision or goal and go for it. Don't be afraid to fail in order to succeed. Also, be open to grab opportunities that you create along the way, while listening to your body.

Advice to leaders

A semester or summer of an educational experience can be a life changing experience for a student. Your time and effort making that possible is appreciated and may sometimes give you large returns in years ahead.

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Lex Trenien

Went to Komi Autonomous Republic, Russia Fall 2012

From University of Alaska Fairbanks

“How do your people dance?” they asked me. I was in a provincial village outside of the city of Udmurtia in Central Russia, in the middle of a village dance attended by pretty much the whole town. There were about 60 people, and a pretty high school age girl was asking me. It was my senior year of college, and I was there as part of the north2north exchange program, which facilitated exchanges between a couple dozen northern universities, among them my home institution of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The question struck for two reasons: first, that it was so simple, and second, that I didn't have an answer. Of course I could have taught them the hyper-sexualized grind that is most common for “my people,” but it didn't quite seem appropriate in a room filled with ethnic Udmurts ages 5 to 85; nor did it fit the music, played with the balalaika and various tamborine-like percussion instruments.

But who were “my people” as they had asked? It was an easy question for my hosts to answer: they were Udmurts, a people with a distinct language, cuisine, music and clothing. They were known throughout Russia for their clothing, decorated with old monies that rattled on their chests as they danced. But who was I? I am American of course, but that isn't very specific. I am ethnically German and Norwegian, but I certainly didn't have any dance moves from my great-great grandparents who immigrated from the Old Country.

Athletics in fact was perhaps the reason that I was in the community hall for their village celebration. As a NCAA All-American skier, I had specifically chosen a university in Russia known for its ski conditions and continued to train full time throughout my time studying abroad. Despite my reservations about taking a semester off of NCAA competition, I had the idealistic notion that sport, above all, is a network to connect people who shared only their desire to work hard towards a certain goal. And indeed, through skiing I had met my good friend Kolya, who had invited me to his Udmurt village for this celebration.

The celebration also fit into my undergraduate degree: Russian Studies. Though the Udmurt people all still speak their native language, they all learn fluent Russian in school, if not before. As a student of the Russian language, it was my only way to communicate with my hosts and every day was an intense, immersive lesson in the complicated tongue.

But more important than how I got there was where it led me. I came back to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, determined to find out who my people were, whatever that means. I got involved with a University Club, called K'enaanee Kkaazoot, which sent skiers to native Athapaskan villages in rural Alaska, and was soon fortunate enough to travel to three Gwichin villages and get to know the native people of my home state, who I hardly even considered before then. Since I started with K'enaanee Kkaazoot I also became involved with a similar statewide organization called NANA Nordic, which also serves Inupiaq and Yupik Eskimo villages with ski coaches. I have volunteered two weeks of my time for the past three years with this program and have traveled and worked in nine off-the-road system villages, as well as doing local Anchorage outreach to under-served school children.

More than just volunteering, I hope that I can do my small part in helping preserve the traditions of the indigenous people of my home state, so that they don't forget how to dance.