Last week, I was studying in the housing lodge near my apartment when I got distracted by screaming. I looked up and saw a crowd of people running up the walkway, yelling indecipherable words, causing a whole lot of hubbub. I thought to cause that much excitement, there must be something really cool going on–that or someone saw a bear.
Leaving my stuff in the lodge, I ran out after the people I saw running so I could figure out what was going on. It turns out that the crowd was mostly composed of people that I knew, and that they had seen the Northern Lights.
As one of the sights we had all been waiting for, everyone was so excited that the lights were out so early in the year. We watched the greens and reds pulse in the sky before realizing that the lights must be so much brighter down at the lake on campus, where there aren’t street lamps and apartment lights to block the full view.
Rushing to get to the one car that could take us to the lake, a four-door Jeep that we managed to fit 11 people into (sorry, Mom, I don’t think everyone wore seat belts), we drove the five minutes to campus and ran down to the water, hoping we hadn’t missed anything.
As it turns out, the tight squeeze was well worth it. The lights were gorgeous at the lake, where it was super dark and everything reflected off the water. Luckily, my friend Kayla brought out her camera to take some really great photos, all of them so much better than my iPhone ever could take. (Follow her at @k.l.a.photo on Instagram to see more like the one above!)
That night was incredible, and it will definitely be one of the best memories I have of my exchange. And even having only been here for a month, I’ve already made so many other memories just like that one. Way more than could ever fit in a blog post.
Just to tell you some of the highlights: I saw poet laureate of the United States Tracy K. Smith speak, I jumped into a freezing lake and paddle boarded for the first time, I explored Downtown Juneau and got to experience it like a local, I went whale watching, had a bonfire at the beach, kayaked 30 miles around an island, saw a bear up close, joined the UAS newspaper, tasted some really amazing waffles, and best of all, met some really great people.
And all of that in less than a month.
I had my worries before I got here, but I can say my experience has been on the whole pretty amazing so far. Of course, I do still have some struggles, like figuring out my classes and finding my place on campus, and I still haven’t found a place to get a chicken biscuit in Juneau (the withdrawal will set in soon), but overall, I’ve had a soft landing for throwing myself so far out of my comfort zone.
I’ll part with you all on that note, because I think this post is already way too long. If you have any questions about the exchange, Alaska, or even my love for chicken biscuits, comment below!
Sound like you are having an amazing experience, Caitlin! Seeing the northern lights are definitely on my bucket list, and you make them sound like they are a worthwhile experience. I am excited to continue to read about your experience in Alaska!
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