Thursday, October 30, 2014

Yoga Class

This semester my friend Emmie and I signed up for our first recreation class. The decision was based on being able to see each other during our hectic week and on the side try something new.... so yoga it was. We would be able to spend an hour every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday together practicing. 

All we needed was a yoga mat and an open mind: our expectation was for the class to revolve around meditation and stretching, but it has been so much more.

Our first class focused on learning the basic poses and "flows" like downward dog and sun salutation. It must have been a funny sight to see us attempt simple balance exercises which resulted in us toppling over. It is important to note that in the first class neither of us could touch our toes! The instructor stressed that in yoga do only as much as you can do. Much to our surprise, by the end of the hour both of us collapsed on our mats exhausted - who knew that yoga was such a workout!

Over the past month and a half, we have learned how to use deep breathing to stay focused throughout the day. Every class ends in shavasana (corpse pose), which is the easiest pose - try it right now! 

Lay on the floor and simply close your eyes and think about nothing. Of course this happens to be my favorite pose and (if done correctly) can take some focus in order to clear your mind.

The instructor told us at the start of the semester that yoga would find a way into each of our lives - when I heard that, I silently chuckled as I couldn't imagine myself taking the time to just sit and focus on my breath. However, I was wrong. I encourage you to look at different classes: who knows what it could teach you. As for me, I am already searching for my "fun class" next semester and will continue to touch my toes every morning!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Not Every University

Every university can boast about their students, faculty, staff, location, etc. But there are some things fairly unique to the University of Alaska Fairbanks that are certainly worth mentioning. So I have compiled a list of 30 things that UAF does/has that not every university does for your reading pleasure!

Not Every University...

1. Has a School of Management that boasts 100% job placement rate for undergraduates that complete their Accounting Degree, and the College of Engineering and Mines has nearly that same job placement rate for all undergraduates who complete a degree. 

2. Has 7 different types of Engineering Degrees-- Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, Geological Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mining Engineering, and Computer Engineering. They also have a Computer Science Degree.

3. Has a ski and snowboard terrain park. Ours is conveniently located close to the Student Recreation Center, and there is a program on campus where you can rent gear to use both on and off campus (Outdoor Adventures). More information here.

4. Has a brand new dining facility (just finished this fall!) called Dine49, plus a brand new cafe with extended hours, Arctic Java.

5. Has an office specifically designed to promote volunteerism and leadership (the Leadership Involvement and Volunteer Experience office, which we call LIVE). 

6. Has on campus housing specifically for people who want to live a more sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle (the Sustainable Village).

7. Not only gives students an opportunity to graduate with Leadership Honors, but also has a Leadership Minor.

8. Has a shuttle system with a heated waiting area for students wanting a ride to a different part of campus.

9. Has a student ID that doubles as a bus pass for the city bus system.

10. Gives their students free passes to D I and D II sports.

11. Has on campus student housing available for 365 days a year.

12. Has an expansion of the engineering building in the works that will result in a LEED Silver Certification for Green Building Standards, and connect the College of Engineering and Mines with the Bunnell building, which houses the School of Management.

13. Has over 100 active student clubs and organizations, with the opportunity for anyone to start a new one every semester.

14. Organizes buses to drive students almost 300 miles to watch their hockey team play their biggest rivals in the Governer's Cup hockey match at the end of March. This takes place during Winter Carnival, one of our three Nanook Traditions (Starvation Gulch, Winter Carnival, and SpringFest).

15. Has an on-campus pub that, due to its strict ID checking policy and the fact that it only serves beer and wine, reduces the instances of drunk driving, and provides a safe environments for students of age to drink.

16. Has (as of 2013) an 11:1 student to faculty ratio.

17. Has instituted a program that provides a study group leader to the traditionally more difficult classes. We call them Supplemental Instructors, and they are present in many science classes.

18. Has an office dedicated to helping students get started/fund undergraduate research. It's called the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activities office.

19. Has a  university owned rocket launch station (Poker Flats), which is sponsored by the Geophysical Institute under contract to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility.

20. Houses the Alaska Interior Medical Education Summit, which is a full day of panels and presentations on different careers paths after college for anyone interested in the medical field.

21. Hosts a week long, campus wide Humans Versus Zombies game that any student of UAF is welcome to join.

22. Has a community of people who choose to live without water in "dry cabins".

23. Has every piece of literature ever written on Alaska Native Languages.

24. Has housing specifically for students from rural areas of Alaska, called the Eileen Panigeo MacLean House.

25. Has an outdoor rock climbing wall that, in the winter, is turned into an ice climbing wall.

26. Has Battleship as an intramural sport. In Battleship, teams are in canoes in the on campus pool, and they attempt to capsize other teams by dumping buckets of water in their canoes.

27. Has a Global Class Ice-Capable Research Vessel, the R/V Sikuliaq.

28. Has claims to mineral deposits throughout the state.

29. Has a tradition where teams build massive structures out of pallets, and then school officials light those structures on fire. We call it Starvation Gulch. We also have two other traditions, Winter Carnival and SpringFest. Winter Carnival is basically a huge weekend of fun, packed with games, competitions, and a trip to Governer's Cup (see number 14). SpringFest is a weekend where we get Friday off from school, and have all sorts of activities--including a concert--to go to! We love our Nanook Traditions!

30. Has the 40 Below Club, where students pose in bathing suits in front of the temperature sign when it reads -40F.

There are so many more unique things about UAF! I definitely encourage all prospective students to email a Student Ambassador with questions, or just to get to know more about the campus. If possible, come learn more amazing facts on a tour! 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why Fairbanks, Alaska is the Raddest Place on Earth

Posted by Valerie 

I first came to Fairbanks with the intention of going to school, getting some requirements out of the way, and then moving on to someplace else. I was looking for someplace warmer, someplace different, someplace that wasn’t the same state where I’d lived my whole life, dreaming of the big city.

As you’ve probably already guessed, that backfired. I fell in love with Fairbanks the way Alicia Silverstone falls in love in Clueless, with a friendly sort of banter merging into an epiphany of everlasting love with Paul Rudd. 

"Oh my God. I'm in love with Josh!"
For me, this epiphany came when my parents visited me in the spring (in Fairbanks, still winter) of my freshman year. My mom, shivering under three coats on our way to eat dinner, sighed and said “Valerie! How can you stand it?”

 My response was “I know, isn’t it great?”

In that moment, I realized with perfect clarity that I don't want to be anywhere else. That my heart had unabashedly given itself to this frozen wasteland 200 miles from the Arctic Circle. That Fairbanks was home.

I love that in Fairbanks, you can wear hats--warm hats--from September through April. I love the feeling of snuggling under a pile of blankets, knowing that if you walk out your front door, the temperature will drop 110 degrees. I love the “we’re all in this together” atmosphere that develops in a community where there’s no guarantee that your car will start in the morning. I love the aurora, quietly making the long dark nights beautiful, and the clarity and intensity of the air on the frigid nights when you’re most likely to see colors in the sky. 

The warmth of the people here more than makes up for the chilly temperatures. People at UAF aren't accepted for their differences; they are celebrated and embraced for them. Being "weird" isn't the exception, it's the norm. And as a result, I'm consistently surrounded by unique people who understand that their individuality is what makes our little Fairbanks community vibrant, people who you love and who love you back. Unconditionally.

This is my home.

PS: Just a note to all you prospective students out there--Fairbanks is always an option. It could be your home too!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ally Week

Posted by Sage

What is an Ally? 

Now you may have heard of the term ally, but what exactly does that mean? 
The definitions may vary but one decidedly stands out among the rest.  

"A person who associates with or cooperates with another; a supporter" 

And that is what being an ally means, supporting or cooperating with someone despite your differences and working towards a more just and peaceful world. 

Now hopefully this basic definition helps you realize what an ally is, but you might still be pondering on why exactly you should be one, and if so how you can be one. 

Now the why question is actually pretty simple to answer, it's nice when people treat you well, right? And it's not nice when people disrespect you, agreed? So the reason you might consider being an ally is that if you are one you will be treating people in a respectful manner. 

How can you be an ally?
(courtesy of UAF GSA group)

Simple, treat people with respect regardless of their differences or who they are. Simply understand that people are people. Now this week from the October 13th-17th is Ally week, and GSA is putting on various events throughout the week that present a wide variety of information regarding how to be an ally and how to understand the LGBTQ+ community.  

I hope everyone will consider attending some of the events going on this week, and if you attend 6 or more events and get your punch cards signed you can enter a drawing for prizes. GSA is tabling today and Tuesday and we will be distributing punch cards and giving out information as to what the events entail. Punch cards must be signed by Brandy Floures, Zoey Kohrt, or the guest speaker of each event. 
Hope people can make it, and remember to be kind to one another.

Sage Tixier. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Aurora Borealis

Posted by Serena

If you spend a winter in Fairbanks, it is almost a guarantee that you will witness the northern lights. The northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, are a natural phenomenon that light up the midnight sky with stellar colors.

What exactly is the aurora?

The northern lights originate on the surface of the sun when a cloud of gaseous particles are injected into space and carried by the solar wind. It takes nearly three days for the mass of gasses to arrive to the earth. As it nears the earth’s atmosphere, it collides with the earth’s magnetic field. When these electrically charged particles enter the magnetic field, they generate currents towards the north and south magnetic poles. The lights tend to band around the magnetic pole and the larger amount of charged particles means the bigger the band around the pole. As the band of particles begins to grow in size around the magnetic north pole, the further south the majestic northern lights can be spotted.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute is a great resource if one is interested in viewing the northern lights because they publish an Aurora Forecast every day.

On Friday, September 26th the forecast was “Active”. Looking out my dorm window on campus, I could see dancing green bands overhead so I decided to go aurora hunting, armed with my camera. I haven’t had much experience photographing the Aurora but I did not leave disappointed! 

Noah's Norwegian Narrative (An In-Depth Look Into International Exchange)

Posted by Noah

My name is Noah Betzen, and I am pursuing a bachelor of science in computer science through the University of Alaska Fairbanks. In August of 2013, I left the United States and travelled to Narvik, Norway to study as an exchange student through the north2north international student exchange program. I spent ten months there studying nothing but Norwegian language and social studies.

There is an old joke that goes: If you can speak three languages you're trilingual. If you can speak two languages you're bilingual. If you can speak only one language you're an American. This joke was, in essence, my motivation for studying abroad. Studying abroad and learning another language have always been on my list of things to do before I die. I studied Spanish for two years in high school, but I was never really interested in the language. I didn’t feel a particular connection to the language or culture. Norwegian was a language I felt that I could identify with. My ancestry is almost purely Norwegian, and it felt right. The majority of people I have talked to about traveling/studying abroad have said that their time abroad was the best period of their lives. I was always a bit skeptical that any time I spent abroad would be particularly amazing. I’ve always been a somewhat unadventurous introvert. There was something about this adventure that was different. I figured that learning the language would give me a more long-term result that I could show for my time abroad. I hoped that learning another language would broaden my perspective on life and the world. I wasn’t just going to learn another language; I was going to learn another culture by leaving my own. It was like a pseudo fresh start.

Before I got to Norway, I had no idea what to expect. I'd never really been out of the US before. I didn’t want to put much thought into it either, because in my experience it is best to go with the flow when it comes to big changes. I still had the occasional panic attack when setbacks came up, but for the most part I took things in stride.

When I got to Norway, I knew nothing and I knew no one. As soon as I landed in Oslo, I could tell that the atmosphere around me was different. Very few people around me were speaking English, and so the background noise was mostly Norwegian. I felt out of place, almost as though the people around me could subconsciously know that I was an American, even though there were no weird glances or stares. I shortly realized that, as far as anyone else was concerned, I was just a normal person. Even if they realized I was American, it’s not like it mattered. I stumbled my way through Oslo and eventually to Narvik with English. Luckily, most people under thirty have a decent to excellent grasp of English; it almost felt like cheating when I spoke English.

The culture shock I experienced in Norway wasn’t blatant; it was subtle and gradual. At first glance, Norway was a lot like the United States. Norwegians drive on the right (read: correct) side of the road. Most Norwegians speak English, especially if they are young. They consume American entertainment media. That’s about where the similarities stop. Norwegian bank notes are all different sizes and colors. Most places don’t accept credit or debit cards without an RFID chip. There is a different set of traffic signs that are difficult to learn. Most grocery stores don’t sell sliced bread; they have a special bread-cutting machine you have to use. Laundry machines operate slightly differently. Norwegian college students consume low-quality and cheap pizzas in the same way American college students consume ramen. There are two types of cheese in Norway: yellow and brown. There are electric water kettles in almost every room. The way doors open (push or pull) are generally reversed than what I was used to. Tipping your servers is seen as a strange thing to do. Norwegians rely heavily on the use of direct money transfers for everything not requiring a card or cash payment. Almost every single store imaginable is closed on Sundays by law. Grocery store check-out machines will not process any sales of alcohol after a certain time (even when the store is still open for another several hours). There is a period between May 1st and May 17th where high schoolers are allowed and almost expected to have a crazy and organized party where they drink and generally cause trouble for the sake of tradition. I learned of each of these things one at a time as I began to explore and communicate more, and every time I was confused and made a mental note of it.

Learning the Norwegian language was a roller coaster ride. The class itself was a single 30-credit class. We met five times a week for an average of four hours a day. In the beginning, things were reasonably easy. I learned the greetings, farewells, question words, and simple nouns/verbs/adjectives. Pronunciations got difficult with the letters æ, ø, å, and the different pronunciations of letters like o, u, and y. Things began to escalate quickly as we had to write our first 200-word essays in the third week. Shortly after we abandoned speaking English almost entirely. By December we were into advanced grammar and sentence structure. By February we were reading Norwegian novels and giving presentations. By the end of the course, we had gone through three sets of text books, had Norwegian-Norwegian dictionaries we carried around religiously, and I had compiled almost four-thousand words and phrases in an online quiz database. I spoke Norwegian whenever I could, using English only with those who couldn’t speak Norwegian (other international students who weren’t enrolled in the language course) or with those Norwegians who wanted to practice their English.

Norwegians as a people are very stalwart and patriotic. They love the outdoors, and they tend to keep to themselves (when they are not drinking at a social event). When they drink (and they drink often), they are much more social and outgoing. In either case, they love celebrating their Norwegian blood. Their national love of skiing is impressive, and televisions are always crowded when there are Norwegians participating in a ski event, especially against Sweden or Denmark. I purchased a book titled “Xenophobe’s Guide To The Norwegians,” and the first sentence of the book is, “Norwegians define themselves in simple terms: they are not Swedish.” Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are like awkward pale siblings who constantly bicker and fight for superiority in any way that they can.

Befriending a Norwegian is supposedly a difficult task without some concrete shared interest or reason to be around them. I received a bit of advice from a Norwegian I met during my time at the International Science Fair back in 2011. He told me, “to break through the crisp icy shields of my Norwegian kinsmen you’ll need more than a trained tongue.” I was lucky enough to make a good Norwegian friend (named Erlend, pronounced ‘Ehr-len’) through a mutual interest in video games. I also became pretty good friends with his roommates and friends, and I would occasionally join them in dinners or parties. This made my time abroad much easier.

As a country, Norway is very forward thinking. They are a well-functioning welfare state, so education and healthcare are paid for. Norwegians generally aren’t worried about being able to finish their education or receive care for any injuries or sicknesses because they know that they will be able to afford it. Norway regularly ranks as one of the happiest and richest countries in the world for a reason.

Technically I didn’t spend my entire time abroad in Norway. I made one notable trip to capital cities of Sweden and then Denmark during my winter break. If you don’t already know, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark have extremely close histories. Norway was owned by both Denmark and Sweden (respectively) at one point in time. The languages of the three are all very similar, enough so that I could vaguely understand what was going on. Norwegian’s written form is more similar to Danish, but in pronunciation it’s more similar to Swedish than Danish. Essentially, Norwegian is Danish spoken in Swedish. I’m digressing at this point (although I did go to Norway to learn about language). To start my trip, I took a 24-hour train ride from my host city of Narvik (Norway) to Stockholm (Sweden). I didn’t particularly enjoy the train ride, especially since it was during the dead of winter. I decided to fly from Stockholm to Copenhagen (Denmark) due to my distaste of trains at the time, and I sure as heck flew from Copenhagen back to Narvik. While in Stockholm and Copenhagen, I stayed in hostels and walked around and took tours and bought expensive souvenirs and tasted strange new alcohols. At this point in my Norwegian study, I didn’t even know enough to hold a conversation with a Norwegian, let alone a Swede or a Dane, but I managed well enough with English. I spent Christmas in Copenhagen and was back in Narvik in time for New Year’s Eve. The entire trip was lovely, and it definitely helped revitalize my soul for the coming semester. My next similar trip wouldn’t happen until the end of my exchange.

Near the end of my Norwegian journey, I had the chance to actually travel around Norway with my girlfriend, mother, and mother’s friend in a typical tourist fashion. This was odd to both me and the Norwegians around me, as I had a decent competency of the language and vaguely understood Norwegian life. Employees of tourist attractions generally don’t expect their customers to speak their language unless they are retirees who finally have the chance to travel. Nevertheless, this was an amazing experience, as it gave me a big final chance to practice everything I had been learning for the past ten months. We travelled to Trondheim, Stavanger, Kristiansand, and Oslo. In each of these cities we walked around and visited the major attractions and generally hung out doing whatever we wanted. My favorite activity was a two hour (each way) hike my girlfriend and I went on outside of Stavanger to a rock formation known as Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), and you can see a photo of that at the end of this post. For most of the trip, I regularly translated and interpreted for my party, which made things much easier for all of us. It was a very empowering feeling to be able to communicate effectively enough with Norwegian strangers, and it definitely rounded out my exchange experience well.

Now that the entire experience is over, I definitely feel like a changed person. I learned a lot more than a language. I learned a lot about being in new surroundings on my own. I learned to appreciate not only my own country and people, but all countries and peoples. I made many good friends with other international students from countries all over the world, each with their own language and culture that was different from my own.

Someday I want to go back to Norway. In fact, I’d like to live there permanently if I can. That dream will take quite a while to accomplish, as Norway doesn’t allow dual-citizenship, and the United States doesn’t allow revocation of citizenship. Perhaps I will become a Swedish citizen and move to Norway. I will have to see what the future holds. In either case, I need to finish my degree. After that, I can consider my options.

If there is one thing I’m trying to say with this writing, it is this: at least once in your life you should travel or study abroad for an extended period of time. If you can learn another language while you’re there, do it. No matter what happens, your experience will be worth it, especially if you embrace the fact that you are in a completely different country. This is especially important for Americans, as many of us can easily live our entire lives without getting the chance to visit another country or learn another language besides English.

Photo 1: The town of Narvik

Photo 2: Høgskolen i Narvik (Narvik University College)

Photo 3: My classmates and teachers 

Photo 4: Representing UAF in Stavanger

Photo 5: Preikestolen outside of Stavanger

Monday, September 29, 2014

Student Jobs and Where to Find Them

Posted by Kayleen

Thinking back, I remember when I was getting ready to come to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I knew I'd need a job while I went to school, but I just couldn't figure out where to go. It seemed like I would have to wait in order to apply for jobs, and that I would be better off finding one off campus. Boy was I wrong. It turns out that UAF has a phenomenal Career Services office, and their website is super easy to navigate. There's also the option to check out UAK Jobs, where you can actually find and apply to on campus jobs. Some people definitely prefer to get off campus for work--if you're already spending all your class time on campus, it feels good to get away--but on campus jobs are a great option if you're looking to save gas and work around your schedule as a student. 

I held an off campus job my second semester here at UAF. Though I enjoyed the work, it was hard to balance 5 classes on campus, 20 hours of work off campus, and living in the opposite direction as my job. The following semester, I decided to look at my options on campus. I'm so glad I did! I ended up being hired as a Student Assistant to a Dean, which has resulted in making some fantastic connections, a really fun work environment, and the ability to fit in work around my class schedule. Now, instead of only being able to work when I'm done for the day, I can work in between classes, and get home before 5pm. Before, I wasn't even able to start work before 5pm! Whenever I have a block of time over 45 minutes, I can come into work, get what I need to do done, and then head right back to class. They're even happy to give me some time off if I ever need extra study time. 

Next March will mark my second full year of working in this office. It's been such a fantastic experience. But what's even better about on campus jobs is that not all of them stick you in an office. If you love to shovel snow, there's a student job for that. If you're interested in a career in law enforcement, you can find a job at the Police Department on campus. If you have a burning desire to do research, there are many Research Assistant positions waiting to be filled. There are also many more that I'm not mentioning, as well.  

In summary, UAF has some great options for employment, and if you're not sure where to start, go or call Career Services at (907) 474-7596. They're super friendly and always willing to help.  If you want to know what having a student job is like, don't hesitate to ask!