Monday, November 16, 2015

Feature of the Month- November

"I Picked the Farthest University I could Find From Home!"

Johanna Bocklet is a graduate student in Economics at UAF. She is from Koblenz, Germany, a city similar to Fairbanks. Johanna started her bachelor’s degree in Economics in Heidelberg University and wanted to study abroad for a semester. She didn’t know a lot about Alaska when she chose to go to school here but when she got here, she was infatuated. 

She was fascinated by the Alaskan outdoor, waking up to see the mountains outside her window every morning and viewing the northern lights. After a semester at UAF, she returned to Germany to finish her degree and realized her bond with Alaska was more than an infatuation. She got so used to living and learning in and around the wilderness in Alaska that on her return, Heidelberg seemed to have lost some of its familiarity. She also missed the close attention that the professors provide to the students at UAF because of the small class sizes.
She says “I picked the farthest university I could find from home!” mentioning her love for traveling and living in different countries

She didn’t really know if she wanted to do a job or go to grad school after she earned her bachelor’s degree. But given the chance, she would definitely go back to experience more of Alaska.

Johanna with her colleagues after first snow in September 2015

She says, “I applied to UAF for a master’s in Economics degree in the summer of 2014, got accepted and also got offered a job as a Teaching Assistant in the Economics Department!” She says her master’s program is quite interesting and absorbing.

What do you like about Alaska?

She admires the outdoors and loves to travel. “My favorite places in Alaska are Seward and Valdez!- There are mountains on one side and the ocean on the other, and it is simply amazing!”

(L) Johanna in the coastal city of Seward 
She loves to go backpacking and on skiing trips when she isn’t busy with her job and studies

How were you first summer and winter experiences?

The summer of 2015 was her first one here. “It is crazy to explore Alaska when it is not cold!”

Having not been to a place that isn’t road accessible, she says “I’d love to go to a place where you have to be dropped off by an aircraft and spend some time there. Because in Alaska, you don’t have to “find” great spots. It is beautiful no matter where you go. So whenever I can, I try to head out of Fairbanks and explore!”

“My experience transitioning into winter was a funny one. In the beginning, -5°C seemed pretty cold and I didn’t know if I could bear more but come November it just kept on getting colder and darker!”

Johanna at the temperature display on the UAF campus- very close to joining the 40 below club

Being an exchange student then, she would sometimes find comfort in the fact that she was going home at the end of the semester. The dark and cold however, wouldn’t hold her back from being outdoors. “I would go out skiing in December with my headlight on!” she laughs.

“Even after having a sunrise at 11am and walking back from class at 6pm in pitch black darkness to be greeted by the Northern Lights in the winter is a pretty good deal for living in such a cold place in the winter”

What do you miss about home?

German politics, Sparkling water, family, friends, and especially seasonal food from her region in Germany. Döbbekuchen: also called “poor man’s food”, she adds “Döbbekuchen is made from grated potatoes baked in a pot with sausages (pepperoni or salami) and served with applesauce” with a tone of nostalgia. 

“Specific months remind me of specific delicacies. Like November reminds me of Döbbekuchen: it is a very regional food and other parts of Germany probably haven’t heard about it!”

Are you ready to graduate and leave Alaska?

“Easy answer!
She would love to work in Alaska after she earns her master’s degree. “My interest is in environmental consulting. I will apply for jobs and see how it goes from there”. She says, “If not Alaska, I would probably go back and work in Europe.”

UAF in one word

Zu Hause- The feeling of being home.
English sometimes does fall short of expressing feelings with words…
She likes being part of the very friendly community here and feels safe living on the UAF campus.

“If I was traveling home to Koblenz, I would say I’m going home… If I was traveling to UAF, I would definitely say the same”

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