Wednesday, August 10, 2016

UAF Graduate Student Participates in Korea Arctic Academy

By Liz Bowman

Participants of the July 2016 Korea Arctic Academy, a study program that brought together students from Korean universities and from UArctic member institutions. (photo courtesy Liz Bowman)

My name is Liz Bowman, and I am a graduate student in the Arctic and Northern Studies program. I am working on my Masters and focus on Arctic policy. Within policy, I am interested in discovering the motivations of non-Arctic states to participate in Arctic affairs. This summer, I had the opportunity to participate in the 2nd Korea Arctic Academy (KAA) hosted by the Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, and organized by UArctic and Korea Maritime Institute. This academy brought together 29 students (19 from Arctic states, 10 from Korea) to discuss the Arctic from our perspectives, as well as learn about what Korea is doing in the Arctic context. It is hard to do this experience justice with a blog post, but I will do my best to convey how rewarding my time in Korea was, and what impacts it will have on my future studies.

Building within the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul.
(photo courtesy Liz Bowman)
Korea cares deeply about the Arctic and the implications that a changing Arctic climate has on others. It is because of this, and other reasons, that students from the North were invited to participate in the program. Beyond learning about Korea’s positions on a variety of Arctic issues, I was able to experience the hospitality, kindness, and unique culture of the Korean people. Perhaps the most significant thing about the KAA program was that it truly was an opportunity to create friendships, partnerships, and foster mutual understanding between those from the Arctic region and Korea.

In my conversations with Korean students, I learned that many are curious about maritime issues, warming Arctic temperatures, and what everyday life is like for many of the Arctic students. I found it equally as valuable to connect with others from the Arctic, many coming from indigenous communities, that were willing to share their traditional knowledge with us so we had a better understanding of our own region.

Liz Bowman (second archer from the right) learns traditional Korean archery while wearing  a traditional outfit during the 2nd Korea Arctic Academy. (photo courtesy Liz Bowman)
Please don’t think that the KAA was only hard work. In addition to lectures about policy, science, and the future of the Arctic, we also learned about Korean culture. I was able to participate in traditional Korean archery, sing K-Pop karaoke, and eat more kimchi in a few days then I had ever eaten in my lifetime.

Although the program was short, only 10 days, I have so many valuable experiences to draw upon as I move forward with my degree program at UAF. I now have valuable connections with Korean students and faculty who are interested in sharing their thoughts about a global Arctic, one that includes all those who are interested in the future of the North, not just those who are geographically located there. I can use my experience in Korea to support my ideas about non-Arctic states in the Arctic context and how the Arctic can continue to be a place of cooperation. It is hard to express my gratitude for the Korean Maritime Institute and UArctic for hosting such a rewarding academy. It is my hope that other UAF students will want to participate in this program in future years and learn about what the rest of the world thinks of our backyard.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Feature of the Month - May

Ritika Saxena grew up in Lucknow, Northern India. People around the world and different cultures intrigue her. She says, "After high school, I moved to Australia on a scholarship to study Bachelor of Biological Science." As a part of her degree, she decided to go on exchange at UAF over Spring 2016.

What motivated you to study abroad and choose UAF?

She believes that you learn a lot by living in a different country and a different culture. So, after choosing to study in Australia ‘The Land Down Under’, she says "I decided to go as far up as I could and that's how I decided to move to the other end of the world to UAF!"
After spending over 4 months in the US, she says she still couldn't wrap her head around gallons and pounds!
She had never seen snow before she arrived in Alaska and the mere thought of it excited her. "I had only seen in movies how people thrived in such harsh climatic conditions. I looked forward for a frigid cold experience for myself!"

How was your experience traveling in Alaska and the lower 48?

"I went to North Pole which was an interesting town with candy canes for light poles!"
She visited Chena Hot Springs, saw the amazing sculptures at the Ice Park and went to the Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race start.
She had planned a trip to New York and Los Angeles at the end of the semester.

Ritika (L) in North Pole, Alaska

(L to R) Ritika at the Ice Park, Yukon Quest Race Start in Fairbanks and at the Statue of Liberty in New York

 "I went to bonfires at the Smith lake on campus in pitch black darkness and went snowshoeing up Pedro Dome!"

 How was your Alaskan winter experience?

"I did not see fresh snow for the first six weeks and when I did see the snow fall, holy moly! it was beautiful and enchanting and all the good things you can think of!"
The cold was harsh but she says the campus has great facilities that keep businesses go on as usual. "Coming back from the lab at 9pm in pitch dark, the campus shuttle was an extremely useful resource".
She says “To cope up with the cold, I wore so many clothes during the winter that at any given point, I was wearing half my wardrobe! . But, I made it through the winter safe and sound! 

She loved capturing snowflakes and taking pictures in the snow

What do you miss about Alaska now that you are on your way back to your home university?

"I will miss a lot of things about Alaska. I made a lot of memories having conversations over dinner with friends over the past semester. I will miss looking out the window and seeing the world just covered in a blanket of white. I will miss going out in the middle of those winter nights  to gaze at the northern lights and take pictures . I will miss the excitement when Spring fest came around. I will miss seeing the huskies!"
(L) Ritika with the Northern Lights. The campus has some great spots to view the Northern Lights

Would you recommend students to study abroad?

Ritika believes that studying abroad gives you a chance to explore yourself. She says "Even simple things like your favorite cuisine changes once you live in a new place and experience new things. The best part about studying abroad is that you get to travel without taking a break from your studies! It shows your potential employers that you are easily adaptable and enjoy a diverse working atmosphere. More than anything, it helps you grow personally."

What are you plans for the future?

Ritika is trying to get a position in a placement program in China later this year. She says "After I (hopefully) graduate next year, I may work for a couple of years. I eventually hope to get a PhD in Genetics, Epigenetics and Stem Cells and teach at a university. One of my dreams is to study and live in Germany"

  Describe UAF in one word


Ritika blogs about her experiences at

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Feature of the Month- April

Born and brought up in Moscow, Russia, Matvey Debolskiy is working towards his PhD at the Geophysical Institute here at UAF since Spring 2014.
Excelling in the Physics and Math Olympiads, Mat graduated from a distinctive high school consisting of students having an aptitude towards the sciences. He says “Maths was a lot more fun for me than Physics because I didn’t have to keep in mind all the assumptions while I solved Maths!”

On his parents’ insistence, he went to the Moscow University to study Geography.
He says “I didn’t mind studying Geography and when the time came to choose the subject of my research focus and laboratory work, I flipped a coin. And that is how I got into glaciers and permafrost!” Meteorology would have been on the flip side, Mat pointed out.
During his research in Russia, Mat preferred using techniques that involve applied Math or Physics as opposed to the Landschaft (Landscape) Paradigm method popular in Russia which involved data collection exercises that he says were a little primitive. That being said, he enjoyed the numerous field visit opportunities that were part of his research and he spent most of his summers in the Caucasus range between The Caspian and Black seas, mapping and studying glaciers.He was a part time employee at the Melnikov Permafrost Institute for the last three years of his undergraduate degree.
Mat (L) with his brother in Moscow

What are you doing now?

"Trying to get my PhD!"
Mat is working on modeling of watersheds with permafrost and glaciers. He is currently post- processing Ground Penetrating Radar data for his PhD thesis and thinks he’ll get his doctorate in about two more years.

He chose UAF to do research and get a PhD because of UAF's renowned Geophysical Institute. He says that the team of professors and associates here is very talented and accomplished that creates a great environment for prospective researchers.

Matvey at work in his office

How were your first Summer and Winter experiences?

Mat spent two winters in Igarka, Siberia before he arrived in Alaska so he had no issues getting acclimatized to the unusual darkness and cold. He spent his summers around the Alaska Range making hydrological and meteorological  observations, driving two times a week around Delta junction at times.

Mat during field visits around Alaska

What do you miss about home?

“My cat, Kotjik.

The small coffee shops in Moscow, Doner and the “big city” life" 

Doner is a popular street food in Moscow

What are your future plans?

Mat would like to continue working in academia, possibly work as a post doctorate fellow. He says, "I would love to work in Europe so I would be close to Moscow and my family".
The recently married Mat has his research prioritized but says it sometimes gets difficult to stay away from family.

Describe UAF in one word


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Feature of the Month- March

"It is Challenging, but extremely rewarding!"

Megan Rourke, a Sociology major from the University of Stirling spent two semesters at UAF as an exchange student. The Scot, who grew up in a small village outside Edinburgh, lived and went to school there for most of her life. After high school when she turned 18, she went travelling around Tanzania, Australia and South East Asia for a year and half before coming home and starting school at the University of Stirling. She says "I had definitely caught the travel bug and spent time in different cities across Europe throughout my study and picked my degree program based on whether it had an exchange opportunity!" 
She had a few universities in the United States on her list where she wanted to study as an exchange student, eventually deciding to go to UAF in the Fall of 2014. She says, "Looking back at it now, I can’t imagine having gone anywhere else. I was only supposed to be in Fairbanks for one semester between September and December but I ended up falling in love with the city and the school, got a job as a Resident Assistant on campus, and luckily, was able to extend and ended up staying until June"

Megan and the author light- writing an abbreviation of "Alaska" 

Elaborating on the academics and research in the department of sociology at UAF, she says, "The sociology program at UAF gave me amazing chances to explore social research and I ended up presenting a research poster on the ethics of dog sledding"

(L) Megan and her poster on the ethics of dog sledding with her colleague Britta. (Top) Megan with puppies at a sled dog kennel

She also received a grant to study Title IX legislation and it’s applications on campus and went on to attend the Pacific Sociological Conference in Los Angeles, California.

With all these opportunities manifesting within a span of a few months, she says, "These were crazy opportunities that I am incredibly grateful for because they prepared me for my graduation dissertation here in Stirling. Also, my involvement in Sociology club brought to my attention the importance of tackling issues such as domestic violence and sexual assault and I was able to work with some amazing people to organize ‘Run for Respect’, a 5K that raises awareness and money for the local women’s shelter"
(R) Megan (2nd, from Right) with the organizers for "Run for Respect"

(L) Megan with her team of Resident Assistants donating clothes at a shelter
(R) Megan with the Berman Excellence in Sociology award for her research in Title IX

How was your experience travelling around Alaska and the Lower 48?

In her first semester she took every opportunity to experience Alaska, taking road trips to Anchorage and Seward. "There were so many different things that I had never experienced before like snowshoeing and ice climbing with UAF Outdoor Adventures."
Megan on a road trip to see Denali (L) and on the Gulkana Glacier (R)

"And amongst the other exchange students you could always find someone who was up for a weekend trip- for Thanksgiving a bunch of us got a car and a cabin and went dog sledding, to hot springs and learned how to drive on ice!"

"After finishing at UAF I flew down to Los Angeles. It's an extremely long trip between Edinburgh and Fairbanks so I thought I'd make the most of the remaining days on my Visa. We did a road trip around California which was amazing! The weather was beautiful and we drove up the coast to San Francisco and went as far as Napa which I fell in love with. I'll be back in the next few years to see friends, I've got my sights set on Arizona next and I'm sure I'll make it to Louisiana one day!

How was your first Alaskan Winter?

"The climate made Alaska for me, it was like nothing I've ever experienced before. In Scotland, winter means grey, wet and 'dreich' to use the Scottish word. So to walk out everyday and see the sun shining with snow on the ground was lovely. The short days were unusual at first but I got used to them and I invested in some good layers and learned what merino wool is! 

Now that you are back in Scotland, what do you miss about Alaska?

Megan in Scotland, rowing for her home university

"I miss the compact campus. Stirling is a small city and I only have to get a 10 minute bus ride to get to campus, but I loved that UAF was a hub with everything within walking distance- all the dorms, the school buildings, the gym, the dining hall. I also miss my classes- the structure was very different at UAF, rather than lectures, in my classes we often openly debated the issues we were discussing meaning everyone was much more engaged. I also miss the Alaskan lifestyle! Everyone in Fairbanks was so friendly and welcoming."

Would you recommend students to study abroad?

"Absolutely! For so many reasons, to experience a different culture, to learn through a different structure and really just to put yourself in a brand new situation and have to build your life there from scratch- It is challenging but extremely rewarding."

 Describe UAF in one word.



Megan is currently in the middle of her dissertation and will graduate in June 2016. After that she plans to spend the summer with her family and would love to get some work experience under her belt by doing an internship or volunteering in victim advocacy and the third sector before travelling again.