BY DAWN WEHDE
For the UAS Whalesong
My exchange opportunity took me from wintery Juneau to the sunny shores of Honolulu and qualified as the ‘through the looking glass’ experience of my college career.
From the classroom studies of tropical fish anatomy to the gaping awe at the same brilliant species through my snorkel goggles, my exchange experience was all smiles.
The faculty at my host campus, University of Hawaii at Manoa, brought my program of study into the international arena of awareness.
I was impressed at my professor’s dedication to the entire planet. They showed my fellow undergraduates and me that as robust as the marine ecosystems are, the pressure we as humans impose on the oceans has created a definite dynamic of fragility. With that in mind, each class was a day of discovery.
One of the most interesting class field trips was when we visited the national fish market and auction. My Alaskan upbringing has provided experience in salmon and crab but the Hawaiian market’s diverse harvest expanded my perspective on how eco-responsible practices can coexist with marine commerce. This experience along with many others contributed greatly towards my goal of bringing my education to bear on the issues and challenges yet to be addressed regarding the protection of Alaska’s fishing resources for the generations to come.
And as one may expect, any Alaskan who does a semester in Honolulu, once thawed out, will seek out a location called “the beach.” The surfing, snorkeling, and hiking on the island made for regular study break outings. These outings were usually accompanied by pit stops to local dives that offered fresh fruit and ahi- raw tuna. Where ever I went there was never a lack of people asking about igloos, polar bears, and Sarah Plain.
My semester away introduced me to a community of people and natural resources alike and renewed in me a sense of purpose for my education. I encourage everyone and anyone to take advantage of the affordable and exceptional national exchange program offered here at UAS. It enhanced education and offered a new outlook. My love for the marine sciences brought me to Hawaii. Now you need to ask yourself: where will your passions take you?