The experiences I have had this summer have only deepened my interest in the Arctic and the natives who still call Alaska home. I have learned more from observing the land and listening to the elders than I ever could have in a classroom. Each day I count my lucky stars for each moment I am living and exploring this place.
I have known for a long while that no matter what aspect of humans I study, my interest is in circumpolar populations. I have always been enthralled with cold weather, and the harshness it brings, but living in the arctic brought new appreciation for the vastly dynamic seasons. Hearing from natives firsthand taught me where their biggest struggles and concerns are today, which has given me ideas of where to devote my research and work. I know now that all the research and work I do in the future will be aimed at helping native cultures in the arctic preserve their ways of life. It is important to me to ensure that they have an adequate voice when laws involving their land, food source, and waterways are being discussed, and that their language, culture, and traditions are passed down and practiced by coming generations. My internship has not only narrowed my research goals, but also influenced the span of schools I will be applying to this December. Now that I definitively know I want to study arctic populations, many of the doctorate programs I will apply to are in Canada because the US has few programs dedicated to my interests.
Having the opportunity to live in the wilderness has also given me more confidence to explore the outdoors. My endurance has greatly increased thanks to climbing many mountains and rafting the Koyukuk river. I also have less fear of bears, hypothermia, and starvation! Now, as my summer comes to a close, I have already made plans to confidently hike the AT this spring. I look forward to using everything this state has taught me to climb some gnarly mountains in the future!