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Mareike Renken – Germany

Mareike Renken

My Semester at UAS

Location: Germany

Program: ISEP

I visited UAS in the Fall Semester 2017 through ISEP. My home university is in Hannover, Germany, where I study English, German and Philosophy to become a high school teacher. I had finished a lot of classes required for my studies before going to Juneau, which meant that I was able to choose the universities I wanted to apply to not only according to the classes offered. I wanted to have a unique experience inside and outside the classroom during my stay. I chose UAS and Alaska because I was hoping to have exactly this experience. I liked the thought of having the natural world all around me. I also expected Juneau to be a place I would need more than a two week vacation to get to know it properly.

Shortly after my arrival, I noticed that I wasn’t disappointed when it came to the beautiful nature I was expecting. During the first week, I visited one of the glaciers near Juneau, saw an American eagle, whales, seals, walruses and different kinds of salmon. I saw each of these for the first time in their natural habitat and I already knew, that I made the right choice by coming to Juneau. In the course of the semester I was also able to see northern lights for the first time.

In the following months of the Fall semester, I went hiking a few times, which I have never done before. I also participated in an Outdoor Studies (ODS) class where we went Backpacking in the area around Juneau on two weekends. The hiking as well as the ODS class were very exhausting but I can definitely recommend doing both because they offer an experience that is exceptional. Especially coming from the flat northern parts of Germany, I wouldn’t have been able to summit anything else than a small hill. Besides, it was an unknown and interesting feeling to be surrounded by nature as untouched as it is in Alaska.

Aside from my experience in the nature in and around Juneau, I also had a great time in my classes and at the university in general. Apart from the ODS class, I took courses in literature in writing. Both were very interesting. I took a lot of literature classes back in Germany due to my area of studies, but I have never had a writing classes before. Therefore, I was excited and a little bit scared prior to the beginning of the seminar. In hindsight, I am really glad I made this experience. I had to push myself out of my comfort zone and try something new and challenging every week in class

Apart from my classes, there were many other events happening on campus. The study abroad coordinator had planned events for the exchange students throughout the semester like ice skating or cookie baking. Aside from the planned events, she was also always there to help with any problems or questions I had. The university organized events regularly as well like movie nights, public lectures or trips to the theater. I also went to the Recreation Center from time to time to go indoor climbing.

Overall, I can say that I had a great time in Juneau. I met a lot of interesting and great people in class as well as during events. Everyone I came to know was friendly and helpful. Furthermore, I was able to improve my language skills. Even though the United States and Germany are both western countries, it was very interesting to observe the differences between the two cultures. I am glad that I have decided to apply for UAS and I am very thankful to be able to have made an experience like this.