As you may already know, American Eagle Outfitters is one of the biggest sponsors of the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and Alternative Spring Break (ASB). To celebrate another successful year of ASB and Earth Month, we want to introduce you to Andrea W., SCA Multimedia and Graphic Design Intern for Bering Land Bridge National Preserve in Noma, Alaska. Read below to learn more about Andrea and her cool (literally!) internship with the SCA.
You grew up and went to college in balmy, subtropical Florida. How did you settle on Alaska for your first post-college job?
I’ve always been kind of captivated by the idea of Alaska. I was inspired by books like Into the Wild and Julie of the Wolves – and fascinated by how different it is from where I grew up. That, combined with an unshakeable wanderlust, I suppose is what drove me to set my sights on the Great North. I never thought I would actually find myself here, though!
Judging by your blog, you do a variety of work at Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. What is a typical day in the office like for you?
A typical day at the office generally involves opening up the visitor center and then checking in on the Bering Land Bridge social media pages to monitor the latest activity and post new updates. After that, I’ll usually work on the Preserve website, either adding or editing content. If visitors come in, I greet them and answer questions, and then it’s back to work on the computer after they leave. Sometimes my other work also involves planning for trips into the villages or back country for photography or documenting local culture.
And what about days when your “office” is the Alaskan tundra?
The days when my “office” is outdoors are always the best, though they can also be the hardest. On a back country trip, you kind of go into survival mode a little bit, even in your daily routine. Over the summer, I would be dropped off by bush plane in different areas of the preserve for a few days at a time. I’d call in to the office or central dispatch by satellite phone every day to check in and report local conditions, and then the rest of the day would usually be spent hiking around and taking photos (yep, it’s a dream job!). Of course, this can be hard if the weather is bad or equipment or gear fails, but as long as you keep a positive attitude, it’s really all just part of the adventure.
What’s the most unusual or exciting situation you’ve found yourself in during your time in Nome, AK?
Probably the most unusual situation I found myself in was when a herd of about 300 reindeer showed up on the beach when I was on the coast of the Chukchi Sea. It was my first back country trip and I was photographing an archaeological site that day. Our pilot had just landed to pick us up when this herd shows up and stands there checking us out for a while. We waited around until eventually they turned and left and we were able to take off again from the beach, but it was pretty random and one of those totally “Alaska” experiences.
What tips would you have for someone who’s preparing to spend 9 months living and interning in a remote, modern-day Alaskan gold mining town?
I’d say keep your head on your shoulders, stay positive, and be open to the opportunities that come your way. I don’t think you can ever be ready for something like this, but that’s part of the beauty of it.
I find a lot of inspiration just in the world around me. At the office, we have a great collection of photos from years past, plus my own photos I’ve taken this year, and a plethora of resources at our disposal from park researchers, local knowledge, educational materials, etc. I love learning new things, so it’s fun to get others excited about those things too!
What’s next on your ‘To Do In Life’ list? How has your SCA experience influenced your plans for the future?
Without a doubt my next ‘to do in life’ is to travel around the world. Not sure if that will happen anytime soon, but then again I didn’t think Alaska would happen anytime soon either! Until then, I hope to keep working in this beautiful state. Along those lines, my SCA experience has really inspired me to keep exploring Alaska, now that I have connections here and know that I truly do love living and working in this environment.
What is your dream job?
My dream job would be some sort of adventure/travel/nature photographer and writer.
Who or what has been the most important influence in your life?
I have had a lot of great influences in my life, first and foremost my parents who have been continually supportive, and amazing role models. I’ve also had incredibly inspiring professors who mentored me in college, as well as friends and relatives who have really lived their lives by example.
How does your work influence your style?
I’d say my work influences my style a lot. When I’m in the field, I’m all about having durable and useful outdoor gear, and in the winter it comes down to staying warm, especially when daytime temperatures can linger at -20 degrees F.
Do you have any cool interests or hobbies?
One of my hobbies is birding. It’s kind of nerdy, but I love identifying and keeping lists of every bird species I see when I’m hiking or traveling. I think birds are so much more interesting than a lot of people realize and it’s a fun challenge to see how many you can identify or focus on finding one particular species in a given place.