As an exchange student in Juneau, Alaska, Mercede Miller wanted to try so many different things, from eating Alaskan King Crab legs to going deep-sea fishing.
“I see all of these pictures, and these people are holding up these fish as wide as their wingspan, and I’m just, like, I want to do that,” Miller said.
Miller, 19, graduated from Clarke Community High School in 2012. The college sophomore attends school at the University of Northern Iowa.
Currently, Miller is involved in a national student exchange program and takes classes at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau.
She spent the fall semester in Juno and is now starting her spring semester there.
No. 1 reason
What made a girl from Iowa want to live in Alaska for a year?
“Marine biology was definitely the number one reason for going anywhere, besides Iowa,” Miller said. “So, I just wanted something new, different. An adventure, more or less. It’s a really good experience.”
Miller is majoring in biology. She said she wants to get her master’s degree in marine biology.
In her fall classes, Miller said she enjoyed discussing the Arctic sea changes and whales.
She attended WhaleFest in Sitka, Alaska, and listened to symposiums from scientists.
“It wasn’t just a snorefest,” Miller said with a laugh.
Life in Juneau
According to Miller, the summer months are the best months in Alaska, and it’s a big tourist season. Once October arrives, so does a lot of rain. She compared it to the city of Seattle, Wash.
“It’s not as cold as everyone, like, expects it to be,” Miller said. “Everyone thinks that we live in igloos and have dogsleds.”
Miller said she was excited to start her spring semester in Alaska since it had been warmer there than Iowa during her winter break.
When Miller first arrived in Alaska for her fall semester, she said it felt like going to camp. A reason for this is the numerous pine and evergreen trees across the region.
“Very outdoorsy,” is the way Miller described the city of Juneau, which has a population of approximately 32,000. She said there are a lot of small-business owners within the city and not a lot of commercial restaurants or businesses typically found it populated areas.
“It’s rural, but a big city,” Miller said.
As for the travel time to get to Juneau, Miller said it takes her approximately 10 hours by plane. Miller said she typically has to schedule many short flights to get to Alaska, so it gives her time to get up and stretch her legs.
Still to do
Now that Miller is in the second half of her Alaskan adventure, she has a list of things she still wants to accomplish in her short time there, such as skiing, snowboarding and hiking.
“There’s a lot of mountains there that I haven’t gotten to yet. But, with the weather we’ll see how that goes,” Miller said.
While Juneau has offered Miller many new things to do and try, she said what she liked most is the opportunity to meet new people and see different cultures.
“I have met just so many interesting people,” Miller said. “And, not just (those) from Alaska, but other exchange students from other states. And, then, I met other exchange students from other countries.”