It is not everyday that a college orientation includes bear safety tips.
But that’s exactly what Lucas McCamon got when the Oklahoma State University student sought out an opportunity to expand his college experience.
He found the National Student Exchange program, which allows students to experience life from a different point of view by transferring to one of more than 200 universities within the United States, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
McCamon traveled to Juneau, Alaska in January of 2013 to begin his semester-long journey at the University of Alaska Southeast. He was drawn to the rich history and tight nit community that UAS offered.
Located along the shores of Auke Lake, UAS has an average enrollment of 2,200 students and offers many nature studies and outdoor awareness courses, as an environmentally-focused university.
As a liberal studies junior from Kansas City, Kan., McCamon enrolled in courses that fueled his passion for outdoor education and corresponded with his degree at OSU. The program allows students to immerse fully into the university’s culture for a semester or a full year.
“I got so used to the life I was living and the culture I was in, so I took this chance to learn something new not only about myself, but also another part of the country,” McCamon said.
He saw this opportunity as a point of personal growth to dig deep within himself to find his strengths.
“It was vital in helping me to develop as a person, as well as beginning to understand the vastness of the world and our potential within it,” explained McCamon.
The cold Alaskan winter months did not stop him from diving into the lifestyle of the natives. His weekends involved hiking, camping, ice climbing and a variety of other outdoor activities.
He enjoyed meeting the natives as well as learning about the unique lifestyle of the Alaskan residents.
“Being extremely close to nature played a huge role in how the natives treat the environment,” McCamon said. “They live alongside the wildlife, which creates a respect for their environment just as much as for ours.”
Surrounded by the Alaskan landscape, he gained an appreciation for nature. The mountains, lakes and wildlife all increased his respect for the environment.
McCamon will graduate in December with plans to attend graduate school and pursue his dream of working in higher education. He expects his Alaskan experiences to be valuable to his life’s journey and encourages students to seek such opportunities.
“I learned about the compassion of others, the beauty and history of my exchange location, and perhaps most importantly, the strength within myself,” McCamon said.
Story by Kaitlin Loyd
Read more https://news.okstate.edu/press-releases/2695-the-last-frontier-an-experience-of-a-lifetime-