Hello, my name is Allyson Christine Pagan Rodriguez, and I’m a third-year college student at the University of Puerto Rico in Cayey. Last semester I had the opportunity to visit Alaska as part of a national student exchange program, choosing UAA as my host campus. Now, as I receive the really sad news that the housing recreation and activities program is soon to be closed because of insufficient funds (or whatever it may be), I would like to share with you some little things that I hope can somehow change the future of this really sad reality.
First of all, the only real reason why I chose Alaska over Hawaii was because of a group of pictures that my NSE coordinator here at home showed me during my second interview. Those pictures showed me what I was meant to live through what has been the most unforgettable period of my life; it made it clear that Alaska was the only choice. Those pictures of sea kayaking, climbing glaciers, camping out in the wilderness and making s’mores around a campfire made me realize what my adventurer spirit was missing, what it deeply craved and needed for it to blossom. Those pictures provided what I unknowingly needed to become a more independent, adventuresome, respectful, grateful, happy, and appreciative young woman.
Thanks to Housing Recreation and Activities — to the uniqueness of the program and the loving Anna and Manch — I, as a Puerto Rican who speaks Spanish on a daily basis and had never seen or felt the snow or anything related to it, was able to feel at home in a place extremely different from it, with people that I never imagined I would meet and by doing the most incredible things that I have ever done. The program helped me create long-lasting friendships with the majority of the friends that I met through this entire exchange experience; it allowed me to explore Alaska the only way that I believe it must be explored; and finally, it allowed me to get away from school pressures and all the anxiety, sadness and whatnot from being far away from home and from having to face the very difficult hardships of living alone for the first time in my life. I will always remember it as the most memorable and special opportunity of my life.
I will never forget the day we got together to cook ten pounds of mashed potatoes and many other side dishes for the very memorable Thanksgiving dinner we were able to experience because of the program and its very special coordinators, Manch and Anna. Now, melancholically, I look back at the past, through all of those very precious moments that make me want to jump into a plane and fly to Alaska, just to experience it all over again. I think about what all of the UAA students that live on campus, the national and international students, are going to do without this very special program. I wonder what are they going to do with all of those lonely weekends when there’s nowhere to go, what are they going to do when friends and experiences are needed to help them through those rough college days.
I very much appreciate how the housing department had the ingenuity to create such an extraordinary program and sponsor it through so many years. But now I wish that something could be done to clarify the uncertain future of the program and the housing life of all the other students that are and are going to be in the same position that I was in during the fall semester of 2011. Please congratulate Manch and Anna and all others involved for providing me and so many others with such a great adventure up there in Alaska. It has become a very special part of my life that, I assure you, will never escape my mind or my heart.