We encourage you to contact alumni of the program to get a better sense of Alaska Fellows and host organizations. Retrospections, below, from both Sitka and Anchorage alumni:
I don’t think I’ve ever used the phrase “life-affirming” before, but it seems applicable here. Moving to Sitka for the Winter Fellows program has been a totally life-affirming decision. I feel seen, valued, and supported in every aspect of my life.
At work, I’m an important member of a small team. I’m expected to direct my own projects and think analytically about problems when they arise. My big-picture and small-picture ideas are taken equally seriously, and if they’re good, I get the chance to put them into practice.
At home, my housemates/fellows teach me things like how to drive stick shift, bake bread, use bear spray, be a better person, think more critically about politics, make potato soup, and run far without hurting my knees.
In Sitka at large, I’m always bumping into colossal generosity. A bunch of strangers band together to help find a stolen bike, and it’s returned within the week. A family opens their home to twelve twenty-somethings on Thanksgiving. A fisherman drops off fifty pounds of free Alaskan salmon (this really happened!!) and then says we should just let her know when we run out, and she’ll bring more. It’s crazy that I lucked into this life. You should definitely apply for this fellowship.
I took multiple college classes that sought to answer the question: what is the good life? If only the philosophers and psychologists I studied could have visited Sitka, AK. It would have saved me and them a good amount of time.
We were welcomed to Sitka with boat rides to Forest Service Cabins tucked away in wooded inlets, with potlucks, 70 lbs. of donated salmon, invitations to family dinners, and offers to provide us with “whatever we needed.” The community has a persistent generosity: in the months since we arrived, the invitations have kept coming, and our fish stock has been restocked.
I can see the ocean from my bedroom–a view that regularly features magnificent sunsets. I live minutes away from trails that lead to alpine ridges and spectacular views. And I share this experience with eleven other fellows that I treasure. We hike together, go out together, have family dinner every week, followed by games. Communal living situations don’t always work– but here in Sitka they seem to do well. And when they do well, there is nothing better.
During the week I serve at a wellness center, working for the most positive and energetic people I have ever met. The nonprofit provides for the health of more than 700 members. I do everything from building maintenance, to managing the rock climbing wall, customer service, and accounting. In short, I feel like I make a difference. I am given real responsibilities. I am challenged, I sometimes fail, but learn an incredible amount, and am given the agency to define my own work.
On sunny days, I kayak during my lunch breaks. Since late October I have shared the Sitka Sound with pods of humpback whales. I have seen more rainbows in three months here than during the rest of my life. I watch sea otters from the parking lot of the grocery store. I play on the mountains or in the ocean every weekend. I run on trails to waterfalls or up mountains, watch hundreds of salmon fight their way upstream, and some nights get to witness natures greatest light show.
If this all sounds too good to be true, I understand. I have been here for over three months, and I still feel that way. I am still in awe of the 360 degrees of beauty, and I am perpetually grateful for the community. I can imagine nothing better to do right after college because no matter what career I eventually find myself in, I will be able to look back on this experience and remind my self that life can be like this. Life should be like this.
This experience consistently blows my mind. I've gotten more used to it now that we're a few months in, but whenever I take a step back to think about it I'm astonished.
There is an incredible investment that the Anchorage and Fellows community has made in me: from the museum guides who offer free tours, to the mayor's wife who offers her time and advice and mentorship, to the heads of multiple social service organizations who will grab a coffee or welcome me into their office at the drop of a dime, to the legislative and assembly members who not only take the time to explain anything and everything asked of them but are happy to do so (despite their insane schedules), and countless other folks we come across that are invested, interested, and eager to offer anything they can. The opportunities and access here are astounding; I have rarely come across a more welcoming city, where I feel my presence and work is truly valued. This doesn't even touch upon the community of the fellows.
My Fellows experience in Anchorage has exceeded any expectations time and time again. The other fellows are truly some of the best, most motivated people I have met.
I was hoping for a positive experience, and this fellowship has far exceeded anything I could have dreamed of. The atmosphere in the house and the variety of my professional life has been so incredibly rich and rewarding.