PUBLISHED: 10:25 AM on Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Making the move
New students come to UAS from across the country

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  University of Alaska freshmen play a game during a pancake breakfast Wednesday, Aug. 30, held for incoming students. They are, from left, Mika Blais, Macey Fredenburg, Samantha Smith and Rusty Boone. University classes started Thursday, Aug. 31.
Just a day before classes got underway at University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau and a group of students sit in the recreation room playing cards and eating pancakes.

They laugh and help each other find forms to go on a kayak trip scheduled for later in the day.

At first glance one might suspect this group of students are high school friends who have decided to go to college together.

However, each of these students have a different place they call home and have come together in Juneau to embark on higher education.

Rusty Boone traveled the farthest from St. Louis.

"I play hockey, it's nice here and I'm not going back," Boone said with a smile.

"I went from 100 degree weather to 50 degree weather, which is excellent."

Boone had never been to Alaska but said he has wanted to travel to the state since he was in the eighth grade and decided to come to Juneau to pursue a degree in marine biology.

He said his parents were hesitant at first about the idea of moving across the country for college, but supported him in pursuing his dream.

Boone arrived in Juneau Sunday, Aug. 27, and said he only knew two people who he met on the online socializing Web site MySpace.

"I've made a lot of friends. I jumped right in," Boone said.

Also coming from the lower 48 is Ben Stathis of Livingston, Mont. who is uncertain what he wants to study but came to UAS because his father did.

"I was born in Anchorage, and my dad lives in Alaska now, too. It seemed like a good idea," Stathis said.

Last year UAS had more than 800 full-time students, and 30 percent of those were from outside of Alaska.

Wanting to venture outside of her hometown but remain in the state, Mika Blais of North Pole said she didn't know anyone at the university before arriving for orientation.

"I didn't know anyone, but it's been easy to meet people and I'm getting used to being here," she said.

Samantha Smith of Eagle River came to UAS to study elementary education.

A few months ago she met Juneau resident and fellow UAS freshman Macey Fredenburg. The women's fathers knew each other through church affiliations.

"It's a new adventure. I just thought I'd try something different," Smith said.

"I just fell in love with the scenery and the rainforest environment."

Fredenburg said she chose to stay in Juneau because she is unsure what she wants to study.

"It's a good start," she said.

"I didn't have to move anywhere yet, so that's good."