It ain’t long island … Anchorage away

Forget the first 10 people you met at GW – not everyone is from Long Island. Or New Jersey, for that matter. Or even Pennsylvania. Though many times you may hear students asking one another “Nassau or Suffolk County?” GW really does attract students from interesting locales all over the country and the globe. Meet Emma Aronson.

Freshman Emma Aronson says her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, isn’t terribly unlike the suburbs in the 48 mainland states. There are just a few, big differences.

For starters, the city wildlife in Anchorage includes a little more than pigeons and squirrels.

“In Alaska, there are moose everywhere – 8-feet-tall moose. They’ll come into your back yard and eat your plants.” Bears also wander into the area from the nearby mountains and will occasionally make short visits into the city. “They’re gone in five minutes,” Aronson said.

Though many people may imagine all of Alaska to be a remote, frigid tundra landscape dotted with igloos, Anchorage is the biggest city in the state and the trek to Seattle is only three hours. And the weather? It’s not nearly as bad as it’s made out to be, Aronson said.

“It doesn’t even get that cold. It gets down to maybe zero in winter,” Aronson said. “It’s a dry cold. And in the summer, it’s hot.” D.C. winters typically see lows in the 20s, according to www.weather.com. The Web site also lists Anchorage’s average high temperature as 65 degrees in July, Alaska’s hottest month.

So how does Aronson feel about D.C. weather?

“I’m sick of the heat and humidity,” she said. “I’m ready for winter.”

Aronson’s family travels to the continental United States five or six times a year. Her family ended up settling in Alaska after her mom took a vacation to the state and decided to stay.

Maybe it was two well-known elements of Alaskan culture – Eskimos and dog sledding – that attracted her to the state.

“There is a very strong native culture,” she said. “But most native groups live in villages thousands of miles from the city.”

Dog sledding, particularly the renowned annual race called the Iditarod, is very important to Alaskan culture.

“It’s a big deal,” Aronson said.

Being from Alaska has its perks. Aronson is looking forward to a permanent fund dividend check for $847 from the Alaskan state government on Wednesday. “When they found oil in Alaska and started selling it, they put all of the money into a savings account and the citizens get the interest. Every single person gets money once a year.”

Being one of only a handful of Alaskan students at GW, Aronson is certainly unique. And she’s annually $847 richer for it.

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