One of the funniest and most interesting things I’ve experienced in these first few weeks of being here at the University of Oklahoma is the small thrill people seem to experience, and the small burst of pride I experience in exchange, when I tell them I was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. Of course, not everyone is surprised when they hear this, but the general trend is one of awe. This distinct mystery of Alaska, it’s separation from the rest of the continental United States both physically and culturally, is a double-edged sword. On one hand, Alaskans are proud of being different, but in the other hand, the isolation from the Lower 48 can be hindering. Alaskans often pride themselves in being so far removed form the rest of the US, and as such often limit conversations to “our own thing.” However, I have had the privilege of being exposed to many different stories by default, because Alaska itself is a melting pot of diversity. The Anchorage School District, which I attended all the way through grade school, has three high schools that are statistically ranked as the most diverse high schools in the entire United States (East is ranked number one, Bartlett is ranked number two, and West, where I went to school, ranks number three). In our own way, without even meaning to, we participated in rich cultural exchange, even if we weren’t necessarily exchanging culture with others in the US. Coming here, I have met so many different people that have concerns and passions that are very different to what I’m used to back home. While I wouldn’t necessarily say that Alaska held me back from experiencing stories, because I was exposed to many different perspectives, I will say that I’m excited to get outside of my comfort zone and expose myself to even more new stories every day. For me, I don’t feel limited in my exposure to international cultures and perspectives, but I feel limited in my exposure to my fellow Americans, and I’m excited to explore this new range of stories. As far as on the more national level, I do believe that the United States is portrayed in many different ways to many different countries, much of which is due to mass media. Some see the US as a land of endless opportunity and power, while others see us as bumbling idiots who live in constant excess, neither of which is a fair generalization. Which is why I’m committed to learning as much as I can about all different kinds of countries, and in the event that I have the opportunity to visit them, to represent my country well and engage in interesting conversations with all kinds of people.