The Aurora, the Night Shift, and Moose: Hsinying's Summer in Alaska

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Work Exchanges

Work Exchanges

By Hsingying Wu, CIEE Work & Travel USA participant from Taiwan

Alaska is extremely beautiful. A place you need to come to at least once in a lifetime.

I'm a prep cook at McKinley Chalet resort. I do much of the preparation for the dishes that are served. This includes chopping vegetables, grinding meat, weighing and mixing ingredients, preparing vegetables, storing food, and more. My favorite thing is mixing ingredients. It's kind of like an experiment. I need to measure seasoning and follow the instruction on the recipes precisely. I cook many foods different from Taiwan. It's very interesting for me.

But doing the routine and day-to-day tasks are challenging. It's easy to get tired of it. I started to challenge myself to cut vegetables or form patties faster, to talk to coworker to know their country or life better, to make some lovely cards for coworkers to make their day beautiful. It did work. It made my days more fun!

The best part about living in Alaska is that I'm embraced by Mother Nature. The view is remarkable! All the trees start to turn yellow and red in September.

In addition to this, you can see a lot of wilderness in Alaska. I saw a couple moose on the way to work. They were just on the side of road. I also saw many caribous, grizzly bears, marmots, rabbits, squirrels and so forth in Denali National Park and Preserve.

The very best part of Alaska is the aurora! I work the PM shift so I get off work around 1 AM, which is the best time to see the northern lights. I can't forget the first time I saw them. I walked out of the kitchen ready to take a shuttle to go home. I looked up sky and there was some brightness at the sky. I thought it was the galaxy but all of a sudden lights started to dance. I realized it was the aurora at that moment.

I couldn't believe such a beautiful and amazing thing was actually happening above my head! I was speechless. I stood on the ground to enjoy this gift the universe gave to me. It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget.

This photo was taken on the way to the Triple Lakes of Denali National Park and Preserve. Triple Lakes Trail is the longest trail in Denali. It could take about 5 hours for one way. I hiked a lot when I was in Taiwan. Therefore, I challenged myself to complete the round trip in 5 hours. It was an impressive trail to me. It was not because it's tough. It's because not so many people go to this trail so there were a lot of animals on the way. I saw many different tracks from moose, sheep, birds and so on.

I took this picture at one of the beautiful spots on the mountain. I stood on the rock and enjoyed the astonishing view of Alaska. It was totally breathtaking. My favorite part of this picture is that my backpack has Taiwan's flag that I stitched on it. It reminds me that I'm not just representing myself but also my country. I'm an independent, strong, gentle, kind, thoughtful, loving woman. So is my homeland. A fantastic Taiwanese woman was brought up by an amazing Taiwan.

To be a participant in the Work & Travel USA program was the perfect chance to improve myself in many ways. I became a more independent, positive and loving woman. This characteristic will help me a lot as I'm a nurse. It can help me to solve problems on my own, keep faith when things don’t go the way I want, care and empathize with my patients. It has been an amazing experience that will affect all my lifetime. 

I'm happy I can share my story and photo with everyone. I know there is power in letters and images. They can make people cheerful, excited, joyous, even want to achieve their dreams too! That's exactly what I want to do: help people live the life they really desire.

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