My Journey in Alaska: Its Beauty and Natural, Breathtaking Landscapes

Clara S. Muchunguzi is a 2023 Fellow in the Professional Fellows Program on Inclusive Civic Engagement. This program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is administered by the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at the University of Massachusetts Boston in partnership with Humanity and Inclusion (HI). The following blog post was written by guest author Clara S. Muchunguzi.

This long-awaited journey started on May 3, 2023 when I landed in Boston and received a warm welcome from Heike and Christa, our very own PFP team leads who have been very supportive and made sure this was a dream-come-true trip. May 4 was a brand-new day, and, despite the jetlag, I got an opportunity to wander around Boston. I visited the very old, legendary, and iconic university of ancient times — Harvard University, which is still rocking and a dreamed university of many, including myself. It was mesmerizing to learn the fairytale of John Harvard’s monument: that when you touch his foot, it brings good luck. I had to try mine. Who knows? I may get my PhD there, or my son, Jayden, may go to school there, so fingers crossed. It was so enticing, and I wish I had more days in Boston.

When I learned that I was going to Alaska, I had so many questions. I had barely heard of Alaska, and I had so many thoughts about what I would see there. Surprisingly, I had a wonderful four weeks of exploring, learning, and fantasizing in Anchorage, Alaska. Seeing the natural beauty of Alaska and its breathtaking landscapes brought some dazzling feelings. I am grateful for my host, Jessica Harvill, who welcomed me to her beautiful home and took me to view the beauty of the well-arranged Chugach Mountains of Alaska that were decorated with snow. I met noble people from the University of Alaska Center for Human Development and connected with brethren from different organizations. I learned their ways of life and the work they do in bringing meaning to life and to people that need special attention.

A white and an African woman sit at a table doing crafts

Clara (left) wood polishing materials to be used in artwork design at Hope Studio, an organization that works with people with disability.

Wildlife Encounter at the Alaska Zoo

I was mesmerized by the renowned, diverse wildlife I encountered at the Alaska Zoo, a lifesaving place for orphaned and injured wildlife animals with its own unique history. I had unforgettable moments at the zoo as I witnessed moose and the majestic moves of the giant bears in their different colors — black, brown, and white. I had such a pleasant feeling seeing the bald eagles — magnificent birds, well-known scavengers, and predators, crafted in unique color in their heads and tails — so admired for their beauty. The eagles are found in Alaska more than any other part of America and carry a spiritual symbol for the Alaskan natives that makes them very special.

An African woman stands by displays at a zoo

Clara stands outside the big cat exhibit at the Alaska Zoo

Cultural Immersion

I have learned many good things about the Alaskan indigenous heritage. I visited the Alaskan Native Heritage Center and learned about Alaskan cultures, architecture, traditional lands and languages, and creative arts, ranging from carving, basket weaving, and sewing to silver smiting. Amazing works represent Alaskan natives, including the underground houses they used to stay in and the equipment they used for hunting and fishing. I got to know the five native tribes: Athabascans, Inupiaqs, Yupiks, Aleuts, and the Northwest Coast Indians. I was so thrilled with my visit to Alaska, and I will definitely visit Alaska again and again.

An African woman stands by a totem pole

Clara at the Alaskan Native Heritage Center, standing beside a totem for one of the Alaskan Native society