Robyn Byl’s NSE to Alaska

Senior in Agronomy, Robyn Byl is currently part of the National Student Exchange (NSE) program. She is currently studying at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for the spring semester. Robyn is the only Iowa State student at the school in Alaska. She shared that she is taking a normal course load where most of the classes are natural resource-based. The university she is at does not have an agricultural program, so she is not taking any agricultural courses.

A few of her courses are Aquaculture, Ornithology (study of birds), Greenhouse Management, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Glaciers. These courses are diverse from her usual lineup of classes from a semester at Iowa State. An advantage of the NSE program is traveling somewhere new and learning from a new perspective. Of course, she has learned a couple of other things outside of the classroom, such as snowshoeing and cross country skiing. While she was there, she was able to see the start of the Yukon Quest Dog Sled Race. A couple of other activities that she has done that normal Alaska college students participate in are attending hockey games, a northern lights photography class, and viewing ice sculptures at an ice park. Three things on her bucket list for the rest of her semester are visiting the Denali National Park, the ice caves, and the hot springs.

Robyn is originally from NW Iowa, and Alaska is a big change, so of course, the question on everyone’s mind is probably, “Why Alaska?” Robyn shared, “I wanted to go on this trip because I always wanted to travel while in college, but Covid limited a lot of the abroad opportunities. This program offered the chance to travel and study in a new place while dealing with slightly less logistical issues due to being inside the US.” The NSE was a great program for her because studying at a university and having that support system along with housing and a meal plan helped the transition to a new state.

To learn more about the NSE Program, visit their website at:

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