Call of the Wild
When you look at Chloe Akers, you’d never guess she was the adventurous type, but at 18, the petite blonde from the East Coast decided out of the eight colleges she applied to, the farthest, most northern university, away from her friends and family—UAA—was most appealing.
“People always asked me, ‘Why are you going to Alaska, it’s the furthest away and so cold,’ and my reply was always I can’t stand the heat,” Chloe says laughing, explaining she didn’t enjoy the hot sticky North Carolina and Washington D.C. summers she grew up with. “I don’t like when it’s 100 degrees out and 90 percent humidity—I just can’t do it, but Alaska just spoke to me and offered the best experience.”
Chloe first heard the “call of the wild” in 2005 when she visited Alaska with her dad on a multisport vacation tour of the state. She was bit hard by the Alaska bug. Fast forward to 2010, Chloe’s senior year of high school. Despite her parent’s reluctance, she applied to UAA, rekindling her love for the 49th state and sealed her fate—as far as attending college was concerned.
“Being in Alaska was different, my first winter was rough,” Chloe recalls, saying she bought herself a “happy light” to compensate the minimal daylight hours. She didn’t realize transitioning away from home would be so hard. “Being able to get out and do things and to meet people helped a lot.”
The cold weather and long winter days weren’t the only things she had to get used to. Alaska’s unique culture, especially hunting, was something she’d never experienced.
“My first week I moved up here my boyfriend and his Dad had gone on a hunting trip and there were moose legs hanging from the rafters in the garage,” she says, laughing at how shocked she was. But after three years living in Alaska, these things have become the norm.
Double the fun
Once Chloe got over the initial culture shock of moving to Alaska, she dove into her studies. For the first time in her academic life she was passionate, inspired and excited to learn. She never enjoyed school and had done the minimum to get by in high school, but UAA opened her eyes to a world of possibilities for a life she could mold and shape as her own.
“I’ve been waiting all my life to love school,” Chloe exclaims. “And here it is!”
For the past three years, Chloe’s been studying in UAA’s Department of Theatre and Dance and the Japanese program. She recently extended her studies a year-and-a-half beyond her original graduation date so she could double major in both. It’s an odd pairing, she admits, but when she explains why she’s passionate about both, it makes sense that her love of language and theater intersect with her creativity.
“Theater is the one thing that’s always stuck out to me and that I could see myself doing—because I can’t see myself sitting at a desk—I’m too antsy for that,” she says. “It’s just where I felt the most comfortable and the most accepted.” As for the Japanese, she had originally studied French, but something about the exotic language called to her in a way the romance language couldn’t.
“The language is so beautiful and melodic, the way it looks when it’s written and spoken that just has this rhythm and flows,” says Chloe smiling. “It’s so different from English and French or any other language that I’ve tried to study.”
Chloe loves her classes at UAA, her peers, professors and performances on stage; she’s taking full advantage of what the university offers. She’s active in both the Theatre and Dance and Japanese departments, participating in plays, as well as having had the honor of being master of ceremonies at the annual Japanese Speech Competition the last two years. For Chloe, her academic career has been more successful than she ever thought possible.
“I’ve consistently had a GPA over 3.5 and I’ve never succeeded that much in school before,” says Chloe. “That’s something I’m really proud of and I’m actually enjoying school. Enjoying what you’re doing makes all the difference.”
The Snowy Owl
To add to her already busy schedule, in 2011 Chloe started her own business, something she never saw herself doing, but it has been an eye-opening experience for her. She sells her hand-sewn earrings at the Saturday Market and on her Etsy shop, The Snowy Owl.
“It’s been an interesting ride, because I’m the only who’s making all the stuff and I hand sew everything,” says Chloe. “But that kind of just sprouted from something that I was doing in my dorm.”
She was hanging out with one of her cast mates crafting and sewed a tiny pair of booties resembling Mukluks, she asked her friend what she thought. Her friend loved them and encouraged her to pursue her sewing and Chloe decided to take a stab at running her own business. She consulted her parents who fronted her some of the start-up costs and she was in business.
“It kind of just went from there, I got my business license in 2011 and all of my products are certified ‘Made in Alaska,’” says Chloe. “Being able to do all this work by hand, advertise and sell it at the market has been an eye opening experience.”
Her Saturday Market wares reflect her eclectic style and she says her taste in clothing is not inspired by mainstream fashion. She creates her wardrobe based on what she loves and applies that same philosophy to what she creates to sell.
“I guess I just took this eccentric style of mine and turned it into something I can create and use,” says Chloe. “If I won’t wear it or I won’t buy it, I won’t sell it—that’s my personal policy.” Dangling from her ears are two large fur pom-poms. She laughs and says her dad helped her create the funky earrings.
Juggling school and running her own business has been challenging, but she’s managed to merge the two. The way Chloe sees it, school is her full time job and top priority—the business is an extra-curricular activity that has real-world deadlines come summer, when she needs inventory for her booth at the market. Luckily, her parents are supportive of her business endeavor and help her tackle the financial logistics, which helps her focus on the creation and advertising aspect.
“I’m still struggling to break even from my original start-up costs two years ago,” says Chloe, explaining the going hasn’t been easy. “Last summer I think the most I ever made over rental cost was probably $70, and that goes straight to raw material.”
Chloe says she doesn’t know if she’ll continue with The Snowy Owl, but for now she enjoys using her business as a creative outlet in her fast-paced life. Even if she doesn’t continue with the Saturday Market she thinks she’ll continue to supply her Etsy shop online when she has the time.
Finding her niche
Chloe’s not sure what’s ahead or whether she’ll stay in Alaska, but one thing she does know for certain: UAA changed her life and perspective on school and education. From her theatre arts and Japanese classes to The Snowy Owl, Chloe has found her niche in Alaska and discovered that this northern university offered her more than she ever expected.
“I was always afraid I wouldn’t enjoy school,” Chloe says. “UAA has basically made it so I enjoy school. My first year here could not have been better. I don’t have the right words to express how perfect it was.”