When it comes to breaks, students like to compare how far they have to travel. Some students drive for half an hour, while others need half a day and multiple stops at gas stations.
For two Cedarville cross country runners, sophomore Jodi Davis and freshman Cheyenne Applegate, home is over 4,000 miles away in Anchorage, Alaska. It takes 60 hours to drive there from Cedarville, and a one-way flight costs over $1,000 and takes 12 hours.
Miles from home
Davis’ entire family lives in Alaska, including all three of her older siblings who have graduated from college and moved back to Alaska. Applegate’s older sister has also graduated from college and moved back to Anchorage.
But tough as it may be to spend holidays and breaks away from family, Davis and Applegate said living in Ohio has helped them mature and gain a better appreciation for their home state.
Davis said she has already learned a lot by living so far away from home.
“In some ways it’s nice,” Davis said. “You’re on your own and it makes you grow and learn how to communicate better.”
Anchorage is four time zones behind Cedarville, which means even calling home needs to be scheduled. Applegate calls home every Sunday night, but she said the calls can be difficult even when scheduled.
“Because of the time difference it’s sometimes 10 or 11 p.m. here before they can talk,” she said. “It almost becomes a chore having to schedule a call in between running and studying for school. It can be frustrating.”
For Davis, the decision to attend Cedarville stemmed from the university’s academic programs and its Christian atmosphere.
“There aren’t any good Christian colleges in Alaska, and I wanted to go to a Christian school,” Davis said.
She said she heard about Cedarville Univeristy through her brother, who is a Cedarville graduate. In the end, only Cedarville had everything she wanted in a school, Davis said.
“The two things I was looking to do were education and nursing, and Cedarville had strong programs in both,” she said. “I also wanted to run track, and I was offered a scholarship in addition to my academic scholarship. The other school I was considering didn’t have track, so I chose Cedarville.”
Applegate said Davis enjoyed her freshman year and was eager to share the college experience with her longtime friend, Applegate.
“She came back and she had liked it,” Applegate said, “so I looked at it and was in a similar situation with the academic and athletic scholarships. I visited and really liked the school, and Coach Bo [Jeff Bolender] was awesome so I thought, ‘Why not go to Ohio?’”
A new climate: ‘A huge shock’
It turns out there are reasons not to go to Ohio. Transitioning to a new climate was the first of many challenges that come with being so far from home, Davis said.
“It’s a huge shock,” she said. “You go from 60s with no humidity to 85 with humidity, and it’s a very big shock to your body.”
Applegate said she will never forget her first workout at Cedarville this past August.
“I did not know how I was going to make it. The first day we did a workout on the bike path in the heat and I was dying. I started seeing dots in front of me,” she said. “But your body adjusts. You have to drink more and get over the mental wall, tell yourself you’re going to be here for a while.”
Winter is also a challenge for Alaskans, which Davis said surprises most people.
Everyone is always like, ‘Doesn’t this feel so warm to you?’ And we’re like, ‘No!’ Just because we’re from Alaska doesn’t mean we have this extra layer of protection against the cold,
Davis said. “Where we live, because there are so many mountains, there isn’t any wind, so when it’s cold it doesn’t feel as cold. It’s a different kind of cold.”
From The Last Frontier to The Buckeye State
It’s not just the weather, though, that separates Alaska from Ohio. Geographically and culturally, Anchorage is a world away from Cedarville.
Anchorage is the biggest city in Alaska, with a population similar to that of Cincinnati. Despite this similarity, Davis said Anchorage doesn’t have a big-city feel to it the way other cities do.
“Driving through Cincinnati or Columbus is like, ‘Whoa, this is so big!’” Davis said. “Everything in Anchorage is spread out. There aren’t many tall buildings, and there’s only one highway that isn’t very big.”
The duo said the track team they ran with in high school would travel several hours for meets and see nothing but mountains and trees along the way. At Cedarville, travel time is rarely more than a couple hours, and many towns are passed along the way.
Without an abundance of movie theaters, sporting events and malls, Alaskans find fun outdoors, Davis said.
“Especially in the summer everyone is always outside hunting, fishing, hiking or camping,” Davis said. “People here think that’s abnormal, but it’s what we grew up with.”
She said one of her family’s favorite outdoor activities is hunting.
“My dad, my brothers and I hunt. It’s not subsistence living, but it’s where we get all of our meat,” she said. “We go out and hunt, and then our freezer is full of moose or caribou. It’s what I grew up eating.”
Applegate said even in the winter Alaskans find ways to get outside.
“We have pretty winters,” Applegate said. “It snows, we go sledding, we go ice skating, we go skiing, we adjust. The mountains are the best part of the winter.”
There’s no place like home
It’s these differences that make both Davis and Applegate want to move back to Alaska after college, Davis said.
“Living somewhere else makes me know for sure I want to go back,” she said. “We’re both nurses, and nurses are really needed in Alaska. There are hospitals that will pay off your loans or give you a signing bonus, but they’re not the best hospitals, so I’ll probably move back and pay off loans and then try to find a different hospital that would be a better place to work.”
Applegate said living in Ohio has only grown her love for her home state.
“I appreciate Alaska a lot more now that I’ve left,” she said. “My end goal is to be a nurse practitioner, so I want to go back, if it’s in God’s plan, and get my master’s and work at a hospital near my house.”
But wherever God takes them, Davis said Alaska will always be special.
“If Alaska was cut in half, Texas would be the third biggest state,” Davis said.
Tyler Greenwood is a junior mechanical engineering major and sports writer for Cedars.