Photos courtesy of Anthony Urbi.
Along with the Santa house tourist attraction, there are also two or three reindeer that occupy the same town as Urbi, who lives in North Pole, Alaska.
“People look at my license when I go out and stuff like that and they’re like, ‘Oh, North Pole? This is fake,’” he said.
Despite seeming improbable, there are a number of tourists every summer that can reinforce the existence of Urbi’s hometown, along with another student at SC, North Pole resident and junior Cheyenne Reynolds, who also happened to attend the same high school as Urbi.
Urbi’s journey to Alden Street was conceived when he began searching for colleges on the East Coast that offered a strong athletic training program and a solid football team that he could transfer to from his first college, Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash.
With his three criteria in mind, Urbi narrowed down his options to Springfield College, Ithaca College and SUNY Cortland. He said that Ithaca was a little too expensive, which knocked them out of the running early on. With only Cortland and SC left, he had to weigh his pros and cons, ultimately going with SC despite never visiting any of his options in person.
“What got me was the new facilities and the athletic training program here,” Urbi said.
“Everyone who I talked to said the athletic program is really good here.”
Urbi has not been disappointed with his choice to major in athletic training.
“I really do believe it’s one of the best programs in the nation. We do get a lot of hands-on opportunities. The teachers are great. All of my professors are awesome,” Urbi said. “We do clinical rotations on campus, we do them at other high schools [and] at other colleges, which is a great opportunity for you to grow as an athletic trainer.”
During his three-year stint at SC, the Ben Eielson High School graduate has worked with three different teams on clinical rotations. He began with the SC men’s and women’s gymnastics teams, then served at Williston Northampton High School, and is currently assisting the SC women’s basketball team.
In addition to serving as an athletic trainer, the approximately 5’8” linebacker turned wide receiver has served as a reliable back up and special teams player for the football team.
Like Santa riding in on a sleigh, Urbi decided to fly from North Pole to Bradley International Airport (Hartford, Conn.) the first time he came to SC for the start of the 2009 spring semester. After taking a taxi to Alden Street, Urbi was thrust into a whole new world, one that he had only previously witnessed in photos.
“It was during the Hoophall [Classic], so in all that craziness, I got checked in, and it was really an eye-opener,” Urbi said. “It was exciting, but it was also nerve-wracking because there’s so many unknowns.”
SC was nothing like the suburban area setting he had pictured based off the small selection of photos he had scoured through on the school’s website. Instead, he found himself in a completely new environment.
“You know how a lot of people relate to their lives as a journey, a path and stuff like that?” Urbi said. “I kind of looked at it the same way, but my path was complete darkness. I was walking in the dark, I had no clue what was out here [and] I knew nobody.”
With no family in the area, Urbi was completely on his own, but he said that he adjusted to life on campus quickly. Upon his arrival, people he met initially bombarded him with questions about life in Alaska.
“Do I live in an igloo, do I see penguins?” Urbi recalls of some of the more common questions he has been asked. “Penguins was the big question.”
Although he does not live in an igloo and he has not seen any penguins, Urbi’s experiences in western Massachusetts and Alaska have given him a unique perspective on the differences in life between the last frontier and the East Coast.
For starters, the weather in Alaska is very different from anywhere on the East Coast. At the height of winter in Alaska, Urbi said that it is dark for 20 to 21 hours straight, while in the summer the sun is out for the majority of the day. Alaska also features a dry cold without much wind, while SC students can attest to the bone-chilling wind that blasts campus. When it comes to pure cold, however, Urbi’s time in Alaska has proven to be much more extreme.
“The coldest weather I ever felt was -60 [degrees] because that’s the only time they would close down the schools or [if] the roads are too icy for the buses,” Urbi said.
When preparing to return for his second semester at SC in the fall of 2009, Urbi decided that he needed a car on campus to properly function, since he was not within walking distance of stores.
Urbi made brief stops in Seattle, Boise, Nebraska and North Dakota on his winding, month-long voyage back to school.
“It was pretty cool. The scary part was driving from Alaska to Seattle because I had to go through Canada and some of the roads aren’t paved, and there’d be times when I didn’t see a car for an hour,” Urbi said.
Not seeing a car would become a bigger factor than Urbi realized when he ran out of gas a couple of hours out of Wild Horse, Alberta. He discerned that he was a couple of miles away from the closest town, so he walked there at 11 p.m. (with the sun still out in Canada), but when he arrived at the local gas station, it was closed.
“I ended up going back to my car, sleeping in my car, waking up in the morning and going to get gas that following morning,” Urbi said.
After this initial hiccup, Urbi settled in for a less-stressful trip before returning to Alden Street. Urbi has two semesters remaining despite being only a junior in his major because of the credits he transferred in with. If all goes according to plan, he will graduate at the end of the fall 2012 semester.
As for plans after graduation, Urbi has nothing set, although his adventurous side has sparked an interest in backpacking across Europe while working odd jobs. Graduate school somewhere on the West Coast is also a possibility for the family-oriented Alaskan, who would prefer to be closer to home.
No matter what he chooses, his path is no longer shrouded in complete darkness, but instead, open to a multitude of possibilities.
Joe Brown may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org