From OK to AK: Biking for Study Abroad

For most college students, the summer is a welcome break from the stress of classes and tests when there is finally a chance to relax. Not so for Curtis Moss. The Oklahoma State junior spent his summer biking from Stillwater, Oklahoma to Anchorange, Alaska. This 4,000 mile trek was more than a physical challenge: before embarking, Moss raised money to promote study abroad both domestically and internationally. We had a chance to talk to him after his trip and hear about the ups and downs of his incredible journey north.

Curtis began by telling us about the causes that his ride supported: a scholarship fund for study abroad at his university and the National Student Exchange program that allows students to study at other American universities. Moss is a dedicated advocate for travel and adventure whose own experiences abroad range from a European vacation to service in Iraq. His time in Iraq turned out to be an incredible cultural learning experience that stood out from the rest of his travels.

“In Iraq everything was really different- you have to brush yourself up on what’s different and what’s not. You have to be prepared culturally…. It goes both ways. You have to be aware that they might say something and not mean to offend, and you have to be careful of how you say things too. It was just a new set of customs.” Apparently the customs weren’t the only thing that seemed new- Curtis admitted that the strangest thing he’d ever eaten was in Iraq.  “I had a couple of Iraqi friends and their Mom cooked for me one time…it was weird but really good.”
Curtis’ time in the Middle East also influenced his personal philosophy on travel. “I would say that seeing other parts of the world is really important- once you see them it makes everything more real, rather than just seeing news or reading about it. It connects everything more.”
This theme of an interconnected world can be traced back for his passion for geography, his major at OSU. He explained his fascination when describing the most beautiful place he’s ever seen: the Canadian Rockies. With his extensive knowledge of geography, he noticed how the mountains there have a unique shape since they are still experiencing glaciation.  “I like seeing the interconnectedness of things, to think that those mountains are part of the same mountain range near New Mexico where I lived but still look so different. It’s nice to think that a lot of things in the world are connected in some way or another,” he explained.
Despite the fantastic scenery that Curtis encountered in places like Canada’s Jasper National Park, the trip was hardly pleasant. “Living in a tent for 2 months with rain every other day is hard. I got to Yellowstone and it started raining. Just a lot of rain. That was frustrating and I hated it. I couldn’t appreciate the scenery as much. The last 4 days when I was in Alaska I was determined to get to Anchorage and relax, and not have to worry about anything.” Moss rode three hundred and fifty miles in those last four days, pushing through rainstorms so relentless that the mileage tracker on his bike broke. He finally arrived in Anchorage, exhausted and battered.
Curtis’ journey had taken him through forests, across miles of steep Canadian hills, and into Wyoming wind so strong that he had to pedal downhill. Curtis’ grueling ride not only challenged him physically and mentally- his fundraising will help other students’ dreams of travel become a reality. His tale is both impressive and inspirational, proving that the dedication of one person can help share the lessons and values of travel with fellow students.