Student to travel to Alaska, appear in TV show

By Katherine Klingseis,

David Hagopian will soon embark on a mysterious Alaskan adventure. He doesn’t entirely know what he’ll be doing or exactly where he will be, but he does know one thing — it will all be televised.

Hagopian, junior in environmental science, has been cast to be on a reality show that will air on the National Geographic Channel in the near future. Hagopian said that the show will be called “The Alaskan Gold Challenge,” and it will involve him and his castmates using tools from the 1800s to dig for gold.

“This show is basically to relive the life of an old prospector with limited technology, and be able to do what they did back then in the 1850s [and] 1860s,” he said.

The show will take place somewhere near Fairbanks, Alaska, but Hagopian does not know the exact location. He does, however, know some of information about Fairbanks.

“Fairbanks … is basically just a glacial area — lots of movement,” he said. “That’s what actually moves and brings up gold.”

Hagopian also does not know what he will be doing while on the show. He said that all he knows is that the experience will last for one month, and the producers will provide his food, water and shelter. He said that he will have to pack anything else himself.

“I have to bring my own bedding and some basic tools, clothing of course — basically all that necessity stuff — and be able to carry it on my back,” he said. “So, I have to pack light, pack smart.”

Hagopian is actually excited by the fact that the whole experience is shrouded in mystery. He also said that before learning about his casting he had been hoping to take a trip to Alaska.

“I’ve always wanted to be in Alaska. Actually, this summer, I was hoping to go just as a personal vacation,” he said. “And this is actually a really cool way to go on vacation.”

Hagopian said that he is excited to spend time camping and enjoying the Alaskan wilderness. Growing up near a lake in Michigan, Hagopian spent a lot of his childhood outdoors. His childhood experiences led him to his field of study.

“I just figured, I might as well do some sort of work that will help or conserve [the environment],” he said. “But at the same time, I also believe that people should be able to have businesses, so I think I can see myself being kind of the in-between person.”

Hagopian said that he is interested in environmental consulting, but is currently focusing on the more scientific aspect of his major.

“Earlier, I was thinking about getting into environmental law, but right now, at this stage, I’m looking at the actual science behind it, so I’ll know what I’m doing,” he said.

Hagopian is not the only person in his family who is interested in the environment. His brother is majoring in geological engineering and mining at Michigan Tech.

Because he and his brother will be in related career fields, Hagopian believes that their paths will cross in the future. However, the two will be doing very different jobs.

“He’ll be getting paid to mine it and I’ll be getting paid to clean it up,” he said.

Hagopian said that his brother is the reason he was cast on the “The Alaskan Gold Challenge.” He explained that his brother received an email from his advisers stating that National Geographic was casting for a new show.

The email said that, in order to be cast, all entrants must send in a video submission. At the time, Hagopian and his brother were mining for a specific mineral together in Michigan. Toward the end of their mining expedition, the two brothers began to find the mineral they sought.

“Basically that was our submission,” he said. “We said, ‘Ever since we were young, we would always pick up cool-looking rocks, and now it’s us actually looking for stuff with value.”

The brothers sent their video submission to the producers the first week of July, Hagopian said. On July 22, they received a response.

“When I first saw the word ‘congratulations’ from the woman, I was like, ‘Yes!’ I was just yelling like crazy in my room,” he said.

After receiving the email, Hagopian called his brother to see if he received a similar message. He found out that he had.

“Lately, my brother and I have been sending a couple texts back and forth saying ‘We’re going to Alaska!'” Hagopian said. “I think it’s going to be cool to be with my brother for a month. ”

Hagopian does not fear embarrassing himself on national television. He said that he and his brother both have a “don’t-care attitude.” He also explained that he does not plan to use his experience on the show to become a reality TV star.

“I’m not big on making myself all popular, or whatever,” he said. “But it would be cool, or at least I would be honored, if I would get asked to do some sort of show related to being outside.”

Hagopian and his brother will leave for Alaska on Monday, and they will be there until Sept. 3. National Geographic has yet to announce when the show will air.

Representatives of the National Geographic Channel could not be reached for comment.

(Posted originally on on Aug. 1, 2011)

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