In the spring 2014, I started at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS). UNIS is the world’s northernmost institution for higher education and research, located in Longyearbyen. It was going to be a new semester, with new people from all over the world and new Arctic challenges.
I’m an Arctic Technology student, from Danish Technical University (DTU). During my education I have been studying in both Greenland and Denmark, but to get another wider perspective on the arctic challenges I chose to go to Svalbard. I know several people that have been studying at UNIS, and they all recommended it, so I applied for Rock Mechanics and Frozen Ground Engineering, beginning in the spring 2014.
I landed in Longyearbyen January 8, in the cold and dark polar night, a bit anxious and excited for what to come. When driving through the city, I was looking out the windows of the bus, and the only thing I saw, was the streetlights and reflections in the snow. It should be a month before the twilight revealed the city and mountains.
Students and professors at UNIS came from many different places. My class mates consisted of people from Norway, Germany, Russia, Canada and USA and we had professors from China and Russia. Some friends from UNIS even came from as far away as Australia. Now I can truly say that I have contacts from all over the world. The primary used language at UNIS is English, and through the daily life, lectures and assignments my spoken and written English has improved a lot, and I am now more confident when using it. As well as for the English language, my understanding of Norwegian improved dramatically.
Working with people from so many different places has given me experience. Students from different countries have different cultures and different expertise, and it is vital to understand and make use of these different expertises. Also working together with people from different parts of the Arctic region (Norway, Russia and Canada), has given another perspective and new inputs for the challenges that arise in Greenland, whether it´s permafrost foundation, harbor construction or oil exploration.
When studying the Arctic in an Arctic environment, it's obvious to use the location in the fieldwork. And just out the door we made snow investigations and core drillings for investigating purposes. A field trip to the coal mine Svea was also made, so that we could make use of our theoretical knowledge in a practical way for the Semester project.
The professors who taught “Rock Mechanics” inspired me to work in that direction. When I start my bachelor thesis after this summer, I intend to write about hydropower plants and the Arctic challenges concerning construction and maintenance. Hydropower is a reliable energy supply in the Arctic regions, which can decrease the reliance on fossil fuels in these remote areas.
The greatest thing about studying abroad was getting new friends from all over the world, and the possibility of someday seeing them again and possibly be working together in another part of the Arctic.
I was at Svalbard from the January 8 to June 4, and it was a great semester with a lot of new friends, challenges and knowledge.