I showed up for the Spring 2008 semester at the University Centre in Svalbard in January, not realizing I wouldn’t see the sun return until early March. Coming from my home University of Alaska Fairbanks, I thought it would be somewhat similar climate wise, but wanted to adventure away from my home and travel outside my comfort zone culturally.
I had heard about Svalbard from a Norwegian friend at UAF. I immediately jumped at the opportunity when I saw the north2north application, without thinking about the consequences that I might actually be accepted! I am so happy I was. My first semester was filled with astonishment at the nakedness of the landscape and the hardiness of its travelers. I found the curriculum challenging and exciting. With only two classes per semester, we studied topics thoroughly and participated in exciting field excursions around the archipelago that gave hands on learning and practical field experience.
After one semester I was eager to continue living in Longyearbyen for the remainder of the year. I was accepted for the fall semester after inquiring and was so grateful for the opportunity. It seemed there was so much more to experience, such as watching the sun once again leave the land and meeting a new group of students that would have the same enthusiasm I had when I arrived. It was a great experience being able to share how things worked in our tiny community with the new students.
Besides learning a great deal about geology that year, I learned that it really doesn’t hurt to ask for things that you want; that’s how I was able to stay for a second term. Also, that you can get renewed enjoyment in things that may start to seem mundane to you by sharing with people who are unfamiliar with it.
Currently, I work as an underground production geologist at Pogo Mine in interior Alaska. Everyday we open up new ground and to me, it feels special to be somewhere where not many people have travelled to. Similarly on my time away from work, I continue traveling and exploring new parts of Alaska and the world. My time on my north2north exchange gave me confidence to travel to other regions of the world, knowing that all people like to feel connected to one another as we did at UNIS.