I am an Inuk from the northernmost town in Greenland, Qaanaaq which is on the 77th latitude in the Arctic, one of the world´s northernmost towns. The town I grew up in is very isolated and very hard to travel to and from, so for me travelling has been, when growing up, something that is very far away, something that you just dream about. Even travelling just to the Capital of Greenland, Nuuk, was just a dream to many classmates.
Through education my world started to expand, first gymnasium in Aasiaat, in Central Greenland which is 1400 km further south from Qaanaaq, and then further 600 km to take university in Nuuk.
Since then I have taken 1 year of voluntary work in Germany, internship at Danish Parliament, 1 semester in University of Alaska Fairbanks and 1 semester in the University of Akureyri, Iceland. I have also taken summer schools in Vilnius, Lithuania and Columbia University, New York and been participating in Inuit Circumpolar Councils Capacity building course for Inuit and Saami youth, which was a 3 year project to learn about indigenous rights and Arctic policies. During the course, I had the opportunity to participate in Arctic Council SDWG and SAO meetings, United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York and Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva, Switzerland.
UArctic’s north2north mobility program gave me opportunity to reconnect with brothers and sisters across the Arctic. We Inuit live in four different states and do not have much connection with each other in everyday life. It has been a dream to visit other Inuit homelands and other indigenous peoples since I was a child, so I am very grateful to UArctic’s exchange program.
Saying that, I also have to say, that it hurts to know that many of my friends today have no education background, no secured jobs and insecure future. What we lose as a community is jobs, better freedom in life, opportunities for better life, knowledge who can lift up the communities, people who can help to develop, more sustainability and so on.
ICC was holding an education summit last year in Nuuk, and the numbers show that only 40% goes further with education. That number is even higher for the remote communities, like in my hometown, where I was the only one from my class at primary school who went further to gymnasium and to a university degree. It is not the young people who are failing in education, but the education system failing the students, as I have heard someone saying at the UArctic Congress. I think that statement is very true in Greenland as well.
Our education minister on that time was saying that we earlier have been looking south when trying to find better practices for how to get better education system, but we should start looking for east and west to other Arctic nations to find better suitable systems for the Arctic. Moreover, I think UArctic is a good way to do that.
What surprised me when I took one semester in University of Alaska Fairbanks is, in the program I was taking all of my professors except one, were natives. Here in Greenland where I come from, I’ve had only 1 native Greenlandic professor in my whole university education, even though compared to other indigenous homelands we are the majority in our own country. This gave me opportunity to actually have the insight and perspective from an indigenous academically, which I think is most important to know as an Arctic Indigenous citizen and social science student where the most important thing is to look at things from different views. So my semester in Fairbanks did not only made me grow personally but also academically.
Another thing that surprised me was I think it was so cool that they even have Indigenous leadership program for the native students. If I may give one critique to my own university it is that we maybe have very westernized way to teach and learn, even though the majority is native Greenlanders today. The way we can change it, is to be more inclusive and that the students go abroad and learn how other universities do and be part of changing it to the better.
I hope more students will take the opportunities that are open out there, even if afraid to go – just go, you’ll learn every day during the trip. If the language skills are what is stopping you, remember you will never learn if you do not try. My native tongue is Inuktun, the smallest language group in Greenland, which is so dissimilar to the most spoken dialect in Greenland that just very few outside my hometown can understand my language. Today through education and exchange, I have learned Kalaallisut, Danish, English, German, Iñupiaq and Icelandic. And even though I am not perfect in any of the learned languages, I still try and that is why I am here today because I try, and I keep trying.
Today I am about to be finished with my MA thesis spring 2019 and already started working for my dream job at Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) an Indigenous NGO, which are also Permanent Participants at Arctic Council and hope to work here for really long time, maybe even for life.