By Fanny Månsson
Svalbard is a group of islands far out in the ocean between Norway and the north pole. In Longyearbyen, 78° north, the worlds northernmost university center UNIS is located. That is where I did my exchange studies in arctic marine biology spring 2022. To study here is very special. All courses include a lot of fieldwork where you get to be outside and discover the area by snow scooter or boats. There are only 200 students and about 20 people in each course, which allows you to have a personal relationship with your teachers. Students live together in two buildings 500 meters from UNIS. Everyone is on exchange and up to get to know you. Somewhere in the student buildings, there is always a party (do not worry, walls are very soundproof). You can always borrow anything you need, and people are always up for adventures.
The caring environment in Longyearbyen sometimes makes you forget how far from any other civilization you are. But when you do the 3 hour hike up to Nordenskioldtoppen, the highest peak in Longyearbyen 1200 m above sea level, you come to realization. Wherever you turn, you are surrounded by endless mountain peaks and ocean. You see no buildings. No trees. Hear no sounds except the wind. You are alone above the clouds under the midnight sun or the northern lights in the polar night. The beauty up there makes you never want to go down.
In the spring, the possibilities are endless. It is midnight sun and snow. You can do hikes, glacier walks, skiing, snow scooter trips and visit a lot of ice caves. However, you must be careful and know how to handle the extreme environment. Temperatures can drop to -40 degrees. You must have a rifle to walk outside town for polar bear protection. But do not worry, UNIS will teach you arctic survival and safety, including polar bear protection. It is very extreme and not for everyone. But if you love outdoor adventures, or to do knitting and baking and some hikes now and then, this is the place for you. Svalbard is the best place I have ever been, I am now a permanent resident and live here full time. Hope to see you around!