It is becoming more and more exciting to be a citizen of the Arctic. It is clear that the world's attention is moving north, and thus many Arctic conferences are being held each year. Economic, social and cultural activities are blooming.
Both the current understanding and perceptions of the Arctic are very different from when I was a child in one of the northernmost cities in Greenland, Uummannaq. At that time, the Arctic was only seen as a cold and isolated region that was difficult to live in. But today, I enjoy watching the Arctic evolving into an innovative and creative network of societies. We emphasize cooperation between Arctic nations while at the same time seeking our own terms and values. This critical and innovative period is very important, because just a few years ago, we were only focusing on how to westernize the Arctic enough to enjoy the global market. The roles are shifting now due to climate change. Today, western countries are seeking a place in the North in order to be part of the development and creation of our new Arctic identity.
I have decided to take part in the growth of the Arctic. However, this means that I have had to go abroad in order to access Arctic scholars and research opportunities about my country and the Arctic region. UArctic has opened up many doors for me, and I greatly appreciate it. Currently I am studying at Nord University in Bodø, Norway. I have also taken courses in different universities through exchanges, summer schools and e-learning, and attended several conferences in the Arctic.
At the moment, my country is not focusing on the Arctic issues and its own position in this exciting region. If you look at the world map, you will see a giant white island called Greenland which, in fact, symbolizes the Arctic more than other Arctic countries. We have icebergs, polar bears, arctic foxes, northern lights, the giant ice cap and so on – everything that symbolizes the Arctic can be found in my country. Despite the fact that we are Arctic people in an Arctic region, we have little awareness of our exotic position in the world. Many years of colonization and Danish rule over Greenland have blinded our perceptions of our global significance.
I was not taught about my country, its history and culture, because the curricula from the primary school to high school and university are largely based on Danish and European culture and values, as well as Danish welfare state and politics. I believe this is one of the reasons why many Greenlanders are not interested in pursuing higher education. It can be hard to keep up at school when you cannot visualize the teaching, and it has nothing to do with your surroundings and culture.
I personally am not interested in Danish hegemony. Although I respect the culture and values, it does not mean that I have to adjust to their way of living, or focus solely on European values and culture. I am interested in knowing more about my country and the opportunities and the challenges within the Arctic region. Many young Greenlandic people must move to Denmark to study, as educational programs are not available in Greenland. I feel lucky that I have taken my university degree in Greenland. I have also traveled a lot through my university’s network and collaboration with other Arctic universities and beyond. I personally believe it is very important to go abroad to see other cultures and to expand your awareness. It makes you creative and compassionate, and through travelling you learn a lot about yourself and your own values. I always meet interesting people with similar interests as mine, which is, of course, the Arctic. Everything is about creating new paths to find your own interest.
I hope opportunities for Greenlandic students will increase and that young Greenlanders will become more willing to go abroad for their studies. We need more Greenlanders who can become role models. I myself never had one. My search for what I really want has brought me here. When I began I was monolingual; I could not speak or understand a language other than my own. By throwing myself out into the world I have learned both Danish and English. And I'm still learning! Our language should not limit us – we should make lots of mistakes and dare to try. The process is very challenging, but you must really hold onto your dreams. What I have found out is that the world opens up to the one that opens up to the world.
Current studies: Master's in West Nordic Studies (Nord University)
Exchanges: University of Iceland, Dartmouth College, Nord University
Summer schools or short courses: Reykjavik x2, Akureyri, Rovaniemi
Arctic conferences: Reykjavik x2, Nuuk x2, Saint Petersburg, Tromsø, Bodø, Québec
E-learning: Canada, Akureyri
Internship: Parliament of Denmark in Copenhagen
Language courses: England x2, Switzerland
Originally published in the UArctic Shared Voices Magazine 2018.