People & Culture

A day in the life of a student on ice

  • Aug 01, 2012
  • 434 words
  • 2 minutes
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Greetings from Iqaluit!

As an online editor, I’m used to shifting deadlines and last-minute projects that need to be done, finished, perfectly polished and out the door by … yesterday. It’s those surprise tasks that often end up being the most interesting.
One day this past spring for example, I was at my cubicle minding my own business when our managing editor sauntered in and asked me ever so casually whether I had any plans for August. I told him I did not.
He then asked whether I wanted to go to the Arctic. He must have meant it as a rhetorical question, because he and everyone I work with know of my interest (some might call it an obsession) in the polar regions. Suppressing a delighted squeal, I told him I did.
It turns out my assignment was to tell the Students on Ice Arctic story. The program, which was founded by educator Geoff Green 12 years ago, takes high school age students to the Arctic and Antarctic every year to learn about the history, culture, science, wildlife and political issues that colour the polar regions.

That’s what brought me to the computer station in a little lounge in Iqaluit’s Nunavut Arctic College. Assembled on one half of what used to be a ping pong table are 10 tiny laptops available for students — more than 70 hailing from Canada, the U.S., Russia, Germany, India, Iceland and Monaco — and staff for blogging. I’m feeling a little bit lost without my own laptop and smartphone, but I’ll have to get used to life without my usual electronic entourage for the next two weeks. Instead of scanning news websites and Twitter feeds to read every little snippet about the Arctic that I can get my eyes on, I get to live it, see it, hear it and explore it along with scientists, videographers, artists, politicians as well as dozens of eager teens, each with a remarkably insightful perspective into how their worlds are connected. I’ll be traveling with them on board the Akademik Ioffe, a Finnish-built, Russian-run research vessel along the coast of Baffin Island and across Davis Strait to Greenland.

One of Students on Ice’s mantras, Geoff explained to us on our first day, is that flexibility is key. Our itinerary was obsolete even before we left Ottawa, and our schedule of activities for Monday did not go as planned. That doesn’t bother me; having to be flexible just makes life more interesting. Just like that time I was sitting in my cubicle, minding my own business…

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