Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Politics, Campfires, and Peace Prizes

by Rebecca Herrmann and Aaron Letterly

We started the first portion of our Arctic classes this week! Meeting the Swedish and international students taking the class alongside us was exciting, but also daunting. The other students are all masters or PhD students, but we plan to make an excellent name for ourselves! Today we had a guest lecture, Annika Nilsson, who educated us on "Governance in a Changing Arctic." The discussion brought to our attention the political intrigue and challenges surrounding the newly-exposed Arctic area. New access to resources has been allowed by climate change and a growing number of countries have developed interest in the Arctic. Boundaries have to be established by countries with territorial claims. Russia has gone so far as to place their flag at the bottom of the ocean floor at the North Pole! While this represents no legal claim, it is a gesture similar to America placing its flag on the moon.

Outside of the classroom, we continue to have adventures of our own! On Saturday, a group of us went to the Nobel Museum. Included in the museum was the "Sketches of Science" exhibit, featuring Nobel laureates with their own depictions of their inventions sketched out on paper. It was fun to see the humorous, and sometimes not-so-artistic, side of the inventors! 

Last night the group visited the beach near our campus housing. Even though it had rained all weekend, a small campfire allowed us to enjoy toasted marshmallows. The water is still too cold for swimming, but a few brave souls attempted to wade along the shoreline to get a picturesque view of the opposite coastline. We stayed out, swapping stories and jokes until it started sprinkling on us again, then walked back with the sky lightening behind us even though it was only midnight.

Getting used to the long hours of daylight has been just one of the many cultural changes we've had to face. Between taking the subway, doing our extensive course readings, and buying groceries in Swedish stores, we’re adjusting well to our new environment! It hasn’t been that difficult to fit in with the Swedes.  We’ve enjoyed our new experiences so far, and look forward to the rest to come. 

Rebecca Herrmann is junior studying Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois, with a focus in Environmental Engineering and Sustainability.  She is from Batavia, IL.

Aaron Letterly is a senior studying Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois, with a concentration in Climatology/Atmospheric Chemistry.  He is from Latham, IL.


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