Thursday, July 5, 2012

Exploration Near and Far

by Sarah Rivard and Nick Musso

As we enter the second month of our program, everyone is getting excited for our trip to the Arctic. In preparation for this, we've been learning about past expeditions. Monday's lecture was about the book "The Ice Balloon," which told the tale of S. A. Andrée's attempt to reach the North Pole by flying in a hydrogen balloon along with a brief history of Arctic exploration. Andrée studied at The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, the very same university we Illinois students are studying at. After being backed by Alfred Nobel and the King of Sweden at the time, Oscar II, Andrée set off on his expedition with two other men, Knut Fraenkel and Nils Strindberg. Unfortunately it was the last time the men would be seen. No one knew what happened to the expedition until over three decades later, when Andrée's skeleton and diary detailing what happened were discovered. Lecture finished with a discussion followed by a film of the Amundsen-Ellsworth Arctic expedition.

We've learned of many expeditions, geopolitics, and history of the Arctic in class. We have explored museums such as the Vasa Museum, the Natural History Museum, and just recently the Nordic Museum. We have visited historical sites throughout Stockholm such as the Royal Palace, Parliament, and even the narrowest street in all of Stockholm. Many of us have also explored other countries throughout Europe including Finland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain. Yet it is quite interesting that we know little of our own host university. Very few of us have explored the Royal Institute of Technology, or Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (KTH). With that said, we decided to do just that and find out what this campus has to offer.

After doing some research, we found out that KTH was founded in 1827, four decades before the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Royal Institute of Technology has about half of the population of our university, with over 14,000 undergraduates and roughly 1,700 graduate students. The primary focus of KTH is science and technology and over the years this institute has made partnerships with many universities across Europe, Asia, Australia and the United States. The alliance between U of I and KTH began just last year in 2011, but both universities have agreed on a long-term strategic alliance. This union will enhance the academic and research areas for both universities and both countries. In our opinion, it is already making progress! We're the first students to take part in the Stockholm Summer Arctic Program, one of the results of the partnership between the two universities. Hopefully this progress will continue and more amazing opportunities such as this summer program will arise in the near future.

Sarah Rivard is a senior studying Integrative Biology with a minor in Atmospheric Sciences. She is from Kankakee, IL.

Nick Musso is a junior studying Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences with a concentration in Human Dimensions. He is from Oak Lawn, IL.


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