Marianne Roed Abrahamsen, MA European Studies and Arctic Studies specialization, 8th Semester, Aalborg University
The Arctic Frontiers conference invites scientists, businesses and policy makers from the Arctic region to meet and share knowledge, different perspectives and opinions. It is an annual event seeking to promote “cooperation and peaceful communication” in the Arctic in times when the countries of the world are turning their eyes to the Arctic region. I had the honor of participating in the Arctic Frontiers Student Forum that took place alongside the Arctic Frontiers conference from 19th to 24th of January.
This year’s theme of the conference was “Connecting the Arctic”. As students we connected through our common interest in the Arctic as our research field, although coming from different cultural and academic backgrounds. We were 31 students from 18 different countries. The biggest challenge was our group work, which consisted of working on presentations which we had to present to a panel. It was challenging to find a common ground with such different cultural backgrounds. Our group included students from Svalbard, Austria, Japan, China, Russia and Denmark, and we were eight people from different scientific fields. However, all of the groups ended up presenting very interesting ideas of how to involve marginalized groups in the cooperation between Arctic universities and their local communities. Our group came up with the idea of 1-2 days internships for local people in the Arctic region. Our idea was to create an agency organized by the university to bridge the gap between marginalized groups and the labor market. The panel consisting of Norwegian, Russian and American stakeholders in the Arctic business and educational network found our idea really interesting. All in all, it was a very developing and motivating experience.
Our 6 days program in Tromsø also involved social gatherings, trips to go out looking for the northern lights (which we saw!), local visits to both companies and cultural institutions, Furthermore, the conference itself, which we attended for three days, was also interesting. It was interesting to listen and observe panel discussions with policymakers from the Arctic, and the different science sessions were also really interesting. Especially the sessions involving indigenous knowledge in research were relevant to me.
Outside the conference program, one of the great experiences we had was getting to know more about the Sami culture. We visited the cultural center “Ardna” connected to The Arctic University of Norway (UiT), where we learned about the history of the Sami people, and their lifestyle and political situation. Also, at Tromsø Museum we saw exhibitions of both traditional Sami culture and the now-a-days Sami living a modern life entrenched in the Norwegian society and the rest of Sápmi. It was inspiring to hear about, coming from Greenland, where the 1960’s reviving of the traditional culture has played a big part in identity formation of today. Especially now, as Greenland is moving towards independence. This theme we got a chance to talk to Greenlandic politicians about, as we had a lunch meeting with four members of the Greenlandic parliament, Inatsisartut. The students asked the politicians questions about Greenland’s future in relation to oil and gas exploitation, development of the economy and society, and the wish for further independence from the realm of Denmark.
It is an enriching experience to visit other Arctic cultures and see similarities and differences between them. I hope for future students that they get the chance to participate in the Arctic Frontiers Student Forum!