Study Abroad Check-in: Sandy Curth

Sandy's class performs mechanical tests on sea ice as part of a 8 day research cruise along the polar ice cap. Photo by Sebastian Sikora, taken with a drone.

Sandy's class performs mechanical tests on sea ice as part of a 8 day research cruise along the polar ice cap. Photo by Sebastian Sikora, taken with a drone.

I came to the Arctic Technology department of University of Norway in Svalbard to study extreme environment engineering in one of the colder, winder places places on Earth. In my plan this is the "learning some engineering applicable to asteroid mining" part, or more generally a way for me to see if I want to move from physics towards more engineering for graduate school. Svalbard is wild, very cold (about -20 Fahrenheit when I got here in January), and full of awesome people from all over the world. The potential for adventures is endless and the education is totally different from Bennington in that the term is 23 weeks and I get most of the last two months to study for exams (ski/chase walruses) which are almost my entire grade for the semester. Research based education is pretty challenging after being coddled at Bennington for two and half years, lecturers really aren't interested in engaging students, its about conveying the necessary information to be a functional part of field and lab work. Luckily the field and lab work is pretty amazing and directly translates into the science that proves climate change and the modern infrastructure on Svalbard possible. The most surprising part of living here is the normalcy, while the population is only around 2000 and nearly everything has to be flown in, there is a Thai restaurant and a great climbing wall at the gym, you can even buy good avocados in the grocery store. The flip side is that by living on Svalbard my carbon foot print is around 40 times more than the average human being.