Arctic Spring Break

Group Photo Greenland

Group Photo out in the beautiful Nature

In April 2019, a group of University students from Miami University *, in Oxford, Ohio, USA, choose to spend their spring break on a cold adventure in Greenland over a fun time at a sunny beach. They teamed up with the Greenland Adventures to organize the school’s expedition. We called it the Arctic Spring Break. As the concept does not exactly fit into the traditional form of a spring break, I asked organizer Mark Walsh to tell me a bit about the idea and the trip.

* Here is a brief history lesson before we continue, explained to us by Mark Walsh, from Miami Univeristy:
Miami University was named after the Miami tribe of Native Americans who lived in the Miami valley in southwest Ohio. They are the original Maimi and the university was founded in 1809. In 1809 there was no Miami in Florida. In fact, in 1809 Florida still belonged to Spain. At some point the white people forced the Miami tribe to move south and they ended up in Florida and now there are places named after them in Florida as well. 

1.     For those who do not know, can you tell us about the Spring Break concept?

Well, our university is attempting to have as many of our students participate in study abroad programs as possible. The typical programs are during our summer and winter breaks. Spring Break is just another option. Some students may find that spring break works better for them because they have other plans during the summer and winter.


2.     How does Miami University do this differently?

Good question. Since I have never led study abroad programs at another institution I don't know what the differences are.


3.     Why did you choose to visit a cold place like Greenland on the Spring Break?

I believe that people learn about themselves when they are taken out of their comfort zone. If I take a student to Central Europe they will see a similar standard of living to what they are used to in the United States. Also, everyone there will speak English, there will be nice hotels with heated floors and although it will be different and interesting it won't be as unique or different as Greenland. I prefer to take students farther out of their normal experience. Greenland is a great example of that. When we landed at the airport in Kulusuk there wasn't a tour bus waiting to take us to our hotel, we snow shoed to our hostel. It was way off the beaten path. The scenery was beautifully stunning. The people were great. The entire experience was a great learning opportunity for both me and my students.


Northern Lights in Kulusuk Greenland
Photo: Mark Walsh

Northern Lights seen from the porch

4.     Where did you go and what did you do?

We flew from Reykjavik to Kulusuk and stayed there for 5 days. During that time we did some snow shoeing, went to the local museum, did some dog sledding and observed three types of ice.. The highlight for most of the group seemed to be dog sledding. It was faster than I had anticipated and the dogs ran for much longer without resting than I had thought they would. Seeing the dogs scoop up ice in their mouths to drink/cool off while they were running was an eye opener. Taking walks in the snow shoes was also a great way to get around. We toured the island and saw some very beautiful scenery

Dogsledding to the Glacier in Greenland
Photo: Mark Walsh

Dogsledding to the Glacier in Greenland


5.     What stood out?

hmmmm, the individual experiences that stood out were dog sledding and also the locals. We interacted with several of the locals who were selling bone carvings. I think most of us purchased at least one. There were several different motifs so I actually purchased three. My favorite is a kayak complete with the kayak, spear and model of an inflatable bladder. But the entire experience of living there for five days was wonderful. Although it was just 5 days, my students formed relationships that wouldn't be formed is any other standard university setting. Also, the town party. We just happened to be there at the right time of the month to experience the party in the community center. There was live music and dancing. It was a lot of fun. Einar (our guide) was really what tied everything together to make it a great experience. He is very knowledgeable about the way of life there and had a friendly way of conveying his knowledge. 


6.     Did the students have assignments related to the trip?

Yes, before we departed from home we had several pre trip meetings in which we learned about life in Greenland. During those meetings each student gave a presentation about some aspect of life related to Greenland such as Greenlandic history, fauna, education, traditional music/dance, northern lights etc. Also during the trip everyone kept a journal outlining their experiences and observations regarding cultural differences. During our down time we had group discussions about some of these topics.

Young explorers in Greenland

Young explorers

7.     What do you think the students took out of this?

My trips tend to be self discovery trips but they are also a lot of fun. If you ask any of the students right after their trip to Greenland about the trip they will tell you what a great time they had. But it is much deeper than that. They are developing a better understanding of the world around them and how they fit into all of this. 

Student group in Greenland
Photo: Mark Walsh

Miami University with their Guide in Greenland


8.     What tips do you have for other schools who want to take their students to Greenland?

Do it! Go off the beaten path! Do everyone a favor and choose a life experience over a European vacation.The students will love it and they will remember it.  

If you want to take your students on an eye opening adventures to Greenland, contact us and start making plans.

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