Arctic 2014 alumnus Emmanuel Tse reflects on journey

During the Arctic expedition, as a collective group I think we knew we were part of something special but we had yet fully realized how fortunate we were, with the weather and our impromptu plans (after all, flexibility is key), and how incredible and life changing our experiences would be. The trip was incredibly jam-packed; words cannot describe how well rounded the enrichment was for me as a whole.

Photo (c) Lee Narraway / Students on Ice

Photo (c) Lee Narraway / Students on Ice

One of the most distinctive characteristics of our trip to the Arctic was our time of connecting with nature. These experiences ranged from hiking a glacier, observing muskox from afar, enjoying the stellar sunsets to simply sitting on top of a mountain alone to observe the panoramic view in awe. Despite the range of experiences, they all worked together to fuel our passion for spending time immersed in nature and our sense of responsibility as stewards. The tragedy, as it often is, is that the people least responsible for these sudden changes, which we call global climate change and saw firsthand in witnessing receding glaciers, are the most impacted. But with speaking with the professionals and the locals, what really stood out to me was the attitude that we are simply sharing the land, water, and air with the creatures around us. With that perspective of the Inuit, it definitely compels me to respect my treatment of the environment and my day-to-day decisions on purchasing and resource management.

Photo (c) Mike Beedell / Students on Ice

Photo (c) Mike Beedell / Students on Ice

We were so blessed to have exceptional professionals, from historians, oceanographers, entrepreneurs to musicians and everything in between, surround us with interesting tidbits and spur our curiosities. From them I not only learned a lot about their respective specialized fields, I also learned from them to just be passionate with what you do. Not only did we learn from the professors, scientists, CEOs and experts that came on board along with us, but what was really unique about living in close quarters with our team, which included many Inuit students, was the exposure to a completely different culture, language and lifestyle. A lot of things still stick with me, such as their day-to-day hunting experiences, their games and everyday phrases that they taught me. Yet it was interesting to also see similarities, from the same card games to music taste. But this even applied to those who came from around the world, from learning about Scottish dancing to San Francisco weather, etiquette in China and the lifestyle in Monaco. The fellow students of the team were simply inspiring as they shared their accomplishments and experiences, but what shone through even more was their personalities and eagerness to share and learn from each other.

Not only did I learn a lot about others, but also the trip was unexpectedly my time for self-realization. For instance, I was given the opportunity to work with awesome musicians to pursue a chance to write a song for the first time and explore my love of music. The scheduling of the expedition also allowed for some quiet time, encouraging me to spend some much needed time, daily reflecting through blogs and journaling. In doing so, during the trip, I learned to challenge myself after jotting my reflections, from learning everyone’s name, intentionally meeting people, asking more questions and spending more time alone in nature, as well as after the trip, with goals to further explore my passions such as songwriting. What was great about the trip was the eye-opening understanding that so many different types of people can and are needed to make a difference, such as catalyzing greater environmental stewardship, from musicians, administrators, scientists, CEOs, photographers, they all can play a role in telling a story and significantly contributing to the cause.

Even as a Canadian, I came into the trip knowing virtually nothing about the Arctic, minus the few things I remembered from the website, to whom I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to participate in this trip. Although by no means did I come back as an expert on the Arctic but I definitely felt like an ambassador, as I shared my trips to my friends I realized how little the general majority knows about the North. I almost feel a burden because of the dire need for social improvement in the Arctic and environmental awareness.

I’ll always hold on to the unique memorable experiences we shared, from the glacier calving, the polar bear sightings, BBQ on the deck, the pink moon, intimate whale watching experiences, to our visit to the Greenlandic village of Nanortalik where we exchanged our cultures. And of course, I’ll remember the goofy spirited enthusiasm that spanned during roll call, the bottle drops and throughout the trip.

“As a new alumni I feel honoured and thankful to have gone through such incredible experiences and I feel a sense of urgency to bring to fruition the ideas and challenges that I have placed onto myself. And as an SOI alumni once said, “we can and have to make a difference.” I will forever cherish our experiences as an SOI family and am so grateful to have shared it with such an amazing group.”


The 2014 Arctic Expedition explored the Torngat Mountains National Park and the western coast of Greenland July 9-24.


To learn more and retrace the journey through photos, videos and student journals visit

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This website was made possible by a generous contribution from the Leacross Foundation.