Guest blog post written by Arctic 2015 alum Sophia Winkler
This past December, I attended the 2017 Moscow Youth International Model Arctic Council. Organized by students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), the conference draws youth from Arctic nations for a mock meeting of the Arctic Council. The structure was similar to that of a Model UN conference: each of the participants was assigned the role of an Arctic nation or indigenous organization and represented that group’s interests in working groups. I played the role of the United States’ representative in the Arctic Contamination Action Program working group.
During the 2015 Arctic expedition with Students on Ice, I was amazed to learn how intertwined Arctic issues can be. The educators onboard came from such diverse backgrounds, and each one demonstrated a new lens through which to view the Arctic. As a current student of international development, I am interested in how economic development and environmental conservation interact. This interest was deepened during my expedition with Students on Ice, where I was able to learn about a region I was previously unfamiliar with, the Arctic, through the lens of diplomacy. The Arctic Council operates in a similar way, balancing environmental and cultural stewardship with economic pursuits in the region.
The MAC 2017 conference gave me the opportunity to practice resolution writing and diplomatic compromise in a formal setting. During the conference, we developed working projects relating to our working group topics, such as improved statistic monitoring, ecological conservation, and disaster preparedness. But perhaps equally important was the experience working with students from diverse backgrounds. I am accustomed to collaborating with other students at my Canadian university, but this was an opportunity to further those skills of cross-cultural collaboration. In our free time at the conference, the organizers planned cultural excursions for our small group of international students. Each day, we visited culturally and historically significant places in Moscow such as Red Square, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Gorky Park. Students from the university worked as volunteer tour guides as we exchanged stories of student life in Canada, Norway, Denmark, Germany, the United States, and Russia.
As far as I know, I am the second Students on Ice alumna to attend the Model Arctic Council in its two years. In fact, I found out about the conference through the SOI Alumni Facebook group, where the SOI community often shares such opportunities. Through Students on Ice, I learned that there are many ways to study the Arctic, and I have maintained this outlook as an alumna. No matter what they study, I encourage other Students on Ice alumni to seek out ways to combine their passion for the Arctic with their fields of study.