It takes a lot to of work to plan an Arctic expedition. The permanent office staff can’t pull it off alone, so every summer the team expands to include an Expedition Intern, usually one of our brightest and most organized alumni (also usually a Dalhousie University student, coincidence? Maybe not. It’s been three years in a row). This summer we’re thrilled to introduce Emma Arsenault! Emma joined the Arctic 2012 expedition, and now she’s back and we couldn’t be happier!
Tell us about your expedition in 2012, what was your impression?
My experience as a student participant on SOI’s Arctic 2012 expedition was overwhelmingly positive. My Polar journey introduced me to fascinating people from around the world, different cultures, spectacular landscapes and new ways to explore and learn. Of all the memories I have of my time as a student on ice, the one that I revisit most often is our evening spent in Qikiqtarjuaq. Our expedition received such a warm welcome from this community of little more than 500 people. We enjoyed Arctic char, narwhale and seal; we watched demonstrations of seal skinning and ivory carving; local throat-singers treated us to a performance; we even danced! There was something very special about being tucked away in this tiny hamlet on Broughton Island and getting to experience Inuit culture firsthand. I think our short visit to Qikiqtarjuaq is so memorable because it captured all of the most important, inspiring and rewarding elements of Students on Ice in one place.
Why did you want to come work for SOI this summer?
Ever since my expedition in 2012, I had it in the back of my mind that maybe one day I could get involved with the organization in a role other than ‘student participant’. Initially, I had reached out to SOI as a co-op student hoping to find placement, but as the school year progressed I ended up tweaking my degree and stepping out of the co-op program altogether. So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the shout-out for an expedition intern on SOI’s Ice Cap newsletter because it offered me another chance to get involved!
Working at the SOI office has given me a greater understanding of and appreciation for the planning and preparation that goes into every expedition. It’s been eye-opening to find out what it takes to organize such a large group on such an ambitious adventure. I’m just trying to soak it all up!
The Expedition Intern position is all about passenger logistics. I work closely with Shirley, our expedition logistics manager and Conor, our program assistant, to sort through all the details associated with getting participants registered and travel-ready. My favourite part of the job has definitely been the routine back-and-forth I’ve had with students and staff as we’ve moved through the registration process. It’s been interesting getting to know everyone through emails and phone conversations; it’s only made me more eager to meet everyone in-person in Ottawa!
What are you studying, and what are your future plans?
I’m currently working my way through a degree in marine biology at Dalhousie University. My first few years of study have been really crucial in helping me find out what I’m interested in and what I can rule out as future career paths. The further I get into my science degree the more I’m realizing I don’t want to restrict myself to research and fieldwork. Instead, I’ve become increasingly interested in the policy side of marine and environmental issues. I’m not entirely sure where my undergrad will lead, but I’m certainly enjoying it while it lasts!
How’s Ottawa treating you so far?
Getting to spend the summer discovering the Capital has been a real treat. There’s always something going on in this city. Between festivals and events, there’s never a lack of fun and interesting things to do! I’m happy to say I’ve now experienced Canada Day on The Hill; one more thing I can check off the list.
I find Ottawa very different from both Halifax and my hometown, so it’s been quite the adjustment settling in here. In fact, some of my favourite weekends have been when I was able to escape the city and grab some fresh air in the surrounding area. Nevertheless, Ottawa feels like home now and I’m excited to see what my remaining time in the Capital brings!