William Sanderson: reflecting on the Arctic Circle Assembly

Blog post written by Antarctic 2014 alum William Sanderson.


This delegation to the Arctic Circle Assembly with Students on Ice was the longest 5 days of my life. Not in the typical, ‘ugh that was a long day’ sense but in the sense that every single minute of every day, from the early hours of the morning to late at night, was used to its full potential and filled with incredible moments. We woke up every day with a willingness to learn and a readiness to take on new opportunities.

As I was flying into Reykjavik to meet the delegation team, there were definitely some nerves about how the delegation would go. As with all new experiences, its easy to wonder how you’ll fit in with a new group and in a new setting. Those nerves didn’t last long however because once I arrived Reykjavik, I found a group of kind, passionate people ready to take on this new adventure. For me, a truly special part of this whole delegation was the opportunity to meet so many amazing alumni from different expeditions. It was inspiring to hear their stories to learn about their interests. Meeting these incredible people showed just how deep the SOI alumni community is and made me grateful to be a part of it. I will remember the people I met during this delegation and the lessons I learned from for the rest of my life.

Paloma, Will and Aurora have a laugh while reflecting on Arctic Circle Assembly workshops

The Arctic Circle Assembly itself was a phenomenal learning opportunity. From 8am-10pm everyday there were workshops and presentations run on a huge range of topics. There were presentations on renewable energy, sustainable fisheries, youth involvement and so much more. I think for all of us the hardest part of each day was narrow down the dozens of different sessions into the three or four that we had time to attend! I found that no matter the subject matter, every session taught me something. Sometimes that lesson was more information or a new perspective on a given topic, and sometimes that lesson was about communication and how to (or sometimes how not to) share a message with an audience.

The highlight of the conference for me was when our delegation team had the chance to speak to Ari Trausti who is a current Member of Parliament in Iceland. It was inspiring to hear him talk about the problems he was trying to solve in Iceland and how the rest of the world can follow suit. I think what really touched me in this interaction was how generous he was with his time. Everywhere he went, Ari was constantly stopping to talk to people and you could tell he was pretty busy at the conference. When he met with us, I thought he was going just say hello and then get back to the conference but instead he asked if we could all go somewhere where it was less busy and gave us the opportunity to chat and ask questions for about half an hour. This was a very small gesture in the grand scheme of things, but it made us all feel like our voices had value and were being heard which was powerful. As I go through my life, I hope that I can always been generous and thoughtful with my time like Ari was.

Delegates listen to Ari Trausti share about some of the goals of the Icelandic government.

Overall, I left the Arctic Circle Assemble with these major takeaways:

  1. Decisions must be made by the people who are impacted by them.
  2. Passion and enthusiasm about a topic are key to being a good communicator.
  3. It is important to have youth voices in discussions on the future.

My expedition experience with Students on Ice in 2014 was filled with learning and inspiration and I left the Antarctic feeling ready to tackle the world’s problems. I think what this delegation did for me was provide a bridge back into the inspiration I felt while in the Antarctic. My time in Iceland showed me how we as alumni can continue to be ambassadors to the polar regions in our lives beyond our expeditions. I feel re-energized, re-kindled, and ready to take on what’s next.

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