A Q&A with SOI Antarctic 2014 Alumnae on their continuing journey

For most SOI Expeditioners, the journey does not end with the flight home. The experience and memories live on long after the final “Good morning Students on Ice!” is heard over the ship’s loudspeaker.

For two alumnae of the 2014 Antarctic Expedition, the end of their voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula was just the tip of the iceberg. We caught up with Eva Wu and Rachel Aiello to hear about the fantastic art, writing, and presentations that they have been sharing.

Rachel Aiello - Students on Ice 2014 Antarctic Expedition

Rachel Aiello – Students on Ice 2014 Antarctic Expedition

Eva Wu - Students on Ice 2014 Antarctic Expedition

Eva Wu – Students on Ice 2014 Antarctic Expedition










Eva and Rachel’s article for their school newspaper.

1. You were both on the recent 2014 Antarctic expedition. What have you been up to since then?

Eva: Some stuff here and there. There’s always the presentations at schools and in the community, but also work with the environmental club at our school.

There’s also the aspect of finding ways to integrate what we learned and what we aspire to do into other activities, such as how we make decisions about our actions and how to use the knowledge to further issues such as social justice and youth involvement. Either way it’s been really great just talking with people and showing them both how amazing and vital the Antarctic continent is to our environmental health.

Rachel: I’ve been doing a couple things around town. Giving presentations to various schools has been the main thing I’ve been engaged in, along with a lot of writing.

It’s been roughly four months and as much time as I’ve had to digest everything about the trip, I’m still sorting through everything that it provided me with. To be quite honest, I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever be done doing. I write a lot of poetry which I read to people and give to younger students to help them learn about this wonderful place and what is happening to it without spitting out fact afterfact. As well as just encouraging my peers to be environmentally conscious, as per usual.

2. You’ve been presenting to students. Tell us about how that experience has been? Are there any stories that stand out that you would like to share?

Rachel: Doing this sort of thing has been absolutely wonderful. I feel as though one of the most rewarding aspects of speaking to students and adults alike is seeing their faces when they see certain pictures or hear certain things. After one presentation in particular, there was a former teacher of mine who was telling me about how she wanted to become a marine biologist as well when she was in high school and hearing about our experiences really makes her eyes light up. She got so inspired by everything we did and she’s started sharing everything we did with the school she teaches at and with her family. Some of the reactions I’ve been getting, like hers, are very exciting.

Eva: It has just been really great showing people the pictures that we took and watching their response. Most people think that the world is so amazing, that there is so much life and so much beauty, and there is! But it’s also great to see their faces when they realize that yes, it is disappearing and that they probably won’t ever be able to experience this for themselves, and nor can the future generations.

It’s kind of a click, like the one we had on the ship, where we realized “Oh, this is actually happening, and we as a race need to step it up.”

3. How has it been sharing your experiences with youth? How have students reacted to your presentations?

Rachel: The way people react to the information and the stories changes for every person and seeing that is very intriguing. For some people it’s gradual and then the next time I see them they have been altered in some sort of way and are now sharing Eva’s and my stories to everyone they can. On the other hand, some people quickly go through a period of realization. Almost as if all the gears are finally in place.

Eva: I think a great part is that many of the kids I have talked to now realize that there are programs like Students on Ice out there that can show them both the world and how to protect it.

It shows them that if they get out there and search for these opportunities, they will have similar adventures and experiences. And of course there were the remarks about some of the puns I made, but who could resist? The trip was just so chill.

Eva and Rachel presenting on their 2014 SOI Antarctica Expedition experiences

Eva and Rachel presenting on their 2014 SOI Antarctic Expedition experiences

4. What motivates you to share what you’ve learned and get involved? What role did the Antarctic expedition play in inspiring what you have done afterwards?

Eva: Really what motivates me is the idea that there are millions of people out there who may not have the rights and resources to ever embark on a journey like this, or any for that matter that can really open their eyes to the world around them. It’s really a driving force for me to not only share my experiences, but to bring this opportunity and others like it to less fortunate youth.

For example, the non-profit organization that my friends and I launched, Art with Heart, is looking for ways to bring these experiences to youth across the globe. We are currently collaborating with UN Human Rights Representative Chris Mburu in an attempt to teach young Kenyan scholars about innovation and exploration, to further both their studies and their communities. We are also hoping to bring similar opportunities as well as mental health education to remote areas of Canada where suicide and substance abuse rates in youth are high.

Rachel: What motivates me the most is that there are so many people who really just have no idea what is going on. Some people I spoke to didn’t even know where the continent was. I feel like even if I only get a minute with someone, at least I will have made them aware and opened up a whole new world of possible interests and passions as well as just encouraging people to care. If nobody cares nothing gets done and that is just not something we can not afford right now.

5. What is next for both of you? Any short or long-term plans born out of your trip to Antarctica, and your experiences doing presentations?

Rachel: In terms of the future, for now I’m just going to keep on spreading the word. It’s amazing how much simple knowledge can affect people and their habits. In the long term, like Eva, traveling with education programs would be ideal and meeting more youth who have this same drive. This whole experience has been utterly amazing and by continuing on the path I’m on now I can just keep educating and inspiring change which is really one of my favourite things to do.

Eva: Ya, like I said previously, it’s amazing to watch others have the realization of both the beauty and importance that environments such as Antarctica hold, so I feel that it is our responsibility to spread that to other youth in whatever manner possible. I feel as though in the long term during my future journeys, I hope to spread that message with other youth so that they can come to understand just how much is happening in the world around them.

Oh, and of course, finding a way to raise the funds to go on the SOI Arctic expedition is a dream too!
Mother Continent
Walk into my arms~
Sweet, innocent child~
Let the air and my arms warm you~
You’re no longer alone~I watched you from when you were but ten years old~
I knew from the moment I lay~
My dark, cold blue eyes~
On you~
I would have you forever~I watched as you grew~
Through your troubles~
Through your triumph~
Silently from afar~
I listened~It took time~
But you’re here now~
We are at last united~
Let the air and my arms warm you~
You are no longer alone~

You are my child now~
My sweet, innocent child~
And I, with my loving, icy gaze~
Am your mother~.

~Rachel Aiello

 ‘You’re here’
She calls out.
She seems to be waiting
Her eyes

‘It’s so nice of you to come”
Her blue gown reaches down
Just to where the water reaches it
How long it has been.

Minutes or seconds
Hours or days
It feels like you’ve been watching
Her pale white skin

‘Make yourself at home’
She whispers
Her smile makes you entranced
Her icy touch brings you back to reality.

‘Did you hear me’
As she holds your hands tight
She looks at peace
I’m dying
She said.

~Rachel Aiello

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