As expeditioners make their way back home, in many cases crossing two or more continents, we’d like to spotlight a few of the fantastic educators who made the education program such a success. First up, Barbara Peutler, a mathematician and avid traveller.
Given your love of travel and your background in mathematics, do you find there are unexpected ways that your two ‘worlds’ collide?
During my studies, it was easy for me to go abroad a few semesters as mathematics is kind of a “unique language”. Even though I can’t speak Russian, I could join a research team in Ukraine a few years ago without problems. Studying financial mathematics in South Africa gave me a completely different way of handling mathematics than I was used in my German university and I am very glad that I could combine my studies easily with so many experiences abroad.
Now, my passion for mathematics and traveling is just the perfect combination to get a balance between abstract science and real life. While my mathematical work can be very theoretical and exhausting, I use traveling to refresh my mind and experience completely different tasks and challenges. My kind of structured and organized way of thinking, which I need as a mathematician, helps me to be focused during my trips, and stay calm and considered in unpredictable moments that will always occur while traveling.
Tell me a bit about your work with international students in your hometown.
I am volunteering for an international association called IAESTE, which organizes internships abroad for students all around the world. One of my tasks is taking care of foreign students who come to Munich for their internships. To make their stay in Germany as interesting and exciting as possible we organize plenty of activities for the trainees: city tours, hiking events, trips to different cities in Germany or Europe, international dinners, etc. I would never want to miss the great and versatile experiences I made during the last four years. All the different cultures I got to know because of that work broadened my mind and made me curious to discover the world. Moreover the warmth and happiness you get from the students, who really appreciate your support and will become good friends, always encouraged me to continue working with IAESTE. Now during my travel I had the chance to meet some of my friends in their families and homes and it is just amazing to feel that you have friends all around the world.
What are some of your most memorable travel experiences?
For me, the most memorable travel experience is the friendliness of people that you will meet everywhere. When I had to hitchhike in Mauritius, because I missed the last bus, the family I met invited me to dinner to their home for the next evening. When they heard that I have never been to an Indian wedding before they insisted that I accompany them to their friend’s wedding and as if this wasn’t enough, the woman even organized a beautiful Sari for me to wear.
There are plenty of more examples in which I was impressed how open and trustful people can be. For me, those experiences are the most unforgettable ones, since they have the biggest impact on me and definitely changed my own behaviour and attitude.
What are you looking forward to the most during the expedition?
On the one hand, I am really looking forward to the incredible nature and wildlife of Antarctica. It is kind of hard to imagine for me right now how impressive it will be to see this untouched and uninhabited part of the world, which will be completely different from all the rest that I have seen up to now.
On the other hand, I can’t wait to meet the whole group, which is full of interesting people of different backgrounds. I am very keen to hear from experienced scientists about their work and research and I am also looking forward to meeting the students, being part of that awesome team and to supporting the whole expedition as much as I can.
What makes Antarctica special to you?
Among many things, there are three main reasons that make Antarctica special for me. First, Antarctica is such a remote and desolate place. I can’t wait to see the ice bergs and glaciers. Second, I am a big fan of wildlife. I went on many safaris in Africa, discovered the jungle in Central America and I am so looking forward to watching whales and penguins. And finally, I am very interested in geography and the global ecosystem. Climate change and global warming are topics that I am concerned about and I figure the expedition to Antarctica will help me to get a better understanding.
The Students on Ice Antarctic Expedition is taking place December 26th, 2014 to January 8th, 2015. To learn more and follow the expedition through photos, videos and student journals visit the expedition website and follow journey updates on Facebook and Twitter.