While Hans has been working in Greenland for five years, Alice and I are new here. Even more, this is my first time working in any Arctic context. As such, the learning curve is steep. Over the course of two weeks, I have been surrounded by incredible science and research, of which I am only in my infancy of understanding. Between the events of Greenland Science Week and talking to Greenlanders involved in many areas of science history, and culture, I am discovering there is so much to learn.
The events of Greenland Science Week and the Arctic Research Conference has been showcasing research, art, business, and development in many areas. Last week in Sisimiut, there were small lectures and the sharing of many different projects both online and in-person. It was like a crash course in arctic history and contemporary society for this newcomer.
This week in Nuuk, the small events associated with Greenland Science Week continued, alongside the Arctic Research Days Conference, and Science Cinema. Even more work was highlighted, showing the variety of topics in focus right now.
The presentations have been both specific and overarching. Projects looking at fine grained data on topics such as narwhal conservation alternate with bigger picture presentations on the direction of Greenlandic research in general. New initiatives are being announced, from new degrees in development at the University of Greenland- Ilisimatusarfik to the drafting of Greenland's National Research Strategy. Overall it feels like this country is at a major turning point and everyone can feel it. Change is coming, both inside and outside. Researchers and the public alike are trying to ensure those changes are beneficial to Greenlanders. Many presenting have spent their lives working and studying in Greenland, either as expats who moved here, outside researchers or as Greenlanders indigenous to this country. As for me, I am only just beginning to learn the unique cultural context, history, and experience of Arctic populations.
A bit of advice for my students, some of whom may go on to be researchers, scientists, managers and professionals working in other cultures. Be prepared to acknowledge what you do not know when you first arrive to a new place. Studying a culture from afar and really knowing it are very different things. If your education and career bring you to a new place, be prepared to spend a lot of time observing. Listen, rather than talk. No matter how educated or experienced you are, if you start work in a place you are not intimately familiar with you will have a lot to learn. This is not to scare you away from venturing out of your professional comfort zone...quite the opposite. In our globalized world, you should seek opportunities to work in international contexts whenever you can. You can't imagine how powerful of an experience it is to put yourself in a brand new place and learn to adapt. But, be prepared to step back and learn. You may plan one thing, only to arrive and find out you need to pivot completely. The best professionals prepare themselves to be resilient and never stop learning. I can't tell you how many times in my life I have thought, "I have so much to learn". Long after you graduate you will be a student. Be ready for that. If you don't let it take you by surprise, it can actually be enjoyable to be in the learning seat again, long after you've graduated.
I am an anthropology professor, writer, researcher and global traveler. This fall, I will be recording a research trip to Greenland as a virtual field trip for my students (and anyone else interested). Join us as we travel to the Arctic and learn about life in the far north.