Originally posted March 2015
Two Arctic Studies Minor students, Nirupam Nigam, Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, and Drake Russell, Pre-Sciences, were invited by the Russian Geographical Society to attend the International Youth Forum with Center director, Vincent Gallucci.
Early this January, I was selected to attend an event called the International Youth Forum, Arctic Expedition, at Lake Seliger, Russia along with fellow student and Arctic Minor, Drake Russell and the Canadian Studies Center’s director, Vince Gallucci. The event lasted from February 1st to February 7th and was one of the coolest experiences of my life. The forum was hosted by Russia’s Federal Agency on Youth Affairs and the Russian Geographical Society. It brought people from the ages of 19-29 together to represent seven of the eight countries on the Arctic Council – Finland, Norway, Canada, the United States, Denmark, Iceland, and Russia. As soon as we arrived we were split into groups of ten. Each group had a tent that could sleep ten people, and each group competed in challenges related to the Arctic to win a trip to the Camp Barneo at the North Pole. We were well pampered. In the beginning of the forum we were given copious amounts of gifts, the food was excellent, and the facilities were amazing. Ice sculptures were left and right, there was an ice skating rink, and there was constant, almost incessant, entertainment.
Each morning the groups competed in “Adventure Quests” where we would run through the snow doing anything from climbing up a tree to collecting plants and identifying them. After the adventure quests, we would listen to talks by famous Russian journalists, politicians, and Arctic explorers for the majority of the rest of the day. The night would always end with an amazing dinner at the Nilov Monastery. I thought the food was excellent and very satisfying – even with all the beets, cabbage, and buckwheat.
Over the course of this week in Russia, I think I learned more about people than over my college experience thus far. That was certainly the most invaluable part for me. The afternoon talks showed me different worldviews and views on the Arctic, many of which I was surprised to learn about. At the same time I learned how people from each country in the Arctic Council responded to Arctic issues. Most importantly, I saw that despite these differences in opinion, I made more friends than I ever have in a week and have come back with the impression that Russians and people from the Arctic states are unbelievably kind.
Arctic & International Relations is a Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies (JSIS)-wide initiative, led by the Canadian Studies Center since 2008, to address the Arctic as an emerging global region and actor on the world stage. JSIS and the Center are working in partnership with a parallel initiative, Future of Ice – a College of the Environment, College of Arts and Sciences, and Applied Physics Laboratory initiative – to enhance the University of Washington’s (UW) profile in research, education and public engagement about the polar regions.