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Guest students' experiences

Read about guest students' experiences about studying at Ilisimatusarfik.

At the University of Copenhagen, Melissa Cherry Villumsen studies Prehistoric Archaeology. Greenland, however, was by no means unknown to her, because, as she herself puts it, she has always had Greenland on her mind. Therefore, it was probably not a huge surprise when she was admitted as a guest student at Ilisimatusarfik through the Nordplus Network.

At Ilisimatusarfik, she participated in both cultural and community-related courses, and in her spare time she volunteered at the Greenland National Museum & Archives. She worked at the museum to gain work experience, but most of all the driver was her great interest in Arctic archaeology. But even though you prepare yourself to study in Greenland, there are always things that can’t be learned from reading.

"The challenge for me in the beginning was the reduced focus on structure and that my body was still on Greenlandic time, but now I feel that I am very much more relaxed".

This was Malissa’s answer to what had been the greatest challenge for her at Ilisimatusarfik. Now she is most of all worried about having to go back to a very structured everyday life in Denmark. She will in particular miss the quiet Greenlandic way of living and trust among people:

"All the Greenlanders I’ve met in Nuuk are all pleasantly open-minded. This also applies to the people I’ve met on my travels around the country. And as trips go: it was the coolest by far".

Melissa ends the interview with a big smile:

"And as a vegan, I have never enjoyed better food than in Greenland. Who would have thought that? And blimey! The Northern Lights are just everywhere. I would never have believed that".

Hopefully, Melissa’s Greenland adventure will not end with her study visit with us at Ilisimatusarfik. In the near future, she hopes to get an internship at the museum in Tasiilaq.

Greetings from a Dartmouth student

Written by Elizabeth Mastrio

When I reflect on the time spent at the University of Greenland in Nuuk, it will forever be one of the greatest experiences of my life. I feel extremely lucky to have gotten the opportunity to spend three months learning about the culture of Greenland. From the moment I arrived and was greeted by a beautiful blue sky and Per the international coordinator, I felt very welcome and comfortable.

Every day I had the chance to learn something new, whether it was at the University in a class with Greenlandic students or at home with my international roommates, I was constantly exposed to new ideas and viewpoints. Seeing Nuuk in the fall allowed me to see the “greener” side of Greenland before the snow came, which was a very beautiful time spent hiking and going down to the beach…even winter bathing one very cold Sunday morning!

Though I only speak English, I found it very easy to navigate the city to buy groceries or go shopping. Some of my favorite days were spent hiking up Ukkusissat with other international students, getting coffee at Pascucci and walking around Nuuk Center or getting pad thai at Charoen Porn. The week of events for the Nuuk Nordic Festival was also a very exciting time for me to see a number of movies, exhibits and music performances related to Greenland.

As a volunteer, I was also able to spend a number of meals at the blue house learning from other international and Greenlandic volunteers. I was able to go to the art museum as well as historical museum a number of times throughout my stay, each time seeing something I hadn’t noticed before. Perhaps the most breathtaking part of Greenland was the chance to see the northern lights almost every night. It was a sight that truly never got old. 

Studying at the university afforded me the opportunity to meet a number of new people, which helped me to make the most of my time in Nuuk. I found myself with something to do every day, whether that was meeting a friend at the gym or going to the university just to have lunch and interact with other students. One of the most exciting days near the end of my time in Greenland was getting the chance to try on the national costume. One of my classmates was generous enough to allow one of my roommates and I to come to her house and try on their national costumes. It felt like a culminating moment of my time in Greenland, and the realization of a dream I had realized when I first saw the national costume.

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I know I will return one day to Greenland, hopefully sooner than later!

- Where Are the Penguins?

Frenchwoman Claire Fihue often heard about Greenland when she grew up. However, her image of the huge northern island was a romantic one – and not entirely correct. She was dreaming about icebergs, seals, polar bears – and penguins!

I had no idea about modern Greenland or the city Nuuk, until I came here to study for one term at Ilisimatusarfik, she says. Claire Fihue is a humanities student at Université de Rouen in Normandy, and she is following a programme in social science during her term at Ilisimatusarfik, among other with programmes in international relations in the Arctic and sustainable development”.

I chose to study a term in another country to experience another culture and to meet new people. I believe that travel is a necessary requirement to become an openminded world citizen. Further, I believe that it helps understanding, for example, refugees and immigrants in your own country if you have experienced living as a foreigner in another country”, Claire explains.

She is very enthusiastic about the five month stay in Greenland, and, in particular, noticed the quiet way of life and the trust among people.

For example, at one point I forgot my mobile phone at the university, and was convinced that someone subsequently had stolen it – which would have been a sure thing in France. However, far from it, a fellow student had handed in the found phone at reception", she says.

Claire is in Greenland through the EU scheme Erasmus, which is an exchange programme for students, and she noted, among other things, a big difference between courses in the two countries. In France, you often have several hundred students in an auditorium, listening to a professor, whereas in Greenland you are only a few students with a chance to talk and contribute to the classes.

I would recommend all students to travel – for example through exchange programmes – to be able to experience other countries and meet other cultures, without putting your education on hold. Personally, it has taught me to appreciate the small things – as in playing board games with friends or visiting the swimming bath – those are the best times”.

Tenk å få være så privilegert at man kan reise og studere samtidig

Navn: Regine Tveiten

På utveksling til: Ilisimatusarfik, University of Greenland, Nuuk, Grønland

Studium: Grunnskolelærer 5-10

Regine Tveiten3 Fullwidth

Hvorfor valgte du å dra på utveksling?

Jeg elsker å reise og å oppleve nye ting. Helt fra jeg startet med studier visste jeg at jeg skulle på utveksling, bare ikke hvor. Man opplever en ny kultur og man får muligheten til å lære om og i et annet land. Man lærer også mye om seg selv som person og blir mer kjent med seg selv som person. Det å kunne gå utenfor komfortsonen, det trygge og vante, tror jeg alle burde gjøre. Det å ha studier fra utlandet ser bra ut når man skal søke jobb og man blir ettertraktet for å ha gjort noe annerledes. En ser ting på en ny måte og det å få bo et sted over lengre tid, bli en del av samfunnet, er helt annerledes enn å ha vært der på ferie. Tenk å få være så privilegert at man kan reise og studere samtidig, samt oppleve noe helt nytt.

"På utveksling opplever man en ny kultur og man får muligheten til å lære om og i et annet land. Man lærer også mye om seg selv som person og blir mer kjent med seg selv som person. Det å kunne gå utenfor komfortsonen, det trygge og vante, tror jeg alle burde gjøre".

Hva er det som gjør Ilisimatusarfik spesiell?

Ilisimatusarfik er et lite universitet med mellom 600-800 studenter, likevel er det det fineste universitetet jeg noen gang har sett. Det er lite og intimt, man kjenner igjen alle som går der og studiet blir veldig personlig. Å reise til Nuuk er spesielt, og man skal være innstilt på at det er lite og at man ikke kommer seg bort fra byen. Likevel ligger Ilisimatusarfik slik at man har en fantastisk utsikt uansett hvor i bygget man er, enten om det er på biblioteket, i kantina eller i klasserommene.

Hvordan var studiene dine på Ilisimatusarfik?

Jeg tok to emnefag mens jeg var i Nuuk og begge var på dansk. Jeg bestemte meg for å kun snakke dansk da jeg kom dit (bortsett fra med de andre utvekslingsstudentene som kun snakker engelsk). Det fungerte bra og jeg snakker nå dansk etter å ha studert på språket og jobbet med barn samtidig. I det ene faget var vi tre studenter og to forelesere, og da er man nødt til å legge inn en ekstra innsats fordi man er så få. I det andre faget var vi flere, opptil 20, og fikk foreleser helt fra Danmark. Det er en annen studiekultur enn her i Norge, og mange studerer kun på deltid. Jeg tok språkfag der oppe og valgte ut de to, av tre, som er mest relevant for meg som fremtidig lærer. Jeg lærte utrolig mye og merker allerede dette semesteret at jeg kan bruke noe av det i norskfaget jeg har.

Hva tar du med deg videre fra utvekslingen som du ikke ville fått i Norge?

Det som er mest tydelig er at jeg sitter igjen med et nytt språk jeg kan forstå og gjøre meg forstått på, samt noen ord og setninger på grønlandsk (som kan være nyttig på quiz). Jeg har fått en ny forståelse for urbefolkinger og deres historier etter å har bodd så tett på en blanda kultur mellom grønlendere og dansker/utlendinger. Jeg sitter på mye livserfaring og har lært mye om meg selv, samt gått ut av komfortsonen min flere ganger enn én. Dette mener jeg at jeg har vokst som menneske på. Jeg har også fått venner fra flere steder og land.

Har du tre tips til studenter som skal reise til samme sted?

  • Være forberedt på at det er et lite samfunn. Jeg trives best på små steder, men kommer du fra en by og er vant med mye mennesker er dette noe å være obs på
  • Ha med gode (og varme) turklær og gå mye turer. Det er skikkelig flott natur
  • Om du ikke reiser til et sted som Grønland (det kan jo være litt sært) anbefaler jeg et sted som ikke er så stort/populært, og som det nesten ikke er nordmenn. Man behøver ikke reise så langt for å ha det helt supert. Husk å studere et sted er ikke det samme som å dra dit på ferie. Norden og Europa kan også være skikkelig eksotisk

- Ice, Whales, Sunsets - and a Modern Society

Oskar Malmgren is studying political science at the Linnaeus University in Växjö, Sweden, and a few months ago, he did not know much more about Greenland than it is the largest island in the world, has inland ice and a hugely widespread population, and his friends told him to be on the lookout for polar bears and igloos.

He never imagined the modern, technological society he ended up in when he decided to apply for a student place at Ilisimatusarfik to study criminology, fishing and hunting, as well as cultural and social history in a spring term in 2016.

Here you find all the modern comforts, and the shops are well stocked with both familiar articles from home and also exciting stuff like seal and whale meat. I am most certainly positively surprised – mostly how well I have been received. People are very open and make you feel welcome. Both lecturers and the other students at Ilisimatusarfik have, from the outset, been kind and interested in why I chose to study particularly in Greenland”, Oskar Malmgren says.

He also points to the benefit of improved language skills as a result of his stay. He has not learnt Greenlandic, which he finds much too hard to learn in six months in Nuuk, but on the other hand he is now fluent in Danish.

When I arrived here in January, I didn’t speak a word Danish. But now, two months later, I speak it fluently thanks to the intense fellowship with Greenlandic students, who speak Danish perfectly”, he explains.

Oskar Malmgren feels that Greenlandic society is much less stressful than back home in Sweden. Here things take their time, he says.

And since Ilisimatusarfik is such a small university, the classes are much more personal than at my home university with around 50,000 students. I get a much more personal contact with both lecturers and fellow students, which helps to make my stay funny and worthwhile. Finally yet importantly, the studies here in Greenland have an arctic perspective, which I appreciate since you don’t learn much about the arctic area in Sweden”.


Questions? Just contact:

international@uni.gl