Monday the 26th of October 2020, three excited student representatives from bioCEED Bergen arrived at Svalbard Airport. We were looking forward to spending the subsequent week 78° North at the annual Learning Forum at UNIS. Coincidentally this day was also the first day of the Polar night, where the sun is gone from the mountains and fjords of Svalbard until its return in February.
We had been invited to participate in the Learning Forum at UNIS, organized by bioCEEDs own Tina Dahl as well as Elise Strømseng from the Academic Affairs, and we took the (nowadays rare) opportunity to get away from the mainland for a week to visit our bioCEED friends in Svalbard. This allowed for us to get to know them a little better and discuss and plan future collaboration projects with the student representatives at UNIS. At the airport, to our surprise, we were greeted by Christina (student representative from UNIS), and she drove us to our accommodation at the UNIS Guest house. We spent the rest of the day walking around in Longyearbyen, eating lunch at Fruene, and going for a walk to Nybyen, enjoying the cold fresh air of Svalbard. The fire alarm even went off five minutes after we entered the UNIS facilities, so we got to experience that as well.
Adventfjellet and Hiortfjellet greeted us in the distance when we arrived at Svalbard airport.
The 27th the Learning Forum started with a welcome from Elise Strømseng and the UNIS director Jøran Moen, and continued with interesting talks from a variety of speakers about the problems we face and have faced with digital learning, and how it might develop in the future.
While the “adults” went on to have collegial sharing sessions, the students from UNIS and us participated in a great interactive workshop where Ivar Nordmo (Department of education, UiB) challenged us to discuss the processes of groupwork.
The first Learning Forum day ended with a poster session, where we contributed with a poster about digital lab work (Ragnhild Gya and Anne Bjune), and biORACLE, while also getting to have a look at other interesting posters and doing some mingling. In the evening, Christina and Daniela took us to Barentz Gastropub, where we got to know each other a little better.
The next day, on the 28th we listened to more interesting talks, and the students had a workshop where Richard Hann (Department of Engineering Cybernetics, NTNU) talked about science communication, and told us about for instance the complex path from having a scientific manuscript, to actually getting it published. After this, Daniela and Christina had a presentation about their very promising student led conference (SCOPE) which they are planning on organizing next Autumn (2021) at UNIS.
On Thursday Daniela took us to Longyearbreen with two friends, and we had a beautiful day on the glacier, enjoying some of the spectacular nature that Svalbard has to offer. The trip got quite thrilling when one of the participants got a cut in their knee when falling on a rock when we were about to return to Longyearbyen, and we had to get her to the emergency room (she did fine, and got ten stiches). Later that night, we went to Kroa to eat together, and the unfortunate “victim” could tell us that she was all good.
Photo: The student representatives posing next to the posters from Bergen. Standing: Ørjan and Pernille, sitting from left to right: Daniela, Ingvild and Christina.
Pictures from our walk to Longyearbreen.
The week flew by, and suddenly Friday was there - the day of our departure. Before we left, we enjoyed a coffee (or a tea for some) at the Department of Biology in good company before saying our goodbyes to the bioCEED and Biology staff at UNIS. Then all that was left to do was to put on our facemasks and fly back home to Bergen.
Goodbye, Svalbard – thank you for having us!
We would like to thank everyone at bioCEED Svalbard for the invitation to the Learning Forum, the wonderful reception and hospitality – and we hope to see you again soon.
– Ingvild, Pernille and Ørjan