While many Iowans may spend this winter break enjoying the warm sun cheering on our Hawkeyes at the Insight Bowl in Tempe, AZ, I will be headed just a little further south. Okay, much further south. Offered the opportunity of a lifetime, I will be participating in a winter study abroad program for two weeks on the Antarctic Peninsula.
In less than a week, I will be leaving for a field-based study abroad program offered through American Universities International Programs (AUIP), Oregon State University, SUNY-Brockport and Virginia Tech. Through our coursework we will discover the human impact on Antarctic ecosystems, but specifically on the Antarctic Peninsula. To begin, we will start in the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, located in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. From Ushuaia, we will board a small expedition cruise ship where we will live for the next 10 days. Each day, we will take rafts, called zodiacs, from the ship to the continent to complete different assignments. Our studies on the continent will focus on the development of ecotourism, marine life and invasive species.
While I have studied abroad before, preparations for Antarctica were very different than preparing for studying in West Africa. I certainly enjoyed not having to endure a long list of shots as my preparations have primarily been academic. Throughout this semester, I have been enrolled in a web-based course with my future study abroad classmates. Each week, we would view a live lecture presented by experts in all things Antarctic from the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand (even in the aftermath of their devastating earthquake early this semester!). Lectures in this course have covered all aspects of Antarctica from climate change to penguins to the political systems currently in place to govern the continent.
I have been informed that summer conditions of the Antarctic Peninsula may actually make it warmer there than it will be in Iowa. However, I will still spend my next week creatively stuffing my luggage with lots of warm layers.