International Office - Aberystwyth University

Life on top of the world

Hi there! Thank you for visiting our blog. Let us introduce ourselves, we are Hannah and Ebony and we’re about to embark on an adventure to the top of the world, 78 degrees North! Svalbard is the land of the polar bear, aptly nicknamed ‘polar bear alley’, where their numbers outweigh the human population. At just 650 miles away from the North pole, temperatures on Svalbard can range from highs of 10°C to record lows of -46°C. Call us crazy, but this is where we have decided to spend the next four months studying Arctic Geology at the University Centre in Svalbard and we can’t wait!

Our journey to Longyearbyen began with a short flight over to Norway’s capital Oslo; a 23-hour layover gave us just enough time to explore, what we thought was a very dull and grey city, shedding a tear here and there at the ridiculous price of beer (£11 a pint)!! After lugging our 23kg suitcases across the city and back to the airport again we were finally on our way to the Arctic, what we will soon call our home for the next four months. As we arrived in Longyearbyen, our landing revealed some unforgettable views of Svalbard’s glaciers and Fjords, which gave us an insight as to what we can expect to see every day – something every geographer can get excited over

1. View of Svalbar as we land

Our first few days were filled with meeting new people and exploring the natural beauty Longyearbyen has to offer. As the world’s northernmost settlement with a population of little over 2000, there is little to do here (but surprisingly we do have a cinema and a gym!) We filled our days with venturing out and exploring the little town, this included a trip down to the Svalbard museum and the beach – unfortunately for us, and fortunately for everyone else, we had left our bikinis at home… However, it wasn’t long before lectures started and we had to get back into the University routine.

2. Day out at the beach.

Our first two days at UNIS are going to be hard to beat and are going to remain one of the highlights of our time here. If you wish to leave the settlement of Longyearbyen, it is required by law to carry a rifle with you in case you cross paths with a hungry polar bear. Our first morning was spent preparing ourselves for this exciting/terrifying possibility – rifle training! After the nerves of holding a rifle subsided, we discovered that for two clueless English girls, we had a pretty mean shot, hitting all 4 bullets in the target from 30m away! After lunch, we tested out survival suits that can keep you alive and floating in freezing Arctic waters for 4 hours. A dip in the Arctic Ocean sounds pretty nippy, but these suits were great fun and kept us dry while we splashed around and jumped off the pier. What a way to spend our first day!

3. Rifle training at the shooting range.

After a week of safety training and lectures, we spent the weekend hiking around Longyearbyen. We began with a four-hour hike up to Longyearbreen glacier – the very glacier that can be seen from our bedroom windows! Both of us had never stepped foot on a glacier before so this was a great day out. We spent our Sunday hiking up to the Plateaux that surrounds Longyearbyen, which revealed incredible views down into the town and across the Fjord. We finished our day off the best way possible, with a well-deserved and well needed, student discounted pint in Svalbard!

Keep you updated!

Until next time,


Lots of love Eb and Han Xxx

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