Since 2019, the Caen branch of Sciences-po Rennes, the Transitions campus, has been offering students the opportunity to apply for the Erasmus program, destination for the University of Nuuk in Greenland! Jonathan and Edel tell us about their polar experience.
“It’s an experience that we inevitably return transformed“, underlines Nicolas Escach, Director of the Transitions campus, Caen branch of Sciences-po Rennes. Going for 6 months or a year in Greenland, an extraordinary experience that tempted two young students Jonathan Blanchet, in 2020, and Edel Monfort, celebrates last August 31st.
A Greenlandic Christmas
Edel and Jonathan were keen to bond with the Greenlanders. By learning a few words, like “qujanaq” (thank you) or “takuss” (goodbye). By living with Greenlandic families. Edel, – who has not seen a single Frenchman in 4 months! – thus spent Christmas with his host family. “On the evening of the 24th, the party is dedicated to children around the tree, with almond rice for me for dessert. The 25th is more shared between adults, and can take the form of a “Kaffemik”, a celebration.”
Edel also participates in various cultural events in Nuuk, such as the international film festival, a Greenlandic music festival, science week or even volunteered at the Nuuk Nordisk Kulturfestival.
But to discover more Inuit traditions, you have to venture into small towns or villages. “In the capital, the way of life is close to that of Westerners“, emphasizes Jonathan.”Young people watch Netflix!“In Greenland, almost 87% of the 56,000 inhabitants live in cities, 34% in Nuuk.
“Interest in the Arctic dates back to my years in preparatory classes.“, explains Edel, 21, from Vannes, currently at the University of Ilisimatusarfik in Nuuk, capital of Greenland.” In khâgne, we prepare the competitive examination of the Ecole normale supérieure. The geography program focused on the Arctic and its issues. So, for a year, I was documented a lot.“
After entering the second year at Sciences-po, his results and his motivation make the difference. She is selected by the teaching team to leave. “I didn’t realize right away.“Very quickly, we had to prepare for the trip: applying for a visa, investing in warm technical clothing, and above all finding accommodation.”It is not easy in Nuuk, a town of 18,800 inhabitants where there is not enough housing. I sent a message on Facebook and it was a Greenlandic family whose last daughter is on stage in Washington, who welcomed me to their apartment.“
In the footsteps of Commander Charcot
“Greenland is an exciting land!” Enthuses Jonathan, who says he is fascinated by great explorers like Paul-Emile Victor or Commander Charcot, a pioneer in French polar expeditions and studies on climate change. Between 1925 and 1936, Jean-Baptiste Charcot led eight summer scientific missions in the Arctic, in Greenland, in the Scoresby Fjord, aboard the ship the Why not ?
A polar territory with which the Caen Transitions campus dreamed of forging links which now translate concretely into academic exchanges. Edel is studying economics. Jonathan, on the other hand, had completed his political science studies with internships at the Greenland Ministry of Finance, at the Qeqqata Kommunia municipality in Sisimiut (one of the five regions of Greenland) where the Norman student works on the development of industry and research on climate change, then to the Prime Minister. “It is a small town where everyone knows and where it is easy for the students to meet the leaders.», Explains Nicolas Escach.
Immerse students in Greenlandic culture and take them into account to the effects of global warming
Nicolas Escach, Sciences-po Caen Director
Mountains and fjords
With its immense nature and its polar climate, Greenland cannot be ignored. “In my free time I like to hike, kayak and enjoy the mountains and fjords.“Says Edel.”We’re in constant proximity to nature, completes Jonathan, who left at 19 in 2020 for a year. Everything seems calmer, more pleasant to live.“Jonathan also has fond memories of fishing and snowmobile hunting, as well as dog sledding or sea trips. As for the lack of light,”we get used to it !“, assures Edel.
Polar temperatures but warming
For this adventure in the Far North, Jonathan and Edel had to equip themselves with technical clothing. “It is currently -7, -8 degrees but I have known -17 degrees“, Edel notes.”The temperature has gone down down to -37 degrees in March!Jonathan remembers.
That said, global warming is making itself felt. Jonathan was able to meet several scientists, especially Americans, who took part in a mission to the ice cap north of Greenland.
One of the scientists told me “there you see, it’s raining, well that never happened before”.
And this year, Edel could see that the snow, which arrived at the beginning of November, had melted at Christmas in the south of the island. Ordinary greenery …
And after Greenland, what adventure?
Edel will stay in Greenland until the beginning of January before doing a 6-month internship in Copenhagen, Denmark. “Greenland has autonomy but still depends on Denmark of which it was a colony.“Edel plans to go back.
Jonathan returned to Sciences-po Rennes. But remains closely linked to Greenland. At 21, he was in charge of diplomatic relations for Greenlandia, a French organization which carries the voice of the inhabitants of Ittoqqortoormit, a locality located in the east of Greenland and whose population must adapt to climate change. And plan to go there again in 6 months.