From Greenland to Newfoundland

Oct 9th, 2014

Janet Harron

go abroad
From Greenland to Newfoundland

Greenlanders Sofie Abelsen and Aqqaluk Egede are loving every minute of their semester at Memorial University.

Both are arts students in a translation and interpretation program at Ilisimatusarfik University in Greenland’s capital Nuuk, While at Memorial, they are taking an eclectic mix of linguistic, anthropology, Latin, philosophy and communications courses.

As third semester students from Greenland, they are obligated to spend a semester studying abroad.

“We chose Memorial because there is an exchange agreement with our home university and it is international. We were also more interested in courses at Memorial than at some of the other universities we could have chosen,” said Ms. Abelsen, who explains that the third semester is customarily spent in Aarhus, Denmark. 

Memorial’s study abroad coordinator Natalie Spracklin is thrilled that they choose Memorial.

“Sofie and Aqqaluk are my first exchange students from Greenland, somewhere that I have never been, so it’s been really fun to meet them and learn a bit about their culture. They were both very open to exploring what was available at Memorial so I felt very confident that we could find plenty of meaningful courses for them in the Faculty of Arts,” said Ms. Spracklin who adds that the Greenlanders attended the recent Go Abroad Fair and actively encouraged Memorial students to study abroad.

 Both Ms. Abelsen and Mr. Egede enjoy seeing things in downtown St. John’s that remind them of home. 

“It’s funny to be so far away from home and see the same types of carvings and seal skin products that we are used to seeing at home,” said Mr. Egede.

At home they speak Greenlandic, which is an Aboriginal language in the same family of languages as Inuktitut.  But that’s where the similarity ends.

“It’s as different from Inuktitut as Danish is from English,” explained Mr. Egede, who along with Ms. Abelsen, has enjoyed the facilities offered at Memorial’s aboriginal resource centre.

Both had a bit of difficulty getting used practice of moving around Memorial’s large campus to different classes.

Favourite professors?  

For Mr. Egede, it’s the “very funny” Dr. Milo Nikolic in the classics department who is teaching him Latin. Ms. Abelsen cites her anthropology professor Dr. Lincoln Addison.

They are also happy to have the opportunity to dispel myths about their home country.

 “Some people are surprised to hear that people actually live in Greenland! When we’ve talked to people from Denmark, they think we live in igloos and have polar bears as pets,” laughed Ms. Abelsen and Mr. Egede. “It’s actually very modern there.”

A vast landmass of over two million square kilometres with a population of 56,000,  Greenland, like Newfoundland, is settled primarily along coastlines. It has no interconnecting roads so the population must either fly or boat to neighbouring communities. 

Both students plan to remain in Greenland after graduation.

“The Greenland government paid for our education – we want to give something back,” said Ms. Abelsen.