A Semester in the Subarctic

CNSCBlog

Jordan, looking out of an igloo she built during her semester in the subartic

My name is Jordan Amatuzio, I am currently an Environmental Studies student at the University of Manitoba. This winter I had the incredible opportunity to spend the final co-op work term of my undergraduate degree as the Programming Assistant at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC).

When I first saw the posting for the position at the CNSC the idea of spending a winter in the subarctic simultaneously excited and terrified me. The night before my interview I studied up on the CNSC, and the more I learned the more I wanted to be a part of such an incredible place. The interview only solidified my interest in the position. Then before I knew it, I was bound for Churchill, a place that had always fascinated me, but I never dreamed I would get the opportunity to visit.

Even though I am a born-and-raised Manitoban and considered myself to be quite prepared for Churchill’s harsh winters, I quickly discovered that I knew very little when it came to properly dressing for winter in the subarctic. I spent my first few days on a steep learning curve trying to take in my surroundings and learn as much as I could about my new home. There were a lot of firsts for me in Churchill. I learned to drive a snow machine, how to build an igloo and I got to learn all about the unique environment, history and culture of Churchill firsthand. I even got the opportunity to see the aurora and the Hudson Bay.

The job itself exceeded my expectations. As the Programming Assistant, I got to work with the many groups of visitors coming to the CNSC. This included our Learning Vacations participants, Road Scholar groups, student groups, and Natural Habitat Adventure groups. Each day was different, I would go from building an igloo to leading a Green Building or Rocket Range tour to assisting with planning for future groups. The variety of work made everyday fun and exciting. We had so many wonderful visitors from all around the world and I loved interacting with the guests and watching their enthusiasm as they themselves got to experience all Churchill has to offer.

One of the highlights of my experience at CNSC was getting to live out at the Centre.  Located 23 kilometers from the town of Churchill, there is very little light pollution to disturb the open night sky. This allowed us to get a clear view of the aurora almost every night, which I could experience out on the tundra, from the observation deck or in the warm Aurora Dome. Each aurora show was memorizing and getting to experience it with new guests made it feel even more exciting. I am incredibly grateful for my experience in Churchill. I learned so much in a relatively short period and I got to meet so many wonderful staff, volunteers and guests.

Working at the CNSC was an incredible experience both professionally and personally. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend my last co-op term. It was an incredible way to end my undergraduate degree.