A Hay River teenager went on an adventure of a lifetime last summer when she joined an expedition to the High Arctic.
Mia McKenzie-Steinwand was part of a voyage with Students On Ice, which took young people along the west coast of Greenland and into the Arctic archipelago of Canada.
“I like to travel, but it was more about getting to know the traditions up there and seeing the different people, getting to know different places that I’m not used to, and really just pushing myself out of the comfort zone,” said Mia, who is now 15 but was 14 when she was on the expedition.
The adventure in the High Arctic was to help youth better understand the North, particularly the critical problem of climate change and how it is impacting northern communities.
The two-and-a-half-week expedition began on July 22.
“There’s definitely icebergs and sea ice, but it wasn’t freezing as I thought it was going to be,” said Mia.
The expedition began with a flight from Ottawa to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, where the students boarded a vessel called
Mia noted she had never been on a vessel like that before.
“I got seasick. It was pretty bad,” she said. “The first couple of days were rough, but after a while you got used to it. So I’d say the first three days were a game-changer. Afterwards, I just enjoyed myself.”
After exploring the communities, fiords, bays and islands along Greenland’s west coast the vessel crossed the Davis Strait to Canada.
Mia was joined on the adventure by 130 students from 18 countries, including every circumpolar nation. They were guided by a team of scientists, elders, artists and historians.
Mia listed some of the memorable experiences of the expedition – seeing icebergs, riding in a Zodiac, visiting communities, learning about Inuit culture and swimming in the Arctic Ocean.
“We even got to see polar bears, which is awesome,” she said.
Mia also saw Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a stop in Arctic Bay, Nunavut.
The expedition ended in Resolute Bay, where the students boarded a flight to return to Ottawa.
Mia’s mother, Lorie Steinwand, said she wasn’t nervous when her daughter was off exploring the High Arctic
“Actually, I wasn’t, because she’s very independent and we’ve travelled a lot as a family,” said Steinwand.
Plus, she noted that Students On Ice offered a virtual room online where parents could see where the students travelled and learn about their activities.
“So you were never out of the loop of what they were doing,” she said.
Steinwand has noticed a difference in her daughter since her return, noting she is a lot more independent.
“And I find that her opinion about the climate and respecting nature and that sort of thing it’s really grown,” she said. “You could see that mature side.”
Mia went on the expedition after applying online for a $15,000 scholarship from
Parks Canada, a partner agency with Students On Ice.
She is really thankful to Parks Canada.
“Because without their scholarship I wouldn’t be able to go,” she said.
Mia, who is attending Grade 11 at Ecole Boreale, said she would encourage other students to seek to participate in such a voyage.
“Because it’s something you only do once in a lifetime, and it would be a great experience for others to participate in this program,” she said.
Learning about the traditional ways in different communities can really bring people together, Mia noted. “And I feel like that’s something that others should experience, as well.”