Experiences by Hunter Snyder
By Hunter Snyder, Fulbright Research Grantee and National Geographic Young Explorer
Why studying at University of Greenland as an international student?
Hunter Snyder has been a Fulbright Research Grantee and a Visiting Masters student at the University of Greenland. As an anthropologist, his research has taken place almost exclusively in the Nuuk Fjord with a specific interest in indigenous livelihoods, fisheries science and management, knowledge systems and technology. He chose the University of Greenland as his primary affiliation because of its close proximity to the fjord system, faculty with especially strong and relevant expertise and the regular flow of visiting faculty. One of factors that he has most appreciated has been the contact with local Greenlandic students and recently, their openness to collaborating on research projects.
Your experiences thus far?
I have had the most challenging, eye-opening and rewarding research experience since moving to Nuuk in October of 2014. The University staff have been extremely supportive, which has made my time in Greenland much more productive than it would have been otherwise. Because of its small size, I have been able to form positive relationships with many faculty, students and the administrative staff. Beyond its open space and breathtaking views, the University library houses one of the most comprehensive collections of Arctic literature that I have ever explored.
Doing research in Greenland
Designing research in/on Greenland is almost impossible to carry out from afar. The University staff were willing to invite me as a visiting student in 2013, and in early 2014, I was awarded a Fulbright Research grant to live in Greenland for a year. Without their initial openness to taking a visiting international student and to offer housing, it would have been difficult if not impossible to propose a compelling project that responded to local needs and real concerns on the ground. And as a result of their support, I have been fortunate to make respectable progress on a number of ongoing research projects.
Birger Poppel has been my mentor at the University of Greenland since 2013, and in 2014 and 2015, we have been developing research that responds to his longstanding collaborative project entitled the Survey of Living Conditions in the Arctic (SLiCA). Building upon my background in qualitative research, I will spend several weeks this summer reintroducing some survery-based methods in conjunction with own longterm fieldwork among fishers, hunters and constituents throughout the fishing industry. Beyond my work with Birger, this summer I will also work in a small settlement south of Nuuk with Ulunnguaq Markussen. She and I are carrying out fieldwork on how small settlements adapt to development in the mining sector. In another project, I am working with PhD student Natuk Olsen on the science, technology and regulation of food sharing in Greenland. And lastly, stemming from a course I took with Helle Siegstad, I am writing a comprehensive report on the prospective sea urchin fishery in Greenland and have the goal of expanding the report to a comparative study with the history of New England’s sea urchin fishery.
Your personal experiences in the Greenlandic culture
The housing administration in Greenland provided me with student housing in a building that is also the residence of Greenlandic students who have traveled to Nuuk for their education in an array of fields and specialities. Before, the University placed me within a guest student apartment, which was a great place to meet like-minded internationals, but did not provide a full-on cultural experience like the one I have had over the past several months. I couldn’t recommend more strongly the opportunity to live among fellow Greenlandic students, despite it also coming with a test of one’s own cultural comfort zone.
The domestic environment has been a fundamental part of my experiences with the Greenlandic culture. In our communal kitchen, we watch films together, share stories and most importantly, we engage in the sharing of meals. Sharing food is a primary means of getting to know each other, to share ideas and ask questions and to foster a true sense of interdependence. If one does not feel like cooking on one evening, one could always count on having a meal with a building mate. And on nights when I felt the urge to cook a dish from my homeland in the United States, there was never a shortage of friends who wanted to try something new. Their openness to trying new foods gave me the confidence to try their foods. Inculcating this sort of openness has been the foundation from which I feel I have been able to better understand Greenlandic culture.
The University also fosters cross-cultural encounters through public lectures and within the classroom. While these events are a wonderful mainstay of social interaction, some of the informal get-togethers I have had at the University were also tremendously valuable. Meeting students in the library or in the hallway always led to invitations to spend time outside of the University, which, in turn, opened me up to a wider sphere of cultural interaction throughout Nuuk. The university was, more often than not, the place where relationships and new ideas began and were fostered, and for that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of the University community.