Who? Stefan Ploum, fourth-year MSC Soil, Water and Atmosphere
What? Spent five months taking the 'Subarctic Paleolimnology and Arctic Geoecology' Minor
Where? Umeå University in Zweden
'My parents were a bit worried when I decided I would drive to Sweden in my old pickup. They thought I might freeze to death in that truck. Fortunately that didn't happen but my pickup did have the occasional problem. For example, the heating didn't always work and when the temperature fell well below zero I nearly lost my wheels: the cold caused the metal in the bolts to shrink so that the nuts came loose.
My minor consisted of two courses. In the first course I investigated the sediment around a small lake around 3500 years old. The composition of the lake sediment tells you a lot about changes in sea levels, human activity and erosion. For my second course I drove my pickup to a research station in the far north. There I did research on ecosystems above the Arctic Circle. It was really interesting researching how the ecosystems and permafrost function globally because Arctic and Subarctic ecosystems are very sensitive to climate changes. A large part of the land mass in the Northern Hemisphere is covered by permafrost. This is an important area for the future because it plays a big role in the process of global warming.
There were a lot of students from other universities doing different degrees, such as biology, ecology and even anthropology. That teaches you to look at things from a different point of view. So you don't just look at your metal concentration value, you also realize what that means for earthworms and plants.
All in all, I studied very efficiently and was even more efficient in the use of my free time. After lectures you could get out immediately onto a frozen lake where you could go cross-country skiing and ice fishing. I also did a lot of bouldering, which is climbing without a rope sometimes in temperatures of minus ten. You were never far from nature. One morning I found an elk quietly grazing in my back garden. That's not something you'll see too often in Wageningen'.