The CMM Community is one I Continue to Cherish

Monday 21. March 2016 | By: Ingi Björn Guðnason

Six years ago, a combination of reasons led William Davies to leave his hometown of London, UK to study Coastal and Marine Management (CMM) in a small, remote town in Iceland with a name he couldn’t pronounce and a peculiar-looking cartography. He had never been to the country but his adventurous mind, and urge to break out of the force of habit, landed him in Ísafjörður in the fall of 2010.

Allured by Iceland’s Geography and Culture

Now well into his PhD back in Leeds, UK he still seeks every opportunity to return back to Iceland. He gave a lecture at the recent Arctic Circle Assembly held in Reykjavík and his plans for the summer include a long stay in Iceland. We asked Will to share with us his experience and how it came about that he chose Ísafjörður and the CMM program at the UW Centre:

Escape from the Prison of Office Work

Firstly, there was a desire to get back into a field I was interested in and had previously studied (Geography and Sustainable Development). Secondly, it seemed to offer a chance to escape the nine-to-five prison of office work in a capital city environment. And finally, the course was in Iceland, a place I was always allured to by its geography and culture. At the time I had little idea how much this decision would impact my future. Upon reflection, I now realise the extent my time in Ísafjorður has shaped my life since. And all for the better.

Iceland Ignited Interest in Arctic Issues

Generally-speaking, I can break down the benefits I garnered from studying CMM at the University Centre into three areas: career, love of the outdoor life and friendships. Career-wise, the course helped bolster my academic credentials, especially in its diversity of modules on offer. Significantly, my experiences in Iceland cultivated an intrigue and interest in all things Arctic that positioned me well when a PhD studentship focusing around ‘Arctic natural resource governance’ was advertised at my previous university back in England. The stars aligned! I am currently in my final year of this PhD, which explores various framings of the Arctic offshore petroleum issue, with particular focus on Greenland and conceptualisations of scale in human-environment interactions. This research has taken me all around the European Arctic, working as a Visiting Researcher at the Arctic Centre in Lapland, undertaking several trips to Northwest Greenland and formally taking part in the British Delegation at the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik. All wonderful opportunities I attribute in some part from my eighteen months spent residing in a little town in Iceland’s periphery.

Nurturing a Dormant Love for the Outdoors

I’ve always had something of a dormant love of the natural world and outdoor activity but it was only during my time in the Westfjords that this was truly unleashed. Suddenly the urban-centric activities that had previously held preponderance on my leisure time were replaced by activities like fly-fishing, mountain-hiking, cross-country skiing and sheep-herding. I took this new-found enthusiasm back home with me and now seek outdoor pleasures whenever possible. It is difficult to forget the Westfjords landscape, captivatingly beautiful and brutish as it is, the thoughts of oceans and mountains etched upon my subconscious, all bundled together with fond memories. I think it is fair to say my enthusiasm for the Westfjords environment is pretty evident in a piece I recently wrote about cycling its coastal roads.

Life-long Friendships Formed in the Westfjords

But perhaps above all else, it’s the friendships I’ve made with the weird and wonderful collection of people I’ve encountered that has stayed with me the most. A curious mixture of locals and globally-scattered folk, all strikingly different but still sharing much in common. Five years on, a kinship remains strong amongst many of the people I studied with. I’ve visited and have been visited by many alumni in the time since graduation: be it on the Pembrokeshire coast in search for porpoises, cross-country skiing in the glow of a full-moon and vivacious Aurora Borealis in Northern Norway, camping out in the wilds of British Columbia or sweltering in a sauna on-board a grand, wooden ship moored in downtown Helsinki. The CMM community is one I continue to cherish.

Returning to Iceland in the Summertime

This summer I’m fortunate to have a visit to Ísafjorður planned, where I will base myself back at the University Centre for a few months. I am looking forward to seeing how the University Centre and CMM programme has developed over the years. I’m also excited about finally experiencing Icelandic summertime: despite visiting the country many times in the past few years, I’ve somehow conspired to only be there in the autumn or winter, something I’m eager to rectify!