Drexel Study Abroad Student Conducts Research in Svalbard
Student Perspectives: Research in Svalbard
April 17, 2020
Student ambassador Marissa Olson interviewed Walter Babiy, a Drexel Civil Engineering student, about a unique research opportunity while he was abroad.
Have you ever dreamed of going to one of the most northern countries in the world? This was a dream of a Drexel student, Walter (Volodymyr) Babiy, who was able to go on a fascinating research trip to the country of Svalbard while studying abroad.
Walter is a 4th year Civil Engineering Student with a concentration in Geotechnical Engineering that studied abroad at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. One of Walter’s favorite memories of his experience was a trip that he went on for a project in his Arctic Archeology Course. For this archeology research project, hands-on experience was encouraged, and many of the students traveled to different countries to conduct their research. Having an interest in the arctic, Walter decided to go to the Northernmost civilization in the world, Svalbard.
Svalbard is a small isolated country with the population of around 2000 to 3000 people. While there, Walter had an experience of a lifetime. Staying over a long weekend, Walter was able to meet local people that lived there. He learned about their lifestyle and was even able to visit a university in the center of Svalbard, which is a place for arctic research. Walter’s research included finding accounts of early explorers from the 1800s and he had the opportunity to work with atlases from the 1500s. He discovered that the country is in complete darkness for four entire months and in complete daylight for four months as well. Aside from the research in the library and at the university, he was able to explore the country’s land. The landscape was absolutely beautiful, with mountains of snow. Walter said as he hiked, he could see fossils in the ground.
Something that made this research trip unique was adapting to the climate. The temperature of the country was very cold, reaching a high of -19 degrees! The infrastructure was all above ground because of the cold. Before leaving the place he was staying at, Walter had to make sure he was wearing all of the correct clothing. His guide always carried protection when they went exploring, such as a flare gun, in case they ran into polar bears. A guide dog was also needed so that it could warn them if one was near. Luckily, Walter did not encounter any polar bears!