A STUDENT who spent a year studying in the Arctic and encouraged others to do so has been named as the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) UHI Student of the Year.
Kirsteen Allison recently completed a degree in marine science with Arctic studies through the University of the Highlands and Islands.
The 21 year-old from Fort William took up the opportunity to study in the high Arctic island of Svalbard at the University Centre of Svalbard (UNIS) for 11 months in the third year of her course as part of the ERASMUS exchange programme.
Kirsteen gained so much from the experience, she extended her stay and has since dedicated much of her time to encouraging and supporting other marine science students to take up the opportunity.
Kirsteen was also praised for her hard work, determination and excellent academic results.
Shona Magill, who is a module leader on the marine science degree programme and coordinates the ERASMUS exchanges at SAMS UHI, nominated Kirsteen for the award.
She said: “Kirsteen was an exceptionally hard working student who always strived to do her best. She would study late into the evening and was often the last to leave the building.
“She showed a determination to achieve the standards necessary to apply to the University Centre in Svalbard from an early stage. Despite a high level of competition, she achieved this and embraced the arctic lifestyle, culture and opportunities so much she stayed for a whole year.
“Kirsteen has been an exceptional ambassador for studying in the Arctic. She gave several talks to students on what to expect and recently gave an enthusiastic account of the Arctic to SAMS UHI’s whole student body.
“Our exchange statistics have grown since Kirsteen’s visit as a result of her selfless promotion.
“As part of her exchange, she obtained funding from the Scottish Arctic Club and has since given a presentation to its members.
“The Club was so impressed by her that they have requested more information on what SAMS UHI and students do in the Arctic with the hope of providing more effective funding routes for young people hoping to study there.”
Kirsteen was presented with her Student of the Year certificate and a cheque for £150 at the SAMS UHI graduation ceremony in September. She has also gone forward as a candidate for the overall University of the Highlands and Islands Student of the Year award. Now she has finished her studies, she hopes to travel around New Zealand before starting a two-year Masters in Norway.
Speaking about her award, Kirsteen said: “It was truly an amazing experience being able to study in the Arctic, an opportunity I simply could not pass up. The experiences I had during were astonishing, they included ice-caving, snowmobiling, the northern lights and of course seeing polar bears! I realised what I had experienced was a once in a lifetime opportunity so I was more than happy to share my experience with potential applicants to the Arctic exchange programme offered at SAMS.”
SAMS UHI director, Professor Laurence Mee, said: “There is a very long history of polar science in Scotland dating from the expeditions of William Speirs Bruce and Arctic voyages of John Murray. We are delighted that Kirsteen has joined this distinguished legacy.
“Of course, this is in a very different modern world where the Arctic is the focus of developers and conservationists and is the bellwether for our future climate. SAMS has special access to University Centre in Svalbard and to the King’s Bay research facilities.”
To find out more about the university’s marine science degree, visit www.uhi.ac.uk or call 0845 272 3600.
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