Toby Theriault Reflects on her Arctic Experience
The first time I heard about Students on Ice it was because one of my good friends was trying out for the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust scholarship. He got it and soon he left. I was slightly jealous but I also knew that I was too young and would be old enough in the next few years. He returned with amazing photos and stories, it seemed so exciting, so interesting. I could not wait for my chance to go!
Other than photos and stories some of the things that drew me to the program were my love for birds and the environment, my interest in seeing more of the world and my excitement to meet new people. When I started writing my application I assumed that I would have to wait for another year and that someone else would be chosen. I thought that because of how amazing the program is there would be so many people who would apply.
I was surprised to learn that only six people applied for the scholarship the year I went. Looking back this seems crazy! It was definitely something that changed my life. It was incredible and one of the most amazing experiences available for a young person in the biosphere. So the fact that only six people applied shocked me.
I received a phone call on a Monday afternoon telling me that this year’s sponsors, CBT and Jamie’s Whaling Station, had chosen me for the trip. It was a while ago and I don’t remember much, but what I do remember was calling my mom immediately and screaming at the top of my lungs, “I’m going to the Arctic!”
Fast forward to a month later, standing in the Vancouver airport security line-up , about to board a plane without my parents for the first time. I waved goodbye to my mum and started day one of the coolest thing that has ever happened to me. Talking about being on that trip is hard for me to do without wanting to be back. And when at the end of the trip I did a reflection it sounded like this.
Dear Students on Ice,
I have now returned to my home friends and family and I have finally recovered from the post-expedition blues. I am still connected with my Students on Ice family through social media. Even though I have unpacked my, bags and my memories, reminisced on what I learned, experience and laughed at. There is a small part of me that is still in the Arctic, that part of me, mirror reflections of my memories, my life (on ice) now live around the world. There are moments, no one else will remember that flew home to Rhode Island, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, Delaware, Hong Kong, Haida Gwaii, Geneva, Iceland, Greenland, even New York weeks ago. I have new friends who live not that far from me, friends who live an unimaginable distance away from my home, friends across borders, friends across oceans. And all of us have one thing in common, we care, we care about others, we care about the environment, we care about the world and how it is run. That is why we came aboard the Ocean Endeavour, that is what Students on Ice means to me. It means a strong, growing global network of people who care, people who will change the world. I couldn’t be more honoured to be an alumnus. This changed my life, and I hope that in the future it will change the life of someone who I tell about my experiences, someone who cares.
Now thanks to SOI I can see the world through multiple lenses, I can see how what may be a sacrifice for some can be a struggle for others, how everyone needs to adapt to our ever-changing world differently. I can see hope for the future reflected in the eyes of everyone on that ship, students on ice made me believe that a positive outcome for our struggling earth is possible, difficult but possible, and that is why Students on ice is here: to inspire.
I think by the end of this you can see what this meant to me, and what it would mean to anyone else, you can see how important it is to inspire students in our area. And how special it would be for local youth to continue to have this opportunity. My Students on Ice journey will never end and I will continue to encourage my friends and youth in my community to take this trip and inspire themselves.
So, Clayoquot Biosphere Trust and Jamie’s Whaling Station, thank you for changing the lives of however many people I can get on board Students on Ice, and of course for changing mine.
- Toby Theriault