minor at UNIS, university centre in Svalbard, studying at UNIS on Svalbard, UNIS, Hiorthfjellet

Why I did my Minor at UNIS, the University Centre in Svalbard

From August 2018 to December that year, I did my minor at UNIS, the University Centre in Svalbard. UNIS is located in Longyearbyen, which is the capital of Svalbard. In this blog I will discuss why I chose to do my minor at UNIS and spend 4 months of my life in Svalbard (which in many other languages is also known as Spitsbergen). I will also go through the formalities I needed to get in order to be able to do my minor at UNIS.

Somewhere in the fall of 2017, when I was in the 2nd year of my bachelor Soil, Water and Atmosphere, there was an Erasmus exchange fair, where several people gave a presentation about their exchange experiences. I knew I had 30 ECTS (one semester) in my bachelor that could be spent freely. These 30 ECTS could also be spent on a minor abroad, and since I was very interested in going abroad during my studies, I decided to go to this exchange fair.

Studying at the North Pole

At this fair, a lot of people had interesting stories and experiences in various places. However, there was one particular presentation that directly caught my interest. Two women were giving a presentation about their study experience in Svalbard. They had the coolest stories, about how they needed to have 4-5 layers of clothing and snow goggles on because they needed to walk to the university for half an hour in a violent snow storm. They told me about the field work they did and how they needed to have a polar bear guard during the field work to make sure there was no polar bear in the area.

This was my chance to go to the Arctic

I have always been very fascinated by the polar regions, already from a very young age. I always dreamed to go to places like the Arctic and Antarctic and now, all of a sudden, the opportunity to go there was right in front of me. I had no idea that there was a university (centre) in Svalbard. I asked the ladies some questions about how exactly they got there, the formalities around it and I asked them about some more of their experiences. The very same afternoon, I spend hours at UNIS’s website.

Svalbard can be found in the red circle With 78 degrees north it is located well above the Arctic Circle Image credits GoogleGoogle Earth

Lots of geophysical courses – Minor at UNIS

What got me even more enthusiastic, was seeing that at UNIS, several courses were given that were very relevant for my field of interest (mainly Atmospheric Sciences). From this point on it was simply my goal to go there. There are lots of courses with regard to geophysics, geology and biology, among some other fields. My interest was caught by the bachelor courses Polar Meteorology and Climate and The Middle Polar Atmosphere. Also Polar Ocean Climate seemed interesting to me, and since it was specified on the website that students that applied for the combination of Polar Meteorology and Climate and Polar Ocean Climate had a better chance of being accepted, I chose to apply for those courses. This combination of courses accounted for 30 ECTS and would thus be exactly enough for a minor.

The town Longyearbyen is indicated by the red circle It is the northernmost settlement with a population of more than 1000 people Image credit Norwegian Polar Institute <a href=httptoposvalbardnpolarno target= blank rel=noreferrer noopener>toposvalbardnpolarno<a>

Paperwork for Erasmus exchange to UNIS

To apply for on an Erasmus exchange to Svalbard, I had to fill out a lot of paperwork. Not only did I have to fill in an application at the website of UNIS, I also had to apply for a study exchange at my home university, the Wageningen University (WUR).

To complicate things further, I also had to apply for a position at a Norwegian partner university of the WUR. This is because the University Centre in Svalbard is not an official university, but a company (a higher education institution) owned by the Norwegian Government (you can find more about UNIS here), and therefore I could not directly apply for UNIS through the WUR.

Therefore, and in order to be able to get the Erasmus grant, I also applied to the University of Oslo (UiO), while notifying them that my application was just a means to get to UNIS. This also means that the grades I got during my exchange got transferred to WUR through the UiO.


In the beginning of 2018, I got notified that the Wageningen University selected me for a study exchange. I think it was in March that I got accepted at the UiO and in the beginning of May I got the most important acceptance, the one from UNIS!

At the 10th of August 2018, I finally travelled to Svalbard. You can read about my experiences during my exchange at UNIS here.

minor at UNIS, university centre in Svalbard, studying at UNIS on Svalbard, UNIS, Hiorthfjellet
A photo of the University Center in Svalbard UNIS made on the 16th of November 2018 at 1010 local time In the background the impressive Hiorthfjellet mountain can be seen
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