A student's study abroad in Iceland leads to one-of-a-kind internship opportunity

Ariana Telzerow stands in front of the water in Iceland
Ariana Telzerow is studying abroad this semester at the University of Akureyri in Iceland.

In the remote north of Iceland, in a small fishing town where, in the summer, the sun shines for 24 hours at a time, Ariana Telzerow (Marine Affairs, ’23), is turning her semester abroad into a career.

The University of New England student — who has spent her fall semester in this small Arctic nation — is using her time abroad at the University of Akureyri forging ties with industry specialists and environmental advocates as an event organizer for the Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network (IACN) and as a communications assistant for the Fisheries Science Centre within the University of Akureyri’s School of Business and Science.

As part of her work with the IACN — an organization whose mission is to initiate, encourage, and facilitate Icelandic and international cooperation on Arctic issues —Telzerow has been instrumental in providing input for the group’s efforts to restructure its website. She also volunteered at the Arctic Circle Assembly in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavík, from which a UNE delegation recently returned.

“The Arctic Circle Assembly was an amazing opportunity for me to gain volunteer experience while attending the sessions and networking,” Telzerow reflected. “I really appreciated being among so many others with the same mindset that I have of wanting to protect the environment.”

At the IACN, Telzerow is learning how to work as a communications professional. Currently, she is heavily involved in planning an online event in coordination with Women in Renewable Energy (WiRE) in Canada to develop a series on the topic of “Renewable Energy for Sustainable and Inclusive Development of the Arctic.”

Telzerow is also promoting the IACN’s informational materials and developing a business plan for distributing the organization’s recent report on gender equality in the Arctic.

“This work has really opened my eyes to different perspectives and how to incorporate them in my own work,” she said.

In Akureyri, four hours from Reykjavík, Telzerow is also learning the ins and outs of advocacy as she works to build a website for the Fisheries Science Centre, which seeks to strengthen ties between the University of Akureyri and industry. The new website, Telzerow said, will promote the center as a learning destination for children and teens, with the goal of priming young people to become marine environmental advocates later in life.

“I never realized it from my class work alone, but communication is key when it comes to conservation and sustainability efforts,” she said. “I’ve really learned how to become creative and use my strengths to catch people’s attention.”

Cynthia Simon, director of the College of Arts and Sciences Internship Office and Telzerow’s internship instructor, shared that Telzerow’s experience embodies what the office does best: encourage students to pursue internships across the globe and contribute meaningful work to society.

“It’s been a delight to follow Ariana’s progress through her Marine Affairs internship as she applies interdisciplinary learning to purposeful work and actively contributes to a greater global effort,” Simon said. “Ariana demonstrates the initiative, independence, and professional maturity we foster at UNE, and I am humbled to support Ariana in her learning and in her efforts toward a healthier, sustainable planet.”

The town of Akureyri, with a population of just over 18,000, closely resembles some of Maine’s largest towns, featuring sweeping harbor views and a rich fishing history. It is an ideal place to study Marine Affairs, being located at the epicenter of Arctic trade, policy, and activism.

“Being in Iceland has helped me better appreciate the Arctic ecosystem,” Telzerow remarked. “From living in Maine and studying at UNE, where we have so many programs focused on sustainability, I always knew that I wanted to dedicate my career to protecting the environment. But being here, in Akureyri, and seeing so many organizations active in the fight against climate change and in pursuit of a more sustainable planet has been inspiring.”

Telzerow has yet to decide on a career path for after graduation, but she said she wants to focus her efforts on advocacy work to support sustainable development, environmental justice, Indigenous rights, and research — and she may even return to Iceland to pursue graduate studies.

“This internship has taught me a lot about what I’m really passionate about, and that is the Arctic and its future,” she said.

Telzerow also has many people to thank for their support of both her and her academic career. They include:

  • Emily Dragon, director of Global Education at UNE, as well as the entire staff in the Office of Global Education
  • Cynthia Simon, director, and PJ Lassek, coordinator, of the College of Arts and Sciences Internship Office
  • Susan Farady, J.D., assistant professor of Marine Affairs
  • Embla Eir Oddsdóttir, director of the Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network
  • Guðrún Arndís Jónsdóttir, head of office and director of Fisheries Science Centre at the University of Akureyri
  • Rúnar Gunnarsson, director of the International Office at the University of Akureyri