Postcard from Antarctica
On March 2 my father and I embarked on a 14-day trip to the Antarctic with open minds, open hearts and mild fear of the #digitaldetox ahead.
Unlike many expeditions to the southernmost continent, ours started in Ushuaia, Argentina and took us below the Antarctic Circle. We would be disconnected for two weeks, so I brought along USBs chock-full of entertainment and photos of loved ones to get me through the Drake Passage crossing. Little did I know, they would remain untouched aboard the Ocean Endeavour.
During our trip, I had plenty of time to look back on my recent journey as a part-time MBA student at Concordia, and my professional life as a marketing communicator with University Communications Services (UCS).
Here are some of my reflections from an unforgettable voyage (not found on a PowerPoint anywhere).
Research and money
It was clear early on that researchers come to Antarctica with the curiosity and drive to explore and discover the unknown. It’s the seventh continent, and the one we know the least about. It was the last to be reached. To this day, no one lives there.
The researchers who do make it down to conduct studies on behalf of their nations have similar stories of camaraderie, friendship and survival. Antarctica is a conflict-free international landscape with no agenda (even if it’s enforced by a treaty).
Regardless of nationality or purpose, if you have three elephant seals lounging in your zodiac, but the only guy available to help you is a plumber by trade, no amount of money will fix this conundrum for you. Life in Antarctica is more about survival than money, and that is what makes it, and the experience, invaluable.
Quality vs. Quantity
Every meal was an opportunity to meet people, hear stories and share experiences. Sitting down at a table and having conversations about international matters, face to face, with intelligent strangers, was a real treat.
No networking event prepared me for what to say to the retired general manager of General Motors Australia. This is probably why I asked him about the introduction of the redesigned Corvette... I meant the Camaro. We laughed and laughed. With no Google in sight, this was bound to happen.
Every day we’re faced with an overabundance of information of varying quality. It’s all accessible if we’re connected and online. The good part about overabundance is that it’s easy to check sources, which I found myself doing often throughout my studies.
The bad part is it’s time consuming and the longer you’re in the rabbit hole, the longer you waste time wondering if you’re chasing the right information. Students who have competed in research-based business case competitions — I’m looking at you.
A note on moments
In my experiential marketing course, the one and only Jordan LeBel, associate professor in the Department of Marketing, made sure we understood how to connect customers with a brand by offering them an unforgettable experience. You create moments to engage a person’s five senses, because this is how memories are made. People will remember what they touched, smelled and saw.
No one on the trip will ever forget the smell of penguin poo. That stuff was everywhere! Even the Jamaican research team that came down to study it found it pretty phenomenal. The wind at my back, water drenching us on the zodiac, big beautiful snowflakes landing on my nose, the warmth of the sun, the sound of cracking ice and calving glaciers … those memories frame the essence of my experience.
I was tethered to my camera. It was on me all the time. I had a Nikon D5300 and dad had a Panasonic Lumix point-and-shoot for the panoramic shots. I always thought, without a doubt, that pictures would be what I would have to remind me of the trip.
But I also made time to look around, take it all in and laugh at the seals, penguins and whales. Sure, I might have missed some pretty epic shots. What I took away were the jokes, conversations, friendships and memories.
I always say that I have a photographic memory, but this experience trumps that.
Elena Raznovan, MBA 15, is the recipient of the Stanley G. French Medal for her graduating class. She is a tireless cheerleader of the John Molson School of Business and continues to improve student experience by coaching case competition teams.
Find out more about Concordia’s John Molson Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.