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Looking across green fields towards the peaks of the Arolla mountains

Discovering glaciers in Switzerland: my third year field trip

Published: 24 November 2021

After joining The University of Southampton to study english literature, Amy transferred to a BSc Geography degree after her first year and never looked back. Amy is currently studying her master’s degree in GIS and remote sensing and working towards her dissertation on glaciers.

It was during a third year trip to Arolla, Switzerland that Amy became interested in glaciology and got to develop friendships with course mates and bond with PhD student researchers.

Experiencing Arolla

On this trip in 2019, everyone travelled independently, as part of the adventure. After a day in Geneva, Amy reached her destination in Arolla. The group had an entire hostel, including kitchens, to itself and got to bond over cooking and late night sky gazing.

During the field trip, the group experienced the mountains, forests and glaciers. Due to the weather, hiking on the glacier wasn't possible but each student picked a topic of interest to explore in the field. Tour days and group sharings, followed by celebrations of hard work, brought Amy close to her course mates, lecturers and especially the PhD students who are a big part of the undergraduate experience.

“Before Arolla, I had never seen a proper mountain until I was on that train travelling. On the trip I got to connect with PhD students who inspired me to go into the research path I am now working towards. I struggle with field trips sometimes, and speaking with a PhD student on the trip allowed me to share this and express how I didn’t think I would be good enough for PhD study. He responded to with me an Alan Turing quote that I still refer to now: ‘Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do things that no one can imagine’.

This trip remains one of Amy’s fondest memories of study. Learning specialist technical skills and coming together to cook meals and generally help each other is what made it so special.

A group of students in backpacks in the Arolla mountains

Field trip highlights

Video of geography field trip showing student's highlights exploring glaciers in Switzerland

When you start the geography course they tell you ‘you're the people who are going to make a difference, you can be at the forefront of all this'. It's a scary prospect but it’s always made me want to do the best I can.
Amy Bonnie
BSc Geography, MSc GIS and Remote Sensing

Becoming a glaciologist

Amy’s visit to Arolla and studying two glacier related modules in third year confirmed her interest of further study and research. Since school, Amy wanted to make sure her future career was in a practical field that she enjoyed and could make a positive change to the world.

“I’m interested in glaciological research as it deals with real and current climate change issues. I also love the idea of being able to travel as part of my job, especially to places where the landscape is changing so rapidly that it’s kind of a last chance to see them. As my research career develops, I hope to help those displaced by their changing environments and work together towards a sustainable future for them.”

Amy is currently working on her master’s dissertation using remote sensing techniques to measure glacier velocity changes in relation to climatic data. She is working with a current PhD student on the technical side of this work and looks ahead to analysing the results.

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