Arcadia Magazine Spring 2024: From Glenside to Glaciers: How Arcadia Propelled Me to Antarctica

By Aoife Samuelson '24 | March 15, 2024
A kayaker can be seen behind an icy wave; photo taken by Aoife Samuelson '24, in Antarctica
The cover image of the spring 2024 edition of Arcadia magazine; photo by Aoife Samuelson ’24

Four years ago I chose Arcadia University because a global experience was a top priority. 

It’s a decision for which I will be forever grateful.

My first taste of studying abroad came during my sophomore year in 2021-2022. While I was only in Edinburgh, Scotland, for one week, the trip had a lasting impact. The minute I stepped foot back on campus, I was in the Study Abroad office figuring out how to maximize time abroad while staying on track with my major and minor requirements to graduate on time. The next semester I took a Global Field Study course that took me to Central Europe. I loved my time there. It made me realize how lucky I was to attend a university with such an established program. 

My junior year, I studied abroad in Australia for the fall semester. This is when I began solo traveling. Since then, I have been to 39 countries and all seven continents. All of them have been solo trips. 

My first solo trip was to Tasmania, and I ended the spring 2023 semester with a trip to South East Asia. Earlier that spring, I was lucky enough to go to Ireland where the majority of my family lives full-time. Being immersed in the Irish educational system was an incredible way to learn about my history exactly where it took place. That semester, I took many weekend trips to mainland Europe when I was not with family. At the end of the semester, I planned an in-depth multi-country solo trip before finally coming home. For that trip, I began in Iceland, spent a week in Greece experiencing life on the islands, went to Egypt for
a chance to scuba dive the Red Sea, and finished in Maldives for another dive trip. 

Thanks to Arcadia and their support while on their programs abroad, I had the skills to plan, budget, and execute solo travel safely while learning how
to navigate things when they did not go as planned, like transportation.

After returning home and working full time for a few weeks, my aunt expressed interest in going on safari – a childhood dream of hers. With my newfound confidence traveling solo and the skills I learned through Arcadia, I was able to plan our trip to make her dream come true. We began in South Africa in summer 2023 before heading up to Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana. The week we got home I put my passport down for a bit to come back to Glenside and focus on my senior year. Traveling was never far from my mind, however, and I soon realized I was itching for another adventure.

I began working extra shifts – I work at Access Behavioral Health, Positive Behavioral support, Staples, and as a freelance photographer, student ambassador, alumni ambassador, and student photographer – to save up and started looking to see if I could pull off my dream trip: Antarctica! 

Spoiler alert: I did. I was almost positive Antarctica would be financially out of reach, but I was determined to try. I used the tips Arcadia provided for booking semester flights for this trip. This not only saved a bit of money, but also ensured some flexibility in case I was delayed. 

I quickly learned when solo traveling to never pay full price for any expeditions – dive or otherwise – because there are always deals if you know where to look. After about a week of extensive searching, I was able to find an expedition that was both in my price range and aligned with my timeframe of winter break 2023. I was lucky enough to spend a few days exploring Buenos Aires and Ushuaia in Argentina before disembarking due to the most cost-effective layover choices. When I boarded the boat that would take me from Argentina to Antarctica, I realized that not only did I pull off my dream trip, but I’d solo traveled to all seven continents within the past two years! I had the trip of a lifetime in Antarctica, full of like-minded new friends, penguins, kayaking, and even camping out on the peninsula for a night. 

Each day we had four excursions – two zodiac cruises where we took a small boat in groups of eight to cruise around the area and see what we could in the water. We always saw penguins and amazing ice structures. Sometimes, we were lucky enough to find a seal or even a humpback whale! 

During our time on land it was all about the penguins… seeing their colonies and studying the way they use “penguin highways,” and their affinity for stealing pebbles from each other’s nests. Each night, a team member would lecture about their animal or topic of expertise. This helped us get an even better understanding and appreciation for what we were experiencing every day. We learned about penguin species, documented differences in local whales over time, and documented glacial movements. I loved every minute of that journey — a journey that would not have been possible without Arcadia. 

Aoife Samuelson ’24 is a Psychology major with a minor in Criminal Justice. After graduation, Samuelson hopes to pursue a doctorate in Psychology.