Before coming to Brno and start the International Relations and European Politics (IREP) program, I carefully reviewed the university course catalog to know what I am going to learn and somehow prepare myself in advance. Among the Masaryk University’s offered course, there were plenty of attractive and well-known subjects which you find in almost all the IR programs around the world. However, there was one specific course about the Arctic region that caught my attention immediately and I was curious to learn about it. The course was "Arctic Geopolitics" taught by Czech Arctic expert, Ph.D. Barbara Padrtová.
As soon as we were able to register for the first semester courses, I registered for the Arctic Geopolitics since I thought this was an overlooked subject and even personally, I had no idea about the importance of this region in the current political situation as well as the historical perspective to the North.
The course started with an introduction to different approaches in defining the Arctic region and its relation to the theories of international relations. Then, we learned about one of the most unique regional governance international organizations, the Arctic Council, and the legal-political conflicts among its member states and even the Arctic outsiders such as China, India, and the European Union. After that, in a series of lectures, we carefully evaluated the historical and current interests and strategies of each of the Arctic states (Canada, Russian Federation, United States, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Iceland). And last but not least, we discussed the environmental changes that is taking place in the Arctic region challenges/opportunities which climate change presents.
Besides the topic itself, the teaching method was also really unique in its own way with several interesting initiatives like Arctic Window or Model Arctic Council (MAC). Each session after an interactive lecture by Ms. Padrtová, we had the Arctic Window, a short live video call with a guest lecturer and expert from different Arctic states to discuss the presented issues in more detail. Meanwhile, during the first lecture, we had been randomly assigned to represent a particular Arctic state, observer state, or international organization to write a policy paper from their perspective on a selected issue. The policy paper also served as the foundation for our negotiation position during the Model Arctic Council (MAC).
The Model Arctic Council was a simulation of the Arctic Council AMAP Working Group (WG) meeting and the Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) meeting while each student assumed identity of an Arctic Council member. In both meetings, we strictly followed official Rules of Procedure of the Arctic Council and AMAP Operating Guidelines. During the WG, first we had to discuss our representative actor’s position, try to reach a consensus with other participants to finally draft a joint statement during the SAO meeting which to be signed by all members.
This simulation served as a simple way to improve our ability to present data on a given topic while it improved our presentation and negotiation skills. Meanwhile, due to the educational and fun nature of the MAC, it also helped us in the first semester to know our other classmates more and we became closer after it. Briefly, I believe after finishing this course, I gained more than what I expected, and this was not limited to academic knowledge.