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IEX Summer 2019: Melting Mountains: Glaciers, Climate Change and Society in the European Alps
Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland; Bolzano, Italy; Chamonix, France; Fiesch, Switzerland; Geneva, Switzerland; Grindelwald, Switzerland; Hintereisferner, Austria; Innsbruck, Austria; Pontresina, Switzerland; Zermatt, Switzerland; Zurich, Switzerland (Outgoing Program)
Program Terms:
Program Terms: Summer
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Gustavus Adolphus College
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Program Description:
Program Description:
Hike through highly dynamic glacial landscapes, sleep in high mountain huts, and experience some of the most dramatic rail and gondola journeys in the world!
Hiking on the Aletsch GlacierWe'll spend two days hiking on the Aletsch Glacier, the longest in the European Alps, exploring the remarkable colors, textures, and sounds of this frozen world.

In mountain landscapes, glaciers simultaneously represent treasured sources of fresh water and feared sources of natural hazards, potential engines of economic opportunity and essential icons of cultural identity. Increasingly, mountain glaciers represent something else: highly visible symbols of the rapid environmental transformations resulting from global climate change. In the European Alps, the dramatic thinning and retreat of nearly every glacier represents an unfolding environmental and cultural crisis, with some scientists predicting that a majority of the 5000+ extant glaciers here could disappear by the end of this century. In this thrilling but physically and intellectually demanding course, we’ll explore Alpine regions of France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy on a quest to understand the physical and human dimensions of glaciers in a rapidly warming world. By combining guided readings and lively discussion with insights from local experts and hands-on field work in glaciology, ecology, and the human dimensions of environmental change, we’ll gain an understanding of fundamental glacial processes, the ways in which climate change is impacting Alpine glaciers, and the role that glaciers – and glacier changes – play in the highly diverse, ever-evolving cultural landscapes of the Alps. Please see the program brochure here: Melting Mountains 2019.pdf.

  • Hike through highly dynamic glacial landscapes, sleep in high mountain huts, and experience some of the most dramatic rail and gondola journeys in the world
  • Conduct field work in glaciology, ecology, and the human dimensions of environmental change
  • Discover the role of glaciers in European mountain culture
  • Document the dramatic effects of climate change in Alpine environments
  • Earn a J-Term IEX credit in July!
Mont Blanc Cable CarsWe'll ride an amazing cable car across the shoulder of Mont Blanc, Western Europe's highest peak, en route to a day spent exploring glaciers on the French-Italian border.

While the program will primarily be in the Swiss Alps, portions of the planned itinerary will take you to Austria, France, and Italy. 
  • Geneva, Switzerland
  • Chamonix, France (Mont Blanc and the Mer de Glace Glacier)
  • Zermatt, Switzerland (Matterhorn and the Gorner Glacier)
  • Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland (Jungfrau and the Aletsch Glacier)
  • Pontresina, Switzerland (Morteratsch Glacier)
  • Bolzano, Italy
  • Innsbruck, Austria (Hintereisferner Glacier)

Faculty Leaders
Jeff La Frenierre, GeographyProf La Frenierre
Assistant professor Jeff La Frenierre teaches courses on climate change, hydrology, and geospatial technologies in the Department of Geography and in the Environmental Studies program. His research focuses on the impact of climate change on mountain glaciers in the high Andes of Ecuador, and its implications for downstream water supply there. You may see him and his students around campus flying a UAV (drone) in preparation for their glacier mapping fieldwork, which will be featured in a forthcoming BBC documentary series, Earth From Space. Jeff has previously researched and explored glaciers in the United States, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Nepal.

Kelly Karstad, CAREKelly Karstad
Kelly Karstad works at Gustavus in the Center for Academic Resources and Enhancement. She is passionate about the outdoors; recreating in it, admiring it, playing in it, and learning what her unique role is in protecting it. When she is not at work or in the outdoors, she loves to be with her son, dancing, doing yoga, reading, and volunteering in her community.

Academic Calendar
Approximate dates for summer 2019 are as follows:
Two to three pre-departure meetings: TBA during spring semester 2019. If you’re studying away during spring, contact Professor La Frenierre for arrangements.
On-site program: June 28 to July 27, 2019

Anticipated accommodations may include hotels, youth hostels, and mountain huts. 

Jungfraujoch TrainWe'll ride some of the most spectacular mountain trains in the world, including this, the Jungfraubahn, which tunnels inside one of the most dramatic peaks in the Alps to arrive at the top of the continent's longest glacier. 

Program Costs
We are calculating the program fee--please check with CICE (507-933-7545) for questions. The fee will cover all lodging, approximately two meals per day, local transportation, guides, glacier safety training, supplemental travel insurance coverage, and activity fees during the program. Students will be responsible for approximately one meal per day, round-trip airfare from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Switzerland, personal expenses, and any passport fees.

Eligibility and Physical Demands
While all Gustavus Adolphus College students who meet the general study away requirements may apply, students must be adventurous, intellectually-curious and physically capable of hiking in rugged environments for multiple days at a time. Students must also be able to hike for up to six hours per day with up to 3000 feet of elevation change at high altitude in varying (and sometimes rapidly changing) climatic conditions. Students who experience vertigo (fear of heights) or have other concerns about the physical demands of the program should contact Professor La Frenierre. 

Application Deadline
Students must complete the online application by February 15, 2019. Students who would like to receive priority review should complete the application by December 15, 2018.

Monte Rosa HutteWe'll stay several nights in spectacular mountain huts, including this, the Monte Rosa Hutte, high above the Gorner Glacier and in clear view of the famous Matterhorn.

Entry visas and passports
Currently, U.S citizens do not need an entry visa for the program countries for stays of 90 days or less. All students who are not U.S. citizens should contact Bryan Messerly to check in about possible additional visa needs. All program participants must have a passport that is valid through at least January 31, 2020. If your passport is set to expire before then or if you do not have a passport, you should apply for that by the end of March 2019.

The information in this online brochure is subject to change. Please contact CICE with questions.


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This program is currently not accepting applications.