Fjallraven Polar 2019 Expedition is a 300km dogsled expedition through the arctic circle in Northern Scandinavia. Taking place over six days in April, the expedition is sponsored by the Fjallraven outdoor clothing company, whose equipment all the participants use. The idea is to show that with the right equipment, anybody can survive difficult conditions, so in order to choose it’s participants, Fjallraven holds a massive online poll every year. Those that get the most votes, get sent to the arctic.
This year, one of the people mad enough to voluntarily subject themselves to this icy ordeal is Grace Vollers, a St Andrews fresher hailing from Vermont, USA. Grace says she stumbled on the contest online, and, motivated by her love of the outdoors, made the spontaneous decision to apply for it.
Now, you might be wondering why this is relevant. After all, if I wanted to write about students being cold, I’d just chat about the four months I spent last semester with heating that didn’t work. What makes this story interesting to St Andreans is not so much the Fjallraven expedition in itself, but rather the means Grace is using to campaign for her spot on it.
If you’ve spent any time on the “Class of” Facebook groups, you’ll probably have seen it. A charmingly eccentric video which involves Grace jumping off of the pier, texting her mother, and for some reason, rapping in Germany . (I’d try to contextualise it, but it’s one of those things that has to be watched to be truly appreciated.) It currently stands at over 7000 views, which, by St Andrews standards, counts as having gone viral. But what’s the story behind this most striking success story of St Andrews telemarketing? (And yes, that does include the Ginsoc video. Fight me.)
Filmed over the course of twenty four hours by a friend of hers, the video features Grace in 19 separate locations, from Market Street to East Sands. Quite the logistical undertaking, even without Scotland’s weather being all…Scottish. One scene, which involves Grace trying to light a fire, took about twenty takes before the East Fife wind got the better of her matches. (Grace assures STAR that she does, in fact, now how to make a campfire.)
However, more than the logistical challenges of making the video, there are also the emotional ones. Regardless of how passionately you believe in something, putting yourself out there can be difficult- especially in a town like St Andrews, which has a tendency to sneer at earnestness. Grace says she regretted posting the video immediately after sharing it, and hasn’t been able to watch the whole thing since she made it.
This is not to say, however, that she’s shying away from the challenge. Grace’s facebook profile is full of people sharing the video, and she says she’s started to enjoy strangers on nights out asking if she was “The girl in the video.”
She’s even managed to learn some lessons from it, saying:
“I want to encourage everyone to really put themselves out there. From experience I know it can be really hard but in the long run I believe it helps make a fuller and happier life. Even if I don’t get onto this expedition this year, I of course will apply again but even more so I feel like I have a new enthusiasm for adventure in the near future. Things like this are scary but I don’t think that should ever stop us from trying to live our lives in the best way we possibly can. “
Even if you hate outdoor sports as much as I do, that’s a decent enough message to have written 600 words about.