How to Read an Island – University Course

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Understanding a small island community is not easy, whether it is your own, a collaborating island or one that you just pay a visit to. Islands are distinct worlds, miniatures of large communities where different issues are closely related to one another: businesses are dependent on daycare and transportation, day care is connected with occupancy and limited tax capacity, occupancy is related to transport and culture.

In 2015, a 10p University Course was organized by ESIN to look at the full picture of an island in an interdisciplinary way. The students used a creative concept for studying the small islands of Europe, and to study a specific island of their choice. They read literature on islands, made their your own field studies and interviews, and they wrote a thesis on the island they selected as their study object.

Fourteen students enrolled from small islands all around Europe and the course was given in English.

Learning Objectives

Some knowledge on European islands in general and a more detailed knowledge of the selected island (object of study).

Good knowledge of one topic in the selected island, such as transport, energy, sustainability, governance, gender, culture or business.

Some ability to learn, understand and analyze the general conditions of an island on the basis of the concept of the Six Thinking Hats.

Reflection on one’s own work, one’s work process and one’s results.

Student’s work and thesis

The course proved to be a tough challenge to the students. There were conflicts with other duties resulting in lack of time (one of the students was a Mayor, others had full daytime jobs), some of the students were unaccustomed to studies, in some cases there were language barriers (the course was held in English) and the ambitions from the organizers were high – maybe too high, with not enough time to digest all knowledge needed.

Two of the students made it to the end, producing most interesting final reports: (1) a benchmarking study of island visiting centers by Pia Prost from Finland, and (2) a full study of island Vinon in Lake Hjalmaren, Sweden by RoseMarie Hellén, Sweden: