The last two decades have changed Svalbard in our world from once being considered a stable enough place to house the International Seed Vault to one affected dramatically by global climate change, including the loss of polar bear and reindeer habitat, and the growth of tourism with the stress that the introduction of transient humans put on a place.
There has been a human population on the island archipelago for some time now; the first big thrust were Soviet mining operations, long abandoned.
Life as as a student on Svalbard sounds fascinating; no one is allowed beyond the school’s fenced parameters without a rifle or being in the company of someone trained in firearms. The threat of bear attacks is taken quite seriously. I recommend browsing the student life handbook for its worst case scenarios before submitting an application.
For more information on the unarmored bears of Svalbard, go here.
When I first started on The Definitive Guide, close to 20 years ago, I had a window open to a real time webcam. It was black and white and trained on a parking lot. Through the winter, I saw no signs of life but the occasional change of car or truck in its place. It was strangely peaceful to tune in throughout the day and night and see nothing happen.
Now there are lots of webcams to choose from.