Posted by: Students Worldwide
Published on: 11/10/2021Back to Blog
In 2019, I spent a year studying in Iceland on an Erasmus+ placement as part of my BSc at Lancaster University. I studied Geology, which meant that many of my field trips included visiting active volcanoes and glaciers.
Living in Iceland
Avoiding the clichés, living in Iceland was one of the most enriching and formative things I have done in my life. It was not always plain sailing – 4 hours light in the winter and hurricane-force winds in -15 °C was a challenge, but the pay-off of nearly 24-hour light in the summer made it completely worth it.
The Icelandic social life is very different to the typical student experience back in the UK. The drinking age is 20 and ‘supermarket alcohol’ is only available from the government store at great expense.
I lived in student housing, which was a largely international community meaning it was great for organising road trips and socials. I found that this style of socialising meant that better, more lasting friendships could be made. A large part of Icelandic social life centred around outdoor activities: the island can be circled by car in a few days (make sure you get a 4×4!), where you can see puffins and whales, climb volcanoes, and walk on glaciers. You can even get a ferry to an island in the Arctic circle if you want maximum clout.
Another popular social activity to do in Iceland is going to the geothermal baths; many locals and students go weekly or even daily – it is a good way to unwind and soak in the culture (quite literally).
Covid hit toward the end of my year abroad, but luckily Iceland was pretty much unaffected. Without international tourists, the country became much cheaper to live in, and even the most popular sightseeing destinations were deserted!
Icelandic culture is unique in many respects. There is a strong sense of community, and there are many inter-generational linkages between families: some Icelanders can even trace their lineage back to the saga characters.
Almost all Icelanders speak perfect English, but it was fun to learn a few phrases, including how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull.
The Icelandic lecture style was also different to the UK. Most lectures were classroom format, with smaller class sizes. I went on my year abroad in my second year of a BSc, but many of the courses were open to postgraduates, creating a formative academic challenge. A lot of the coursework was based on group fieldwork, helping to solidify friendships and gain a greater understanding of the field.
I was also able to take classes outside of my field of study, meaning I could meet different people and learn about other things, including a module on Icelandic history and the sagas!
Credit – Tommy Escott