Being a clean technology and sustainable energy student, I wanted to do my exchange in a nation that embraces sustainability. I also wanted to study somewhere with a different climate and culture to Australia, but it also had to have wilderness to explore (because I like outdoor adventures). I discovered the perfect nation – Iceland – The land of fire and ice!
I arrived in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, on New Year’s Eve 2019/2020 and was greeted with snow and fireworks! The semester at the University of Iceland began early (6th January), so very soon after arriving I was meeting new people and familiarizing myself around campus, and around the city.
I undertook a mixture of bachelor and master’s topics that were taught in English, and I learned a few words in Icelandic. However, I soon discovered that most Icelanders speak perfect English, and it would be difficult for me to learn Icelandic without a lot of effort.
Reykjavik is a small and charming city with great cafes and restaurants, shopping malls, museums, an efficient bus network, and a multitude of street art! The University of Iceland is walking distance to the city centre, but I purchased a six-month bus pass (that gave me unlimited bus rides) to go shopping further afield and to explore.
Two thirds of the way through my semester the COVID-19 pandemic began, but having a residency permit, health insurance, and great support network of students and staff at the university, I decided to stay on in Iceland to ride things out. The pandemic did not really affect Iceland that much, there was no severe lockdown and there was no shortage of toilet paper. By far and large, Icelanders were responsible and pragmatic.
While much of the world (including Australia) was in lock-down, I was blessed to be able to explore the magical countryside of Iceland with other students, including several Icelandic friends. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and while the rest of the world went to poo, I was hiking on glaciers, bathing in natural thermal springs, and enjoying the hospitality of the locals.
In the seven months I lived in Iceland, I stayed in modern, and brand new, student accommodation; only a few minutes’ walk from campus and 10 minutes’ walk to the centre of Reykjavik. I shared my accommodation with students from Iceland and other international students, who were from every habitable continent (I was obviously the Aussie). I made lifelong friends with the people I lived with and made many international friends, all of whom I will visit soon when travel is allowed again.
So, if you are up for adventure in a unique and magical land, with legendary hospitality and a modern , yet traditional lifestyle, I highly recommend doing a semester exchange in Iceland. I also recommend going in their “Spring semester” which begins in early January. This way, you will be able to experience the arctic weather and as the days grow longer, watch the countryside warm and transform into spring – with flowers in full bloom!
Tim Palmer, Bachelor of Science (Clean Technology) participated in a semester exchange program in Iceland in S1 2020