Dark country, Cool rocks Past Review

By (Geology, Middlebury College) - abroad from 08/27/2012 to 12/14/2012 with

University of Iceland: Reykjavík - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned how to deal with loneliness and find happiness in small accomplishments. Iceland is an incredibly unique place with so much to see. Unfortunately, travel is expensive (no real public transportation, car rental required) and choosing Iceland as a study abroad location means giving up the whole "traveling through Europe" experience. What I learned while abroad goes far beyond the interesting geology and my new found appreciation of daylight. I gained self confidence and comfort with being alone for long periods of time. My experience was certainly worthwhile; it helped me find more appreciation for my friends and family at home and especially for the education I am receiving at Middlebury College.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Classes taught in English are not at the same standard as those in Icelandic. My geophysics professor (Sigrun) was absolutely phenomenal, but other professors were clearly only at the University for research purposes. These classes were based on poorly written and organized powerpoint presentations that they simply read out loud. Attending class was usually a waste of time.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I was not given any information about the University until I had registered my Icelandic social security number, which I wasn't able to get for a few weeks. There was almost no support for students not abroad through the European Erasmus program. I spent my first few weeks in Iceland not registered for classes and without any information from any type of support system.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived alone in a studio apartment. It was very lonely. Other international students lived in guesthouses but I was too late sending emails to landlords to get a spot in one (I didn't have internet access during this time). The guesthouse situation had some pros and cons. The houses were well-kept, clean, and homey. But problems often arose between students when people were being too loud or taking over the kitchen with friends. Also, they had to share kitchens with up to 10 other people, which could be stressful.

* Food:

Food was never really an issue. Everyone cooked for themselves. The University cafeteria was reasonably priced and Iceland is pretty Americanized so most foods were the same. Even as a vegetarian in a meat loving country, I found plenty of options. Generally though, Icelanders are pretty unhealthy and sweets, chips, soda, and fried foods were everywhere.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I integrated myself a lot more than most other international students. I joined a women's hockey team, the student council for the geology department, and made some Icelandic friends. Meeting Icelanders can be extremely difficult as their country is tiny and most social groups are established when they are in their younger years. They go to university with the same peers from elementary school. Many of my international friends only spoke to Icelanders a couple times in their entire time in Reykjavik. Luckily my involvement in hockey and the student union gave me more chances to socialize.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Didn't have any health issues.

* Safety:

Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Reykjavik is an expensive place. I got very lonely and unmotivated at the end of the semester and ended up eating out more than usual. Bus and pool passes were pricey and the beer/alcohol was expensive. Lots of student discounts though!

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Always ask for a student discount - almost every store has one.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • N/A
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • I was
  • not on
  • a program.
* What could be improved?
  • More communication
  • clear outline of dates/deadlines
  • more motivated professors
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Iceland is dark, windy, and incredibly isolated.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:


Course Department: Geology
Instructor: Sigrun
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Weekly homework assignments and one field lab. I felt more comfortable than most of my peers because I was one of the only people who spoke English as a first language.
Credit Transfer Issues: still in the process