Waterfall in Iceland surrounded by snow

Tradition & Innovation in Iceland

  1. Program Details

    Freshman Seminar Abroad: Consider how creativity and innovation can solve world problems in Iceland and the US.

    Location Reykjavik, Iceland
    Term Spring Break
    Housing Hostel, Hotel
    Credit Type Resident Credit
    Sponsor Learning Abroad Center

    Program Eligibility

    GPA No Requirement
    Student Type UofM Students
    Student Year Freshmen
    Language No Language Prerequisite
  2. About Tradition & Innovation in Iceland

    Iceland’s many landscapes are dramatically shaped by the forces of nature, placing the powers of earth, air, fire, and water on full display. Active volcanoes, glaciers, mountains, and rivers are just some of the many distinctive features of its unique landscape.

    Iceland, a world leader in the use of renewable energy, has extensive resources of hydroelectric power and geothermal energy. This small island nation is also a global innovator in genetics, leveraging its unequalled genealogical records with human genotype data to provide insights into genes involved in human diseases.

    Course Description

    On this Freshman Seminar Abroad, consider how Icelandic society survived multiple famines, plagues, volcanic eruptions, pirate raids, and wars to become one of the most innovative countries in the world. Examine how the education system and government policy contribute to innovation and the benefits of innovation in business.

    Before traveling to Iceland, study genealogy and human genetics, and while in abroad, learn about genetics and geothermal energy—utilized in Iceland to a greater extent than anywhere else. Tour places such as deCODE human genetics company, the Svartsengi geothermal power plant, and the Climeworks CO2 extracting plant.

    Housing & Meals

    Live in shared rooms in a hotel with fellow program participants. Breakfast and welcome and farewell meals are included in the program fee. Take additional meals at your housing or at local pubs or restaurants.


    While in Iceland, the surroundings will become your classroom, and you will explore and experience the seminar coursework through site visits. Excursions will take place in and around Reykjavik and may include:

    • Bus tour of Rekjanes peninsula: Experience an introduction to Iceland's geography and geology

      • Swim at the Blue Lagoon, and cover topics such as continental drift, hot springs and volcanoes
    • CO2 extracting plant Climeworks
    • Various businesses: Learn about start-up culture in Iceland
    • Visit deCODE, a genetics company
    • University of Iceland: Attend lectures on Iceland's geology and nature.
    • National History Museum


    All program participants will be taking the coordinated group flight to and from the program site. The cost of the group flight is included in the program fee that will be posted to your student account. Do not book your own flight, you will receive information from the Learning Abroad Center regarding your seat on the group flight once your participation has been confirmed.

    Learning Outcomes

    • Socialize first-year students as global professionals who understand that human interaction and culture are relevant to achieving professional goals
    • Discover and connect with the University of Minnesota campus and community
    • Prepare students to think critically, analyze topics, and appreciate diverse perspectives through pre-departure coursework, learning abroad and guided reflection
    • Function as an effective team member by utilizing personal strengths in a group setting
    • Develop an understanding of the importance of future international and intercultural learning

    Faculty & Staff

    John Ward is a Professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, and the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education in the College of Biological Sciences.

    About the Learning Abroad Center

    Learning Abroad Center programs are:

    • Affordable: our programs are cost effective.
    • Academically strong: many programs have strong University of Minnesota departmental support and offer pre-approved courses for many majors.
    • Culturally rich: regardless of the program you choose, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture.
    • Expertly managed: our staff in Minnesota and abroad are trained professionals and are always available to answer your questions from extensive pre-departure advising and online orientations to reentry programming. Your safety and well-being are paramount, and we work hard to ensure you have a rewarding and safe experience abroad.
  3. Program Structure

    Program Type Instructor-Led
    Program Level 1900-level course

    One 3-credit course

    Course Schedule

    Combine on-campus class during the spring semester with study abroad during spring break. On-campus Spring Semester 2020 course meets: Wednesdays from 2:30–4:10 p.m. on East Bank. Abroad term: Spring Break 2020


    This freshman seminar will introduce you to:

    • Iceland's history of creativity, innovation, and survival.
    • the historical, social, economic, cultural and political conditions that have shifted Iceland from an agricultural-based economy to a leader in creativity and innovation, with a particular emphasis in science and technology.
    • similarities and differences between the United States and Iceland in approach to fostering innovative and creative practices.

    Receive credit for: BIO 1906

    Approved for: Global Perspectives Liberal Education theme

  4. Dates & Deadlines

    Submit the online application and complete the assigned application checklist according to the appropriate deadline:
    Term Program Dates Application Deadline
    Spring Break 2020 March 6, 2020 – March 14, 2020 Dec 1, 2019

    Program dates are subject to change.

    If the deadline falls on a weekend, submit your materials on the following business day.

    Important Note: Enrollment on this program is limited to 20 students. Admission is granted on a rolling basis and applications are reviewed in the order they are completed. Some programs may fill to capacity prior to the application deadline, therefore applying early is recommended. Additionally, applying early will allow for more time to plan ahead and prepare for the program.

    On Campus Dates

    Wednesdays 2:30–4:10 p.m. on East Bank

    Orientation Dates & Locations

    Orientation will be conducted in 2 parts: an online orientation, which is mandatory for all students, and an in-person, program-specific session. You will receive more information about the online orientation via email. Failure to complete the online orientation will impact your ability to go abroad.

    See below for tentative dates and times for your in-person session. You will be notified of the official date and time via email. Participants will receive applicable orientation materials via email approximately 1 week prior to the in-person session.

    Term Abroad Date/Time Location
    Spring Break 2020 TBD TBD
  5. Fees for Tradition & Innovation in Iceland

    Spring Break 2020 Cost of Participation

    The program fee includes airfare, housing, program administration, welcome and farewell meals, most additional meals, international health insurance, entrances to course-related excursions and site visits, airport transfers, and in-country transportation for all course related activities. Typically, program fees range between $4,000–$4,500. Students must also budget for passport and passport photos, a few meals, spending money, and miscellaneous living expenses.

    If you are registered for less than 13-credits or if you are a non-UofM student, you will be charged tuition for this course in addition to the program fee.  Notify the Learning Abroad Center if this applies to you.  

    Billing & Payments

    Visit Billing for information about the billing process for application fees, deposits, and program fees.

    Financial Aid & Scholarships

    Visit Financial Information for information on using financial aid and scholarships for study abroad.

    Freshman Seminar Abroad participants are eligible to apply for a specific Freshman Seminar Abroad scholarship. Applications are due October, 15, 2019. Apply HERE.

    Bridging Loan

    Bridging Loan, a no-interest/no-fees loan that funds the upfront deposit and flights costs, is available for this program for eligible students.

    Cancellation Policy

    Before you apply to or confirm your participation on this program, review the Learning Abroad Center's Cancellation Policy to inform yourself of the timeline and financial obligations for canceling.
  6. Prepare

    Complete pre-application advising.

    Be aware: All programs require a $50 application fee. This fee will be charged to your student account upon submission of an online application.

    To complete the online application for this program, you will need to select or provide the following information on the online application:

    Center Name TC Learning Abroad Ctr
    Education Abroad Term Spring Break 2020
    Program Name Freshman Seminar Abroad: Tradition & Innovation in Iceland
    Track Name Tradition & Innovation in Iceland
    Country Iceland


    University of Minnesota Student—apply

    Use your University of Minnesota internet ID and password to log into the Education Abroad application system. Your student account will be charged a $50 application fee.


    After you submit your application, you will receive an email notification confirming that your application was received. Submitted applications are assigned an application checklist, which will include the following items:

    • Application Essay

    Detailed descriptions and instructions for submitting each checklist item are included on the application checklist assigned to you.

    Next Steps

    After your application checklist is complete, your application is reviewed by our program team. You will be notified of an acceptance decision by email. If accepted, you will be assigned a confirmation checklist, which you will complete to confirm your participation in the program. If you decide not to continue with the application process, log into the online application system and submit a Cancel Request.

    Register for On Campus Course

    Your participation on this program is secured by applying and confirming through the Learning Abroad Center application process.

    You will also need to register for the on-campus course BIOL 1906

    Note: Registering for the course, but not confirming through the Learning Abroad Center, will not hold your spot in the program.

  7. Program Contact

    For further information or questions about this program, send an email to

    Whitney Westley Fisher or call at 612.625.8827.