“You can see geology in action as this island is changing and forming.”
Kate spent a year in Reykjavik, Iceland, with the Learning Abroad Center’s scholarship exchange program, IRSEP. As an outdoor education and recreation major, Kate thought Iceland was the perfect place to study her field in a hands-on manner.
Kate called Iceland “an interesting little country,” and her characterization carried over into her classroom studies. In small classes of no more than 30 students, she was able to discuss topics like Iceland’s whaling industry, and also get out of the classroom for trips to geological sites. “Iceland is a great place to study geology…there are volcanoes, glaciers, icebergs, and hot springs all over the place, so you can see geology in action as this island is changing and forming.” Kate took courses in tourism and economics, and felt that the program fit very well with her major at the University of Minnesota.
Kate’s next step for her major is to complete an internship. “I made connections through the anthropology department in Iceland, and they have an internship in Greenland every summer that I can possibly do,” she said. Kate felt that more travel, and possibly graduate work were on the horizon after finishing her degree. “I’d like to get my masters, if I do, in tourism economics. Iceland was a great springboard for that, to learn more about the economics behind the tourism industry. It’s not just for the people traveling all over the world, but it provides a lot for the towns and cities that are catering to tourists. It was really interesting to see those kinds of dynamics.”
Kate found many ways to enjoy her time outside of the classroom. She joined the Icelandic student council, which allowed her to get to know native students she may not have met otherwise. “People always told me that it was hard to kind of break into the culture and the society there,” she said, “but that way I got to meet a ton of Icelandic university students.” Kate also joined the foreign student association at the University of Iceland, where she organized events on campus for the entire international student population.
Off of campus, Kate traveled around Iceland, and to Greenland. She herded sheep with local farmers, ate cured shark meat, and braved icy road conditions in a Volkswagen van. Overall, she felt very positive about her experience. “Studying abroad is a really important thing to do, because it shows you an outside view of where you’re from and the place that you’re staying. You get to experience new things: new foods, new culture, just a new way of living that will change you. And when you come back to the US, you will look at things in a different way. It’s an experience that can round out your whole academic career.”
Check out the IRSEP Iceland program.