A new season is upon us. The summer months that have treated us so well have now bid us adieu, as have the tourists and the long, bright days. Temperatures are cooler, nights are longer, vacations are over and school has reconvened. This means a fresh batch of international students have made their way to Iceland’s magnificent capital for a semester or two of socializing, drinking, partying, and studying. In that order.
Welcome to Reykjavík!
Two hundred and seventy Háskóli Íslands (HI) exchange students descended on Reykjavík over the past month, accompanied by some 3 or 4 hundred international degree students. With such programs as Erasmus making intra-Europe exchanges a piece of cake, most of the exchangees hail from the continent. “German, Finnish, Danish, Swedish, French and Spanish students are the biggest groups, but we do also get an increasing number of students from North America and Asia, even one or two Australians and New Zealanders each year,” says Erla Björk Atladóttir of HI’s Office of International Education.
Erla Björk’s office helps new students with all the pesky paperwork needed to study in Iceland and finds them places to live. Along with the Student Union and the Erasmus Student Network the office has also arranged a buddy program that hooks international students up with Icelanders. Björn Teitsson, International Officer of Stúdentaráð at HÍ (SHÍ) hopes that such a program will “help the foreign students to get into the Iceland routine as quickly as possible.”
The international students orientation went down on the 31st of August and since then ESN, SHÍ and the HÍ International Office have been helping the new recruits settle in with faculty orientations, a “Rat Race” around campus and a massive “get to know your buddy” party—complete with free booze for ESNers—earlier this month. ESN Reykjavík will keep the kids entertained the semester through with ongoing shindigs at Batteríið, rafting adventures and the like. There’s nothing like the life of an Erasmus!
Advice from the Pros
While a student exchange seems like somewhat of a no-brainer—go to location x, meet people, party, go to class—Erla Björk and Björn have some advice for the newbies in town.
“International students tend to stick together and regret not having made many Icelandic friends during their stay,” said Erla Björk, “so I always encourage students to take part in events organised by the departmental student associations, that seems to be the best way to meet locals.”
Björn, on the other hand, suggests, “[memorizing] the opening hours of ÁTVR, give learning Icelandic a shot and basically have a good time. Oh yeah, look out for the Soirées du Twist!”
Eirik, Norway, 24
“I study Nordic languages back home and I’ve been to Iceland and fell in love. It’s a beautiful language, a beautiful country, so why not? I’ve already done a trip around the country, some friends and I rented a car so now I just want to sit back and relax and check out some of the pools around the city.”
Sunny, China, 24
“I arrived mid-August and I’ve liked it very much. I’m here to study for half a year and I want to see some of the nature and learn about Icelandic culture. I’ve just started my studies so I don’t speak any Icelandic yet, but I’m looking forward to learning.”
Molly, United States, 20
“I’m kinda shocked at how few people are in the city. I can walk from my apartment to the school or down town and pass nobody on the streets. I really like that about it so far. I’m really looking forward to meeting Icelandic people, learning some of the language and exploring the country. And drinking beer.”
Paul, Canada, 25
Studies: A smattering of things
“Iceland is full of paradoxes and dichotomies and I find it perplexing—mostly in Icelandic people and culture and I’m not sure how to make heads or tails of it. I find it very curious though. The combination of something like animism while at the same time being hyper-consumeristic I find very strange. While in Iceland I’d like to just hang out and make music. That’s it.”