Exchange semester at the University of Iceland, Autumn 2022

Student at the Faculty of Arts

I arrived in Iceland at the end August, a few days before the orientation at the University started so I would have time to get to know the place and settle down. The exchange students started making connections immediately through social media and I only had a few hours alone at the apartment before I found myself at the pool with ten other students (all year-round naturally warm outside pools are a huge thing in Iceland! People hang out and relax after work and school). The University held multiple orientation events and parties at the student bar in the university cellar where we got to know each other better. We started planning a road trip for the weekend and everything was just extremely exciting. Road trips were essential to being in Iceland. Public transport outside of Reykjavik is not great, granted there are tours for tourists but the best way to get around the island is to rent a car which was fairly affordable with a full car. The natural beauty of Iceland is unmatched!

One of the initial reasons I chose the University of Iceland was the course selection for history. I was also interested in learning Icelandic. The courses were clearly listed on their website which I cannot say for other universities I looked at. The teaching culture was very relaxed and personally my courses were quite easy and the workload light. Some of my friends had a different experience so it depends on your subject and teachers. Classes ended at the end of November, and we had a few reading weeks before exams and Christmas break.

The most stressful part of the exchange was finding accommodation in Reykjavik. The housing situation is bad and living costs are high. Most of the exchange students I met got a room with shared facilities from student housing. I did too but only from the end of September which left me desperate for somewhere to stay for the first month. I ended up booking a very expensive Airbnb because there seemed to be no other options. Many students stayed at hostels for a while and at least one stayed at a camping site. The inflation was also getting noticeably worse during my stay. Iceland is an expensive country even for another Nordic person. It was all worth it, but I must speak honestly about the negative/challenging sides too.

Overall, I could not be happier that I chose the University of Iceland. I loved my courses on Viking history and the Icelandic language. Iceland is extremely safe, the people are fun and friendly, and the whole country is just so beautiful! Reykjavik is quite small, but it was actually just perfect for the 4 months I stayed there. I loved walking everywhere and running into friends around town. Coming back to Finland was tough because I would’ve rather just stayed in Iceland forever. Still, everything will be fine, is the famous Icelandic mindset, and it’s true.

The author of the text can also be contacted on Instagram @annailonas if you’re interested in hearing more.