Study Abroad Stories – Hope Hastings
Last year, International Relations student Hope Hastings spent her second semester studying abroad in Iceland. Read her story here:
“For second semester I went abroad with the International Relations Study Abroad programme, attending the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. Before I left, I had heard that Iceland was an amazing and unique place but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t apprehensive about going up until the moment I got on the plane! There are many elements that make Iceland so unique to live in; they have extremely few daylights hours in the winter, extremely long daylight in the summer, unpredictable weather and a rich Scandinavian culture. However, from my original skepticism I am now the poster picture of Study Abroad; I travelled to incredible places, met lovely people and had an amazing experience!
In Iceland, University is not seen as being exclusively for young people and often classes are made up of a huge range of ages. Having such a diversity in age, perspective and experience in the classroom created a very interesting environment to learn. Also, the range in methods of assessment pushes you to develop a new range of skills. In all my classes participation was a graded element of the course and as the only student from the UK you often became the de facto expert on UK affairs.
I would encourage anybody who wants to consolidate their own views and understand different perspectives to Study Abroad; it isn’t until your views are confronted by an outside opinion that you can gain perspective. For example, in my Security Studies class the Cod Wars were frequently brought up as a historical example of a security concern for Iceland. Despite the cod wars being a loss for the UK, the disputes are not common-knowledge or of significance history of the UK as it is for Iceland. Again it comes down to perspective, as a medium power the UK has the platform to address concerns immediately, however, it is not so easy for small states such as Iceland who will have to campaign to address an issue with larger powers.
Beyond academics, Iceland is one of the best places to travel if you’re interested in adventure. Everything from the weather to the landscape is extreme. You have to be prepared for every eventuality at all times. It can be sunshine and rainbows one minute and a white-out snow storm the next, in May. The landscape and scenery is like a different planet and leaves you in awe. The highlight for me was seeing the aurora borealis, the northern lights, ‘dancing’ and changing colours across the whole sky on a ridiculously cold February night.
As long as you are motivated to make the most out of the experience, deciding to study abroad will be the best decision you make at University!”