What Iceland Taught Me

The funny thing about traveling is that no matter how long you are gone, once it is over it feels like it all happened in a blink of an eye. My Fall 2017 semester abroad gave me a very different perspective than traveling to Iceland for a 3-week program. I was confident in my capability to deal with culture shock and adjust to the new area, as well as creating new friendships with people from different cultures. But what I’ve learned is that no matter how much you think you know, the world always has more to teach you.

I knew my time was limited, and I knew that 3 weeks was a very short amount of time to fully experience a new place. Luckily, I was able to travel for a week before the course started with my mom. We spent our time visiting the classic tourist spots in Iceland, such as the Blue Lagoon, Gullfloss waterfall, Black Sand Beach, Glacier Lagoon, the Diamond Beach, whale watching, and so much more. We jam packed our week together with multiple tours a day to ensure that we could experience as much as we could together. Once the week was over my mom flew home and I headed off to Bifröst University to start my course.

My mom and me in front of a puffin painting

Me at the Blue Lagoon

The course at Bifröst was a sustainable leadership program. The course material focused on how to be an ethical leader in the 21st century. The topics we covered were extremely interesting to me. We discussed both social and environmental issues and how they should be handled.  As I stated in my last post, Icelandic culture is extremely honest and driven by integrity. We discussed the Nordic leadership models and how this honest culture is implemented into the work force, leadership, and decision making. I believe this is important for everyone to understand no matter what your career will be in the future. We are all leaders in some aspects of our life, and it is important to be a positive leader.

While studying abroad, the things you learn go far beyond the classroom. During the course at Bifröst, we visited many Icelandic businesses. We visited a vertical farming facility, a geothermal power plant, the Reykjavik Chief of Police, as well as many others. Through all of these trips we met with the leaders of these organizations. They discussed their philosophies in leadership and how they manage a positive and productive work place. Moving from the classroom and into the real world helps us see the importance of what we are studying.

Visiting an ethical dairy farm

Not only did we visit great companies, but we took many hikes and visited breathtaking waterfalls. This was so important for this course. During these hikes we were able to focus on why it is important to keep the environment in mind when making decisions for a company. Environmental ethics was a big topic throughout all of the lectures at Bifröst. The moral of the story is that our earth provides so much for us and we must not take advantage of that. We have to allow the earth to heal and replenish herself to avoid taking away from future generations.

The entire class at Gullfloss waterfall

One of the many amazing things studying abroad gives you is the opportunity to meet people from all around the world. Not only did I meet Icelandic people, but other students in my program were from all over the globe. I met students from Germany, Austria, Canada, the Netherlands, and even Taiwan. Working together with people of different cultures is very eye opening. We learned the differences and similarities in work ethic and collaboration between cultures. We were all able to work together and teach each other new ways to work productively.

Although my time in Iceland was short, I was able to learn so much about the Icelandic culture, as well as the various cultures of my classmates. I discovered new perspectives surrounding environmental and social responsibilities in the work place as well as in our every day lives. My time at Bifröst was incredible and I am so grateful to have experiences such an amazing course. What I have learned in Iceland will stay with me forever.

Julianna

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