By: Stephanie Wong, University of Victoria, winner of the Fall 2021 BC Study Abroad: Stories from Abroad Scholarship

Study Abroad Destination: Reykjavik, Iceland

In the blink of an eye, my time at the University of Iceland and my life in Reykjavik came to an end. The last week of classes was at the end of November, and the exam period started in the beginning of December. As my friends, floormates and I began studying, it also marked the upcoming end of our semester abroad. The life we had built for ourselves over the past 4 months would have to wrap up, even though it felt like we just arrived the day before. Looking back, my semester abroad was unforgettable, and I will never forget the people I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with. I am very thankful I had the opportunity to study abroad, and it confirmed my passion for international experiences.

I was able to celebrate my 21st birthday in Iceland, alongside my new friends and it will be an unforgettable memory. It was heartwarming to be surrounded people I had grown to care and appreciate, and for them to be there for my celebration. On one of my last days in Iceland, I was able to go on a glacier hike at my favourite place in Iceland, Sólheimajökull Glacier in South Iceland. One of the activities I knew I had to do during my time abroad was this activity: a walk on top of a glacier, with the chance to try ice climbing as well. Glaciers cover 11% of Iceland, and Europe’s largest glacier is located in Iceland. I was super excited and thankful I was able to do this activity with 3 of my wonderful friends, and it was an unforgettable experience.

After my exams were done, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my time abroad and packing up my things. I was one of the last few people in my social groups to leave Iceland, so I was seeing a lot of my friends go home. I realized I had grown extremely attached to the life I had, and how positive my time abroad was overall. I never had a negative experience and was very happy with the places I went and the people I met. I was very mentally prepared to go abroad, but I wasn’t prepared to come home. Readjusting back to Canadian society was interesting, especially with Covid-19 restrictions. I was surprised at how some of my mannerisms changed a little bit, and how my lifestyle had changed a little bit. As dining out and food was expensive in Iceland, I had turned to a more plain, plant-based diet and cooked a lot of my own meals. I had learned a lot about other cultures, as well as things about myself. I learned that I was a lot more independent than I thought I was, and I’m very good at helping to mitigate conflicts and problems. I’m looking forward to seeing what other international opportunities come up, and to see how I will use what I learned from my experience in the future.

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