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

Study Abroad Destination: Reykjavik, Iceland

One of the reasons I wanted to study abroad was to create a global network and to interact with people from around the world. I was so pleasantly surprised with the social interactions I got to experience while living abroad. It’s always a bit cliché to say “I love meeting new people” but for me, it’s the diehard truth.

Two days after I arrived in Reykjavik, the University of Iceland’s International Office hosted an International Student Festival at a famous local bar, Gaukurinn. Now from the moment I found out I was accepted for exchange and landed in Iceland, I personally didn’t know anyone going and only got to know one amazing girl, Nane from Armenia via Facebook. We decided to go to the Festival together, along with another Belgian girl Djahil who was interested in attending as well but didn’t have anyone to go with. So the 3 of us, having never really interacted in real life, walked to the venue together at the marketed start time. We entered, sat down and over the next 3 hours a total of 5 other people joined us. Considering there were supposed to be over 150+ exchange students, we were so surprised no one was there at the start time! More people joined after 7pm, but the 8 of us became the closest of friends after sharing this experience and I knew I could rely on any of them to help me if I needed support.

Another reason I wanted to study abroad was to have the opportunity to live on my own. Since I go to university in my hometown, I am fortunate to live at home with my family without paying rent. I moved into on-campus student housing and was offered a private room with a private bathroom and shared kitchen, living and laundry facilities. The building was newly built (in fact construction still goes on to this day) but I’m grateful I was able to try out some additional independence. I lived with 13 other people on the floor, and since we all moved in at the same time, we had the opportunity to learn about our new home and share our life stories with each other instantly, and socialize while enduring some of the struggles of a new building under construction still. I was surrounded by so many different cultures and backgrounds, I ended up getting more “culture shock” from them and their home countries than Iceland itself.  To this day, I am eternally grateful to have been able to live with such amazing people and they truly made a difference in my exchange experience. I am very lucky that I didn’t have “bad roommates” and have so many wonderful memories to look back on.

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