Today was the last day of the program. It has been a few weeks since I’ve last posted, so there’s a little bit to catch up on, bear with me.
For the most part, most of our days in Reykjavik consisted of the same routine that started with making the morning trek from the hostel to Reykjavik University, a solid 30 minute walk away from downtown. From 9am until 4pm we had lectures from a few different professors and guest speakers, along with our continued Icelandic lessons. The lectures all followed along with the theme of renewable energy in Iceland, and a the guest speakers were employees from various energy companies throughout Iceland. It was interesting to hear their input and to get a behind the scenes look at renewable energy through the eyes of the companies themselves. We had a full week of lectures from a professor at the University of Iceland who spoke to us about resource economics. I found that portion of the curriculum the most interesting.
After class, I usually stayed after at the university or walked back into town to settle into a quaint coffee shop above a bookstore that was free from the bustle of curious tourists, and worked on my final paper. The topic I decided on was the relationship between renewable energy and tourism in Iceland, researching the overlap between the two dominant sectors. I talked to a guide from a tourism company as well as an employee from Iceland’s National Power Company in order to form a better understanding about the tension surrounding the development of renewable energy power plants on popular tourism sites. Overall, I learned that many tourists are actually very interested in learning about renewable energy during their time here in Iceland, and even visit the power plants with exhibitions that are open to the public.
We had a lot of free time in Reykjavik to explore the countless shops, restaurants, museums, coffee shops and other places of interest. Considering the fact that my living situation was six of us crammed into a room the size of a closet that constantly reeked of cigarettes and sweaty feet, we spent a lot of time out and about. Reykjavik is a really fun city, filled with tourists who are usually only here for a day or two at most, using it as a stop over between the airport and their actual destinations elsewhere in Iceland, usually within the highlands region (which I’ll explain more about later). It was strange spending two weeks in a city that has such a high turnover in terms of people. Our hostel was only one block from the famous church, Hallgrímskirkja, that towers impressively over the downtown area. One day we paid the fee to ride up to the top and look out over the city, it was an incredibly sight.
One downside of spending two weeks in Reykjavik is the hit it takes on your wallet. Everything is very expensive, because it is catered towards vacationers who are willing to pay pretty much anything. We found a few fairly priced places to eat, one of them being Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, the famous hot dog stand down by the water. These hot dogs are only 420 krona, which is around 3.50 US dollars, and are certainly the best bang for your buck in terms of food in Reykjavik. The best order is one loaded with crunchy onions, raw onions, and a whole bunch of sauces (I’m still not entirely sure what they are).
We took a trip as a group to see a show in the Harpa, the famous new building that was built along the water a few years back. The one-man comedy show was called “How to Become Icelandic in 60 Minutes” and hit home with us all after spending two weeks living with Icelandic families.
We also took a day to hike Mount Esja, one of the volcanic mountains that overlooks the city from across the water. Even though it was cloudy, the hike was fantastic and the view was breathtaking.
One rainy day (there are a lot of those in Reykjavik), we decided to go to a few of the art museums around town. On a rare sunny day, we walked up to the top of the famous Pearl building, a dome-shaped glass building that holds the hot water tanks which supply hot water to the city. It was really cool to stand on the top and overlook the entire city.
For our last week of the trip, after our papers had been handed in and we did our in class project presentations, we left the city and headed on a tour of the southern part of the country. We got to stop at a few of the sites along the famous Golden Circle route, including some breathtaking waterfalls.
We also ventured into the highlands region of the country, which is virtually uninhabitable and very difficult to access due to the rugged terrain and lack of roads. After a few days of traveling around and experiencing that incredibly gorgeous part of the country, we headed back to the city for our last few nights of the program. The group enjoyed a dinner out together at a restaurant famous for its fish and chips, then gathered in a coffee shop nearby to say our final farewells.
It is very odd saying goodbye to a group of people who came together from various places across the country as complete strangers, then spent seven weeks getting to know each other. The strangest part is knowing you may never see some of these people again, despite the classic “I will definitely come visit you”s. I am a few hours away from getting on the plane to head home, and it hasn’t hit me yet that I am actually leaving. I’m excited to see my family and friends, and catch up on what has been going on at home, but at the same time I know I am going to miss all the people I met and got to know over these past seven weeks.