I have officially left the United States and will soon begin my studies as part of an exchange at Uppsala University in Sweden. My goal is to update this blog once a week (maybe more often in the beginning while I’m still attached to the western hemisphere, and less often later on when I’m too busy living the study abroad life to sit down and write about it). The following includes pictures, thoughts, feelings, and experiences which document my time abroad.
I write this sitting in the airport preparing to leave after two amazing days in Iceland. I’ve always been fascinated with Iceland, so I figured my journey to Sweden would be a great opportunity to stop in Reykjavik for a few days. Before leaving, I was more terrified of these two days in Iceland than my entire semester in Sweden. In Sweden I knew there would be a dorm waiting for me, a fabulous advisor (who is awesome at answering e-mails), classes to attend, and other international students who are equally as desperate for friends. But in Reykjavik I would be completely alone, with no set agenda, and no idea what to expect.
I landed on the island two days ago in the wee hours of the morning with about two hours of (horrible) plane sleep to fuel me for the rest of the day. Luckily, the last two and a half years of college have been preparing me for this moment. So at 9 am I set out into the darkness in search of my first cup of coffee. After my ridiculously cold last week in Michigan and too many hours spent in a hot airplane, 35 degrees was the perfect temperature for a nice stroll. Surprisingly, even after walking around outside for hours, the cold did not bother me at all during my trip.
Downtown Reykjavik is absolutely beautiful. I spent the next few hours wondering around the narrow streets and around 10 am watched a beautiful sunrise.
I finally found the small coffee shop in town which the internet swears has the “best coffee”. The shop was small, unpolished, and adorable. I tried to be cool and use as few words outside of hej and coffee as possible to hopefully blend in a little, but of course it was dreadfully obvious that for me to understand anything, the fine gentleman taking my order would have to speak in English. The coffee was good, but my caffeine pallet isn’t refined enough to judge the validity of “best coffee” title.
I tried out some of the museums (despite 40 minutes of searching I still can’t find the Volcano one), including the art gallery and photography museum. Here are my attempts at selfies. The first one is justified because a sign in the photography museum told me to take it, and the second one proves that photo cutouts are not meant for solo travelers. Overall, museums were pretty meh. But I didn’t make it to that many of them, so don’t take my word for it.
I took lunch alone which was a little uncomfortable at first, and I found it difficult to slow down. But once I became aware of how difficult it is for me to slow down, enjoy the moment, sit still, and pause for a second – I stopped worrying about my next steps and spent my lunch taking in my surroundings from a great people watching spot.
That afternoon, I fell in love with a beauty so great that throughout the day I felt myself attracted to it over and over again. When I first came into the city it was too dark to see them, but once the sun came up I was mesmerized by these beautiful mountains.
Every time I passed an alley where I could catch a glimpse of the mountains or the water, I immediately started walking in that direction even if I was on my way somewhere else. At the waters edge I fell in love again, this time with this beautiful building where I spent the last two days watching the sunset.
This is my hostel bunkmate Claire excited about a pedestrian path UNDER a highway, which is much better for walking than we’re used to in the US
We were going to take two busses into a small town and hike to find natural springs to swim in the next day, but after hearing that the springs that are good for boiling eggs and the ones that are good for swimming are not well labeled, I chickened out in fear of boiling myself. Instead, Claire and I walked 3 miles to a local pool where we swam OUTSIDE in the wonderful hot water, ran in our bathing suits over icy sand, and dipped into the freezing ocean for about 2 seconds.
This is getting kinda long so I’ll summarize and show pictures:
- TOURIST MAPS SUCK AND ARE HORRIBLY INACCURATE. As a local who tried to help me said “how are you supposed to figure it out if I can’t find it and I live here?”
- Peeps are super nice. Like the man and his dog who walked around downtown with me in search of a volcano museum. Or the Irish couple who ran over to help carry my 100+ pounds of luggage up a few flights of stairs.
- At first I felt really guilty for not knowing any Icelandic but having the luxury of speaking in English with the (correct) assumption that everyone will understand me.
- It appears to be customary to plant a tree at a persons grave stone, which is a beautiful representation of rebirth and the continual growth of a memory
- Tourism in Iceland has increase A LOT in the last three years. Thats pretty cool, but kinda sucks because its messing with the beautiful landscape like the walking trails in the summer (source: Icelandic tour guide/YouTube self trained Viking fighting instructor who chatted with us for a while). Which is why I promised not to publicize the location of the awesome hot water spring we swam in.
- I like traveling alone and hostels are a lot of fun. Especially KEX. If you’re in Iceland- stay in KEX. Its clean, decorated really really awesome, and has a bar in the lobby which is hoppin on weekdays (there was a live jazz band my first night) (and locals go there as well).
- Crazy coincidence but my bunkmate is also on her way to study in Sweden for the semester! We met the first day, and ended up spending the next day exploring Reykjavik together.
- Two other people I met at KEX also studied abroad in Sweden, so they got me pretty hyped for the next semester.
- Lots of coffee breaks
- Room buddies had a goodbye potluck dinner. Which was delicious and I ate with a spoon.
- We wondered into a bar to find the Icelandic band múm playing a small show.
- Icelandic locals are great at getting themselves into shenanigans which are very entertaining to watch.
On to Sweden!
Bell, við hittumst fljótt aftur