Studying Abroad In Iceland Was The Best Decision For Me

Studying abroad in iceland for three weeks made me more comfortable with being uncomfortable

From showering with other women to climbing 900 foot volcanoes, Iceland taught me a lot about myself.

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One view of Iceland from atop a mountain.
Rebecca Wagner

As I've mentioned in many other articles, I attend Susquehanna University and I love it there. In order to graduate, each River Hawk (student) must enroll in and complete an approved "GO (Global Opportunities) Program," or in other words, study abroad.

There are many different options as far as these go, the choice starting with GO Short, GO Long, or GO Your Own Way--a trip that isn't listed but that you can sort of plan yourself and have to get approved.

I had high hopes for my GO Trip. I wanted to GO Long to Australia for a semester because I've always wanted to go there and I was pretty set on it until I thought about the price it would end up being (not the trip itself, but the day-to-day expenses). I also came to the realization that I might not be able to handle it.

It's one thing to be away from your family and friends at school, 300 miles and only one state away. But to be across the ocean in a completely different country and continent was something else that I knew I wasn't quite ready for.

I started looking at the GO Short trips and found a few that I took interest in, namely the New Zealand, Hawaii, and Iceland trips. My sister was graduating from Rutgers in mid-May and I knew I did not want to miss that, so I looked at the dates of the trips and ruled out Hawaii. The New Zealand trip sounded interesting but wasn't really my style based on my major.

See the thing is, some trips are major specific, and all have a focus to them. As a business major, I could have gone to London and done business related things, but I've heard many stories of people of a certain major studying a completely different thing abroad and having the time of their life; I was set on doing something different.

Iceland's focus was "nature, culture, and identities." Yes I'm a business major, but no, that's not all I know. I had also discovered that Iceland was naturally beautiful and I dabble in photography, so I was looking forward to the sights.

Once it was set that I was going to Iceland, I got excited and nervous. I had never been on a plane before and I had certainly never left the country before. Needless to say I experienced lots of firsts on this trip.

First of all, the plane ride was fine for me. I described it to my brother as feeling like all the air was being sucked out of my body during takeoff and landing, but during the flight itself, feeling like I was on a bus, which was something I was very used to thanks to being in band and choir in high school.

We did a lot of walking on the trip, which was good for me, but a lot at the time. We also hiked almost every day, which was something I hadn't really done in a while but was well worth it.

One of my favorite things we did was hike up the 928-foot mountain Heimaklettur in Heimaey. I didn't think I'd be able to climb the whole thing, so the whole time I just said I'd go as high as I could.

Towards the bottom of the mountain, there were steps, ladders, ropes, and chains to help get up the steep side. That part was particularly scary because it was just straight up and while climbing, I could see remnants of previous ladders that clearly couldn't hold up, which was not a comforting thing to see or think about while climbing up a mountain on wooden ladders.

Towards the top of the mountain, we were climbing/walking on some rocks, but mostly on grass and dirt. This part was scary because of the crazy winds at that altitude which caused us to stop the most. Once we made it to the top, it was an amazing feeling.

Another activity that I particularly looked forward to on the trip was swimming in geothermal pools. Something I did not know until the day before we went to the first one was that we would have to strip naked in a locker room with whoever else was there that day (the rooms were gender separated at least) and shower before and after swimming in a group shower.

I am not super comfortable with my body, but I really wanted to swim. Obviously, I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity, so I sucked it up and just went with it anyway and it ended up not being nearly as bad as I expected.

We went to a few different pools during the three weeks we were in Iceland and with each experience, I became more and more comfortable.

These are just a few different examples I can talk about, but they were by far the most profound. I loved Iceland and I look forward to returning some time later in life.

I will forever be grateful for the courage that Iceland gave me, the wanderlust the trip itself gave me, and the memories I will take with me wherever I go from here.

As I get older and experience more, I learn how important it is to step out of my comfort zone. I mean seriously, what's the worst that'll happen?

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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