My journey from Glasgow to Reykjavik went smoothly: my flight arrived early, my cases were some of the first to arrive at baggage claims, and the FlyBus took me straight to my new front door! Luck had it that two of my new flat mates arrived at exactly the same moment , so we put our luggage away and headed downtown to grab some dinner and see our new city.
Our first night in Reykjavik was uncharacteristically sunny for our wanderings. One of the first things I did was buy a prepaid SIM card from Tourist Information (mostly so that I could use Google Maps to help get us back to the flat. Missing the Glasgow grid system of streets already.) It turns out that one of the best ways to get back from downtown is to go past Hallgrímskirkja – a massive church.
The reality of Iceland-living could wait until the next day, which brought rain and our first outing to shop for food, in which seeing the prices for fruit had me convinced that I’d probably get scurvy while living here… eventually I came to accept that I just have to make room in my budget for at least a bag of grapes and some bananas each week. Admittedly the first couple of days I did doubt my ability to actually survive my year abroad since I had lived in one town (one house, even) up until this point in my life. But Reykjavik is small, so I learned my way around downtown at least quite quickly, and it turns out I can do my own cooking, dish-washing, clothes-washing, etc. every day if I really have to.
My introduction to Reykjavik University made me feel happier about my choice to study abroad. The university is beautiful, though very different to my Hogwarts-y home of Glasgow, and orientation gave me the opportunity to meet all my fellow class mates from all over Europe (and a few from beyond) and learn all the essentials about life at RU. And at the end of day one, the uni had organised for us to go to the Blue Lagoon!
Our orientation was only two days long, and the second day was mostly social activities organised by Reykjavik’s branch of the Erasmus Student Network, which I honestly thought was going to be cringe-worthy, but turned out to be a lot of fun and a good way to actually get to know (almost) everyone. Basically orientation was really good and I would suggest that anyone who comes to study here should attend it.
The end of orientation brought the beginning of my first weekend in Reykjavik. A group of us international students got together and went out for dinner and drinks. This is when I learned that there are two affordable ways to drink here – 1, pre-drinks style, at someone’s flat and 2, to surf the happy hours. There’s an app to help with the latter, available for Androids and Apple phones called “Appy Hour”, which tells you which happy hours are closest to you, and which are happening right now. It’s invaluable when working out where to go. You learn the hard way when you don’t use it – by “hard way” I mean paying 1050kr (more than £5) for a watery Carlsberg in a bar.
Following my first night out, I experienced my first Reykjavik festival in the form of a Bacon Festival! I mentioned this in my last blog and, yes, it was as good as I hoped.
I had bacon sushi, bacon brownies, bacon pizza.. Not a bad Saturday afternoon in my book. The food was a little weird, but pretty fantastic too. I also saw people in Kevin Bacon masks, and one true fan in a bacon rasher-patterned suit.
I am capable of being spontaneous. Who knew?
So, for our last day before the official start of classes, two of my flatmates and I planned to climb Mt Esja, which I thought would only take us a few hours, aside from the bus ride, since it is actually smaller than a Scottish munro. So we headed to the bus stop, which is next to the bus terminal for Reykjavik Excursions. We got a little confused and accidentally missed our bus. The next one wasn’t due for three hours, so we thought maybe we could do something else instead. That “something else” ended up being an 11 hour trip to the South Shore of Iceland. Incidentally we picked a really good day for it – by the time we reached the black sand beaches of Vik, the sun was shining.
We also got to see a couple of the impressive postcard-worthy waterfalls in the south, one of which you can actually walk behind!
In short, if you have an adventurous streak, or you love nature, there’s plenty to do in Iceland. I can be a bit lazy/kind of a scaredy-cat but even I had an awesome time on this spontaneous trip.
First week of classes
This is the point where I realised I truly do have less than 8 hours of classes a week. When compared to Glasgow this seemed too good to be true. In a way, it is. The amount of time spent in class was as advertised, but this means you have to actually have self-discipline and do all the reading or you will learn nothing. This isn’t that bad though since Reykjavik University is a great place to study, especially from the point of view of a Masters student: free coffee, designated study spaces, use of a basic kitchen, comfy sofas to read on… It’s pretty good. Also, not nearly as hard to get a seat somewhere as it is in the University of Glasgow library.
My second weekend in Reykjavik also brought my second festival experience here – Menningarnott is an annual culture festival which has city-wide concerts and stalls and free stuff. There was plenty of live music happening everywhere to fill the day and in the evening the street parties were in full swing:
To finish off the day, there was a massive fireworks display. As amazing as it was, it made me a little sad to realise that for the first time I’m not going to get to see November 5th fireworks (I tried to explain the concept of Guy Fawkes night to someone here – only then did I realise how odd it is that we celebrate the failed gunpowder plot with a display of colourful explosives…)
So I got a Kennitala (ID number) and set up a bank account this week, and I made my first international bank transfer successfully. I won’t lie, this made me feel like an actual grown up and so I was quite proud of myself. A tip for anyone setting up a bank account in Iceland: it’s a really easy process, but one thing I dropped the ball on was not having a photo with me. Icelandic bank cards have photos on them, which is a good idea when you think about it but I didn’t realise so now I need to wait a little bit longer to have a card…
I’m starting to get the hang of living here anyway, though I’ve still to conquer the bus system and find out which supermarket is actually closest to me. So any questions on that may have to wait.
Other than that, if you have any questions, my name is Jen and you can email me at 2085739M@student.gla.ac.uk