A Window Into Iceland

Posted on January 8th, 2020 by

Themes such as isolation and connection as well as dramatic landscape and culture are among the many topics Gusties are discussing as they prepare for their emergence into a new culture. As one of the most remote and isolated countries in the world, Iceland will be welcoming a group of twenty-two Gustavus professors and students. When asked what we are most looking forward to, many students comment on observing the aurora borealis and the natural landscape of this island, which puts the winds we are used to on the hill to shame.

Through intense readings, and even more intense Icelandic cinema, our class has been busy discussing how exactly the landscape does affect the culture. Ideas such as isolation, due to the fact that Iceland enjoys a population of roughly 340,000 people, have been explored throughout our class discussions. Through examples in literature and cinema, it is evident that Icelanders come together to support others. For example, due to the dramatic and harsh landscape, Iceland has rescue teams that are largely composed of volunteers who are offering their time to ensure the safety of those living in and visiting their country. Though space wise, Iceland is rather spread-out, we gather a sense that community wise, Iceland is indeed connected.

The volunteer rescue teams also speak to the dramatic landscape of Iceland, which in turn affects their culture. Though experiencing the landscape first hand will allow us to draw a more full conclusion of landscapes affect on culture – check back for blog posts as our trip gets underway! – we have discussed various possibilities. For example, the cold and windy weather, especially in the winter months, with four to six hours of daylight, allow for Icelanders to enjoy literature: specifically poetry.

We also discuss several of the hardships the island faces, both environmentally and economically. Environmentally speaking, Iceland faces long standing problems related to deforestation that occurred more than one thousand years ago, when Vikings first settled on the island. Given the volcanic landscape and lack of trees in Iceland, the country is struggling with soil erosion and their impact on the global climate change. Though a slow process, reforestation will be critical in improving Iceland’s agricultural abilities and reducing their carbon emissions. Economically speaking, Iceland was severely impacted by the economic downfall of 2008. The krona, the currency of Iceland, fell in value and prices rose overnight. The three main banks in Iceland failed, leaving the citizens in economic chaos. Tourism in Iceland has helped the economy bounce back.

As our departure time approaches, the excitement is growing at Gustavus Adolphus College. We are eager to expand our knowledge about a landscape, culture, and country different than our own. The Icelandic isolation, caused by a dramatic landscape, and the interpersonal connection of its citizens, provide a window into the daily life of those who call Iceland home.


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