Clean Air: Just One Reason to Study in Iceland

by GoAbroad Writing Team

What makes Iceland an enticing study abroad destination? Is it the prospect of studying in a sparsely populated country? Maybe it is the allure of taking a closer look at its amazing energy generation system that makes use of renewable resources. Perhaps it is simply the idea of staying in a place rich in culture and history. Inevitably, the clean air of Iceland is just one positive aspect of study abroad in Iceland.

The Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant in Þingvellir, Iceland
The Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant in Þingvellir, Iceland. Photo Courtesy of Gretar Ívarsson on Wikimedia.

What Pollution?

Iceland still relies on fossil fuels for energy but not for powering its cities. Icelanders use fossil fuels for transport and agriculture. Their cities, however, are powered solely by renewable energy. Almost 75 percent of electricity generation comes from hydroelectric plants, and the rest from geothermal plants.

Icelanders owe the nation’s cleaner air to Iceland's unique geology, which allows for the continuous production of renewable energy. Two of these renewable energy sources, stem fields near volcanoes and glacial rivers and waterfalls, are abundant in Iceland.

Air pollution still exists, however, because vehicles and fishing vessels use imported fossil fuels, but this is about to change. At present, there are moves to shift from fossil fuels to hydrogen, which is renewable. The first step among many is the Ecological City Transport System (ECTOS), which involved three hydrogen fuel cell buses and one fuel station and ran from 2001 to 2005.

Healthier People

Icelanders are a healthy bunch. Recent development surveys found that over 75 percent of populations sampled reported being in good health. This wonderful fact is due in part to Iceland's use of cleaner energy sources, add to this environmental consciousness and a low population density and Iceland has a sure-fire formula for healthy citizens.

Of course there might be other reasons for this golden age of health for Icelanders, including the fact that all of them are covered by a government-administered universal health care system that appears effective. So effective that visitors shouldn’t be surprised to find hardly any private hospitals or health care providers in the entire country.

Smoked Lamb, Anyone?

A study abroad trip isn't complete without tasting the local cuisine. Food in this northern Atlantic country is mostly comprised of lamb, fish, and dairy. The dish students must try during any study abroad trip in Iceland is the Þorramatur, a buffet usually served at midwinter festivals. The buffet includes a wide selection of cured meat and fish served with dense, dark, sweet rye bread and flavored spirit called brennivin. Truly an Icelandic tradition that can’t be missed.

Deep Creative Cultural Roots

Iceland's culture is both deep and rich, which is readily apparent in its literary heritage and traditional arts, like weaving, wood carving, and silversmithing. Painting and sculpture are fields not to be taken lightly in the nation either. The work of sculptor Asmundur Sveinsson that adorns the main building of the University of Iceland in Reykjavik or the paintings of Johannes Sveinsson Kjarval and Einar Hakonarson clearly illustrate Iceland’s artistic roots.

Icelandic literature, particularly literature of the medieval times are without a doubt a source of Iceland's culture. Eddic poetry, Skaldic poetry, and Sagas poetry all of belong to medieval Icelandic literature collections. Iceland enjoyed a literary revival in the 19th century and produced some of the country's best pieces of literature, including Gunnar Gunnarsson's Guest the One-Eyed and Ships of the Sky.

Who hasn't heard of Bjork? This eclectic singer and composer from Reykjavik has been nominated for 13 Grammy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and one Academy Award. She even won a Best Actress Award at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival for her work in Dancer in the Dark. Needless to say, Bjork is among the best musicians Iceland has produced.

Another Icelandic singer who deserves mention is Emiliana Torrini. If the name doesn't readily ring a bell recall the "Gollum's Song” part of the soundtrack for Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Torrini is the recording artist of “Gollum’s Song.”