Iceland is one of the happiest countries in the world, but many people have yet to venture to this unique northern island nation. Three out of four Icelanders are satisfied with their lives, compared to a global average which is closer to two out of four. Let your curiosity run wild in this wild place, find out what makes the citizens of this remote country so content by having a happy stay of your own with a study abroad program in Iceland.
Geography & Demographics
What makes the people of Iceland so happy? One reason for extraordinary degrees of joy among Icelanders may be all their space. The population is relatively low. A few years ago the capital of Reykjavik was home to less than 130,000 residents leaving residents with lots of space. Another source may be the flat tax system. Icelanders’ income has a flat rate tax of less than 25 percent. Even corporations benefit from this flat rate system, because they pay one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the world at just over 15 percent.
As Iceland’s name suggests it is a rather cold country but not as cold as many think. Its climate is Cold Oceanic but the Gulf Stream that follows the western and southern shores brings a mild climate and a lot of rain with it. Iceland’s climate is often unpredictable with sudden storms based on the currents around the Arctic Circle and the location on the island.
May to September is tourism season and from May to about mid-July the country is bathed in mild sunshine for almost 24 hours a day! Enjoy lava fields and crystal pools at any time.
The winters bring heavy storms and long nights but also the colorful lights of the Aurora Borealis. Bring rain gear and warm clothing no matter what season you study in Iceland and thanks to a plethora of geothermally heated pools a swim suit is always a must.
Food & Culture
Icelandic cuisine is often centered around unique seafood dishes as a result of the bustling fishing industry. Icelanders tend to use a diverse range of preservation methods to alter the flavor and longevity of foods. Foreigners will have the opportunity to try seafood dishes not commonly found around the world such as, fermented shark; other traditional dishes include pickled ram testicles, varied lamb dishes, and even sheep organs. More and more traditional Icelandic meat-based diets are being influenced by nearby European countries and vegetables are becoming increasingly consumed. But vegetable and fruit consumption becomes somewhat dependent on the availability of such warm-weather products.
Some people put their bet on Iceland's clean air as the source of their ever-exuding happiness. Thanks to the country's myriad sources of renewable energy, Iceland’s air stays exceptionally clean. The only large source of smoke seen in Iceland are geothermal power plant stacks, and what they emit is actually steam. The transportation and fishing industries are the industries that require heavy oil use, and this reliance is expected to decline in the next 40 years or so when Iceland hopes to declare itself energy independent.
Overall, Iceland has a high rate of literacy and most people in the country are well educated. They value the ability to be self-sufficient, which is clearly illustrated in their economy and child-rearing, where they emphasize independence greatly. These customs have also lead to a great deal of equality among the people in the country. Traditional living and supporting one’s self from the land is still commonplace throughout Iceland.
Studying In Iceland
The focus on energy independence in Iceland makes many study abroad programs in the country focus on environment, energy, and sustainability. Iceland is recognized as a world leader in renewable energy, so it becomes the perfect place to study related subjects and gives students a uniquely advanced education in these particular studies.
Environment, energy, and sustainability programs focus on helping students master and understand the uses of alternative energy technologies and acquire a deeper understanding of the role these technologies play in the country's socio-political climate. Armed with this knowledge students become more able to contribute to global expansion of Iceland’s techniques in their future careers.
Studying abroad in Iceland also introduces students to the Icelandic language, which is vital in any study abroad trip to truly become immersed in the culture. Of course, students are also able to explore Iceland in a more leisurely tone, through excursions which help foreigners understand Icelandic culture and also visits various energy production facilities across the country.
Classroom lectures aren’t the only style of learning in Iceland. With a focus on new ways of producing sustainability in energy and living, many programs offer hands on fieldwork. Often students are directly placed in newly developed eco villages like Solheimar, which has been deemed one of the first communities that is entirely self-sustaining in the world. On site fieldwork, and sometimes accommodation, gives students the opportunity to explore alternative ways of living and boost their understanding of the most up to date energy saving and sustainable living techniques.
Students often embark on field trips to expand their learning inside the classroom as well. With hydroelectric and geothermal power plants within driving distance, program participants are able to learn more about how Iceland harnesses renewable and sustainable sources of energy. These types of alternative learning environments also foster cultural immersion, acceptance, and understanding. It is an ideal location for students interested in saving the environment while immersing themselves in a beautiful landscape.