In a scenery that is otherworldly; volcanoes, Björk, and a bizarre change of daylight hours are frequently cause for Iceland to be likened to living on the moon. Despite the strange atmosphere and the fact that the country’s whole population is roughly a quarter of New York City’s, the people—no matter how few—make the experience of internships in Iceland. For those seeking an edge to their experience abroad, both in work and travel, look no further than this tiny Nordic island. Standards of living are high, being well-read is rampant, and internship opportunities in Iceland abound. Jæja—til Islands!
Og hvar á að fara? And where to go? Reykjavík will likely be your best bet for internships in Iceland—with 60 percent of the population living in the capital, this Southern-region city is where much of the action is happening. As tech-driven and tourist-based as the capital is, many of the internships in Reykjavik are commonly related to marketing, tourism, journalism, and hospitality. With English so widely spoken, despite any difficulty you might face pronouncing street signs or names, Reykjavík is a welcoming and safe place for expats and locals alike.
Though certainly more isolated and smaller in size, other cities on the island also offer a variety of Icelandic internship opportunities. Ísafjörður in the West Fjords, is the home to the University Centre of the Westfjords and as the largest town in the Western part of Iceland, (approximately 2,600 people!) has a multicultural center and fishing industry that allows for internships focused on anthropology, marine research, avalanche research, and other natural sciences.
Marine conservation is also a hot-topic for other coastal regions, such as in Akureyri (home to University of Akureyri) and Húsavík in the North. Húsavík is notorious for being a whale-watching and research destination, therefore an optimal locale for marine biology or ecology students to take a look.
Finally, though more isolated than some of the coastal counterparts, pockets of the island’s interior/Golden Circle are home to projects dealing with agriculture and forestry. For those of you who say “but wait, Iceland doesn’t have any trees!”…precisely! Sponsored by the government, reforestation has taken root in Icelandic culture and offers opportunities for horticulturists/arborists alike.
Internships in Iceland
Frábaert! As a whole, Iceland is a fantastic place for internships abroad if you have a love of the outdoors and are fairly self-motivated. Many of the internship opportunities in Iceland largely deal with outdoor tourism and the marketing behind it, hospitality, marine biology, fishing, horticulture, and forestry. Not for the faint of heart however, if you fear wide-open spaces, steep roads, sheep, and potential volcanic eruptions, Iceland may not be your ideal locale. Likewise, for those who best work in fast-paced environments with constant demands, internships in Iceland can throw a bit of a curve-ball; the work and pace of life is definitely one that at times can seem very loose. One of the most common things one can hear while interning in Iceland in response to a question is simply: “já…we shall see.”
That being said, if you like an interesting and somewhat wandering pace of work, but are duly self-motivated and accountable, interning abroad in Iceland is for you. Add the combined strangeness of weather and daylight hours and your schedule might never be more dramatically altered…or appreciated. Kaffi tímí (coffee time) is essentially taken on a national level at least once (if not twice) a day and it is not unheard of for Icelanders to want a quick snooze or hike during the day. Come summer months when the sun doesn’t set until midnight and then promptly rises around three am, working hours can be expanded to encompass a lot more than the basic “nine-to-five” hours, especially as so many like to spend time outdoors going camping or for a “walk-about”.
Salary & Costs
Iceland is fairly pricey—which is understandable when you consider how far many of its resources have to travel. Food prices are high and can be a substantial part of your budget.
Housing, even in Reykjavík, is not bank-breaking expensive (though by no means cheap!), a room downtown will put you back roughly $420 to $590 monthly. Unfortunately, the chance of getting a paid internship in Iceland is slim. Even food or housing stipends can be seen as a form of “payment”, so be sure to clarify what your internship includes or offers.
Transportation can be a little unreliable as during winter months, with many roads closed, and while they have buses and ferries, the country is without any form of rail system. However, one of the upsides to having only one circular highway circumnavigating the island, is the fact that travelers move via hitchhiking and it is considered fairly safe for males and females alike. For longer distances small planes make frequent trips, but be prepared to shell out more money for this mode of transit.
Accommodation & Visas
Hús, íbúð, tjald? A house, an apartment, a tent? Accommodation will vary depending on where you are interning in Iceland. For those interning in cities, often times it is expected that you find your own housing arrangements—flats, a room in a house, apartments, etc. Depending on the length of your internship in Iceland, students or families will occasionally rent out a floor in their flat while on holiday or studying elsewhere, so guest houses or subletting in this way might be a good bet.
For those interning in Iceland away from the cities, housing will more likely be provided as there will be few places to even consider renting. There may be a chance for homestays, though often if working for a farm, forestry, or something of similar nature, the organization will own volunteer houses where interns bunk. Similar to hostel culture, in community houses such as this be prepared to share some living space—kitchens, bathrooms, possibly even bedrooms. If truly concerned, be sure to inquire in advance as to what type of facilities your internship program provider offers and who you might be possibly living with.
Visas will not be necessary for Americans interning abroad in Iceland—so long as you do not overstay your three-month period. One of the most important factors to note in respect to this is that Iceland is a member of the Schengen Area, an agreement between 26 European nations that have abolished the need to readily use passports between their borders. While being a member of Schengen makes traveling between countries easier, it also means that the given three-month period for Iceland includes any time spent in another Schengen country.
Benefits & Challenges
Amongst some of the world’s happiest people, you can speak the language once used by Vikings, find a single phone book for the whole country (listed by first-names no less!), and eat shark so potent it has to rot underground for a full year prior to its consumption. A unique fusion between old traditions and new ideas, Iceland is the only place where you can look for elves and trolls, but also know that many of its citizens have their DNA registered for a progressive study in human genetics.
As with any internship abroad, interning in Iceland requires a capacity for independence and “thinking outside the box”. Remote, interesting, not yet so readily visited as other European countries, Iceland definitely makes for an ice-breaker (no pun intended) for future job interviews, resume building, and most importantly, personal growth.
An environment like few others, Iceland can pose challenges regarding language (in more rural areas English is not so widely spoken, plus they have their own alphabet), isolation as there are few roads and small towns, and seasonal differences. For example, if you desperately need trees or tall buildings and despise cold wind, Iceland is not the place for you. Likewise, if you face Seasonal Affective Disorder, definitely don’t plan a stay during winter months—21 hours of darkness can throw even the winter’s merriest through an occasional loop.
In a word, however, Iceland is hrífandi—breathtaking, and well worth the time spent interning there.