Nathaniel’s Spotlight: Summer in a Scandinavian Winter Wonderland

Iceland is beautiful; “the land of fire and ice” as our geology professor reluctantly put it. We’ve all seen photos of their black beaches, bright blue geysers, and their rolling green hills. It’s a land close enough to the north pole to house some of the most renowned glaciers while sporting a quirky Scandinavian winter wonderland magic year-round. Yet plumes of magma underneath render it one of the most volcanically active places on earth. It wasn’t until setting foot on the land of fire and ice, when I took a Global Seminar during the summer of 2019, that I truly witnessed how outlandish and alien this country was. As the only non-stem major on the trip, I was not only fascinated by the geological splendor, but also took a great interest in the culture.

Nathaniel with a local cat, Iceland, 2019

Nature-wise, my favorite experience was when a handful of us decided to bust a weekend mission. We took about an hour and a half bus-ride through green and black lands that looked like matcha-coated oreo crumble to a town that felt like a ghost town. Then we took an hour’s walk to the head of a hiking trail. The trail held beautiful views of rivers, landscapes, horses, and steep slopes. And at the end of the trail, was a natural hot-spring river, where we didn’t realize the further upstream, the hotter the water, so we quickly slipped back downstream with our lobstered skin.

Nathaniel appreciating the geological splendor, Iceland, 2019

Iceland truly is a majestic island of geological phenomena. But the Icelandic people are just as amazing. They are some of the sweetest people I have met; and it’s a genuine friendliness, not the U.S. fake-friendly. Where they lack in cuisine, they make up for in hole-in-the-wall fish ‘n chips and underground coffee shops. Their swiss-mochas alone are reason enough to go back.

I made a friend with a local out there, her name was Guðrún. It took about a week for me to recover from the jetlag, and it didn’t help that the sun literally never set (during the summer, they get 24/7 sunlight) the closest we’d get to night was a sunset and blackout curtains. But around 1 in the morning Guðrún picked me up and she drove me around, giving me a local’s tour. Later I got to meet her cat, Pétur, and she showed me a traditional Icelandic wool sweater she was knitting. It’s not uncommon for locals to knit their own sweaters.

Guðrún’s cat, Iceland, 2019

I was overcome by homesickness after about the 3rd or 4th week; which is ridiculous because after a couple of days of being back home in Orange County, I began to really miss Iceland. I’ll be back one day, during the winter though, for the aurora borealis and swiss mochas.

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