Before I introduce myself, let me first explain this blog title. A ‘latte-drinking wool scarf’ is the name Icelanders give to those fellow Icelanders who live in the centre of Reykjavik (which is 60% of the population). During my week in Reykjavik on the International Staff Training Week, I learned many a quirky Icelandic phrase, made international friends, shared experiences with those across Europe and got to experience the true beauty of Iceland and it’s people – with a few latte’s in there for good measure!
My name is Gemma and I am the International Partnerships Administrator in the International Office. I have always loved travelling and when I was offered the opportunity to visit the University of Reykjavik for its International Staff Training week – well, how could I refuse!
I was delighted when my application was approved and, following the instructions I received regularly from the University of Iceland, I prepared myself for what would be a trip I would never forget!
On the first morning for our introductory session, I admit, I was nervous. The welcome talk was to be hosted in the National Library – to which I navigated nervously on public transport in Reykjavik. I very quickly met the other participants and within an hour had made new friends from the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, France and Scotland! The rest of the first day consisted of getting to know one another and more importantly, getting to know our hosts and host country.
Over the rest of the week we enjoyed a variety of workshops, presentations, discussions and world cafe’s about incoming and outgoing students, communicating with the so called ‘y-generation’ (a particularly interesting discussion when you yourself belong to that generation), discussing barriers to student mobility and also the importance of international experience. This was coupled with a tour of the Universities campus and facilities and specific faculty visits. The week was finished with presentations from participants (including myself) on a topic of our choice followed by a amazing group meal in the centre of Reykjavik with my new found friends! Admittedly – we were drinking something stronger then latte’s that evening!
On the very last day, we were treated to a tour of some of Iceland’s sights! This included a visit to a Geothermal Powerplant, a glimpse of some of the filming locations for a small, little known TV show – GAME OF THRONES and a trip out to a beautiful, secluded church on the Atlantic Coast. The scenery was of course the main attraction of this excursion but the real star of the show was our tour guide who provided fantastic facts and trivia about Iceland and their folklore throughout the excursion. This includes the fact that Icelandic people believe in fairies and – if you ever visit Iceland (which I recommend) watch out for the ‘Fairy Town’ on your way from the airport to Reykjavik. Don’t worry if you miss it, upon leaving ‘Fairy Town’ you will enter ‘Troll Village’ (and I couldn’t make that up!).
If, like me, the thought of travelling and spending time in a different country as part of your job or studies is daunting then I would have one piece of advice. The University environment and network is the safest and friendliest way you can explore the world! You will meet like minded people, you will experience a different culture and you will gain new found confidence! Having an ‘international experience’ I was told time and time again improves your employability – I never really understood what was meant by this until I was brave enough to have my own. Above all the new skills I learnt, the new people I met and the new found appreciation of my role at the University during my staff week, most importantly, I gained new confidence in meeting and talking to new people and in stepping outside of my comfort zone. I cannot recommend it enough. If you have that opportunity, grab it and run with it. Amazing things happen outside that comfort zone! As they say in Iceland ‘Nobody becomes a bishop without a beating’ – meaning you got to push yourself to reach your goals and overcome obstacles! Nope – I don’t understand the Icelandic sayings either! Takk for reading!