ENST Student Emma Dexter '23 Q&A: A Semester Abroad in Iceland

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Emma Dexter '23 in Iceland (photo submitted by Emma Dexter)

Emma Dexter '23, a double major in Environmental Studies and Anthropology, is studying abroad in Iceland during the Spring 2022 semester, part of the SIT Iceland: Climate Change and the Arctic program. Emma was very generous in sharing some amazing pictures from Iceland and answering a few questions about her experience there. 

 ❖ What are you doing in Iceland?

I’m in Iceland studying topics related to climate change and the Arctic with 20 other college students from around the U.S. The course themes range from climate modeling to community resilience with a mix of both the natural and social sciences to assess the impact of climate change on people and their environment. We attend lectures by local experts and visit sites of historic and geologic importance all while immersing ourselves in Icelandic culture. This program has us constantly on the move and we’ve been lucky to explore many parts of the country!

Why Iceland?

Iceland is an ideal place for an Environmental Studies student to spend a semester abroad because it’s an Arctic nation on the frontlines of climate change. Iceland is also home to unique geologic phenomena like glaciers, volcanoes, and hot springs and it leads the way in the sustainable development of sectors like geothermal energy and fisheries management. Further, given its location in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, Iceland occupies a strategic position as trade and development interests shift to the Arctic.

Icelandic landscape (photo submitted by Emma Dexter)

Is it as cold as it looks?!?

Yes! Though Iceland’s maritime climate keeps the temperature within a relatively narrow range all year, the windchill here rivals the one at Colgate. I’ve been quite literally blown away by the weather and have learned to keep rain pants on hand at all times. However, the sun already doesn’t set until around 9:30pm and it’s only mid-April (which makes up for the chilly days in my opinion).

Has the experience added to your Environmental Studies education? How so?

This SIT program has added to my Environmental Studies education by giving me the opportunity to explore my personal areas of interest and conduct my own research during a month-long independent project in May. I’ve also been able to meet many people who are experts in their fields—relationships that could perhaps lay the foundation for further study or a future career. I’ve really valued living and collaborating with other students, each with their own niche, and our shared diversity of experiences has broadened my perspective. Finally, I’ve been able to experience natural phenomena like glaciers and volcanoes first-hand, which is more visceral than anything I could ever read or watch.

Icelandic seascape (photo submitted by Emma Dexter)

What has been your favorite experience so far?

My favorite experience so far has been my 3 week homestay with a local Icelandic family. During that time, our group was warmly welcomed into the community and we spent our time after classes knitting, skiing, hiking, playing cards, and visiting the local pools. After a whirlwind month of traveling, we all enjoyed settling in one place for a few weeks. A close second was competing in an Icelandic cross-country ski race (a pastime I picked up while here), and feeling like a valued participant in the local culture.

What would you recommend to other ENST students studying abroad for a semester?

One recommendation I would offer to other ENST students hoping to study abroad for a semester is to choose a place where you’ll be able to explore your personal areas of interest (for me, that was the Arctic). I’d also recommend reaching out to experts—I was surprised how eager they were to hear about and assist me in my research. Lastly, take positive risks by trying new activities and foods, talking with local residents, and making other such efforts to immerse yourself.

Emma's SIT study group (photo submitted by Emma Dexter)