People, who do know me, are primarily surprised that I go abroad to Iceland because I don’t like the cold. However, most people who do know me, know also that I’m not a big fan of crowds … and Iceland only has around 300 000 inhabitants. My father often jokes how perfect it is for somebody who doesn’t like other humans, like me. It is not like I don’t like other humans, I am just rather by myself.
But why Iceland? Why not go to a warmer isolated place? I seriously can not tell you much about that. Of course, I always wanted to go to Iceland. Just look up pictures of the nature there and you want to go too. Believe me, it is really this beautiful and now I’m here I can’t get over the beauty. Maybe I have to admit that I also wanted to go there because it is not that crowded. However, as mentioned there are probably also warm isolated places (but probably not as beautiful as Iceland). When I went to the information presentation about going abroad in my first semester, the Erasmus lady mentioned that you could also go to Iceland. I looked it up and just had the strong pull to go there. Therefore, I was really bent on going abroad to Iceland a year later. Turned out my university did not even have a partnership. However, once I set my mind up on something, I stick to it. I just have to put it into practice. Same with Iceland.
Erasmus/Free mover in Iceland?
If you apply for a semester abroad, you usually do so by applying to different programs of your university. Universities usually have a list of partner universities and for those you can apply going abroad. If it is within Europe it is usually organized by Erasmus. Therefore, going abroad to Iceland is also over the Erasmus program. With Erasmus your semester abroad is basically planned partly by the university. You also do not have to pay any tuitions for the university you want to go to. Furthermore, you get each month finical support depending on the country you go to. Great, right?
Yeah sadly that only applies for partner universities. My university does not have any partnership to any university in Iceland. The only option then is to go abroad as free mover, basically going totally independent by yourself. You are the one who has to clarify everything with the university.
As a free mover the application might be easier because you just apply for the university. You have to do that to with Erasmus too but you also have to apply additionally for Erasmus itself. Believe me, it is a lot of paper work you have to fill out. However, after the application you are usually supported by Erasmus. As mentioned you do not have to pay any tuition and information regarding the further progress should be provided. They also might help you with the visa or scholarships. In case you go as a free mover, you have to organize everything by yourself. Really important is that you get a learning agreement. You have to get that for Erasmus too but you also should get that as a free mover. If not you might get problems after the semester abroad with the recognition of the courses taken. Of course everything after the application is strongly dependent on the country you chose to go. For Iceland for example, I don’t have to get a Visa. However, since I don’t get monthly money support from Erasmus, I have to find another way to finance the semester. But mind, that the international office of your abroad university might be really helpful.
Reykjavik University (RU)
There are not a lot of choices regarding the university selection in Iceland. As you can imagine, there are not a lot of them. I picked out 5 or 6 and wrote everyone of them asking if they accept free movers. Only one of them did, the Reykjavik University, a private one. Therefore, it has a semester tuition. Usually universities in Iceland just have a registration fee, around 600 Euros. Anyway, my one had additionally a tuition of 1500 Euro. Anyway, I did not have much of a choice since every other one rejected my request. Hope it is going to be worth it.
The Reykjavik University seems to be quite new and is apparently the largest private university in Iceland with more then 3500 students. Mostly it is just called RU. Furthermore the university is bilingual and consists out of four academic school (law, business, computer science and science and engineering). I will attend the school of business. A good bonus is the wonderful location. RU is located in the neighborhood Nauthólsvík with a beach and a hot spring.
The application at the RU
It was not really that complicated. The only issue was that they open up the application much later than Erasmus. Since the semester abroad is mandatory for me, I had to apply for other universities over Erasmus or Studexa. It got accepted into the University of Texas at Arlington over Studexa. I got in a moral conflict simply because I did not hear anything back from the RU yet. In case I would have rejected my nomination at Studexa and also would have been rejected from the RU later … I would not have any nomination at all for my mandatory semester abroad. I even had to call the RU in Iceland and ask for my application and thanks god they said I am already unofficially accepted.
The application is just a normal application as it is with every other university, including name, address and so on. Of course, I had to submit a CV and additionally I had to note the courses I plan to take. Furthermore, they needed a language certificate since the courses are hold in english. Usually English is enough but for Spanish speaking countries you also might need a certificate for Spanish too.
As mentioned, since I am a EU student I did not have to get a visa if I am staying less than 6 months. I only had to take care of the health insurance, the flight, a accommodation and the tuition before going to Iceland. Not to forget, I also had to find a way to finance the whole semester in Iceland.
My university does not have any dorms but they offer you great help in finding some other place to stay. However, finding something in Iceland is quite difficult. I think that even applies for people living there. Furthermore, rooms for students are usually just offered privately and not public somewhere online. Hence, the international office invited me to a Facebook group. This group included the students looking for a room as same as the landlords offering a free room. Either you answered to a offer from a landlord or you posted yourself an advert. In my case, I did post a advert telling a little bit about myself and asking for room to stay from August to December. My current landlord just wrote me over Facebook a day later. She offered me a small room with a bed, a closet and a desk in her home. The bathroom I would share with a other girl living there. But mind, that even such a small room in Iceland might cost a lot. Especially compared to what I’m used to from Germany. I pay around 630 Euro each month for the room and it is not even close to the university. I have to take a 20 minute bus ride there.
That was so far the most annoying part about my semester abroad but afterwards you are always cleverer. I got a flight from Frankfurt over Berlin to Reykjavik. Fist at all that is really complicated and secondly my heart hurts because of the extra way. However, it was much less expensive instead of flying directly from Berlin. The flight was okay.
Anyway, I already had some service issues with changing my returning flight. I booked both of them in April because I applied for Bafög (finical support for studying from the state in Germany). Additionally, I bought a service or insurance for changing the flight in case something changes. It did and I wanted to change it. I was on the phone for over an hour with somebody who almost didn’t understand me and secondly I had to pay a bunch of money to change my flight. Never going to do this mistake again! So my advice, book just the flight over there and when you know more about exams and when you have to be back, then you should book the return flight.
Mind that you have to get from the airport to your accommodation. International flights land in Keflaflik and not in Reykjavik! Either you book a taxi, which is quite expensive, or you use one of the many bus shuttles. I used Gray Line (booked over shuttle direct) but there are several other ones, e.g. Flybus. Most of them bring you to the city center or a hotel for 20 Euros. If you stay in a private accommodation like me, I recommend you to look for the closet hotel or hostel. It takes approximately an hour.
By the way, pay attention to the luggage. Sometimes they only include a carry on and not a actual suitcase. You usually can book a suitcase also afterwards but I recommend you to just get a flight were it is already included. I was allowed to take a 23 kg suitcase with me and a carry on (plus a small item additionally). Oh and I almost went crazy packing my stuff for Iceland …
Financing the semester abroad
Iceland is really really expensive. I knew that before, still I was shocked how expensive when I arrived last week. As mentioned above, I also have to pay a tuition and a registration fee in total of 2100 Euro. Therefore, it was clear that I need extra financing. Not just for the tuition but also for having each month some extra money. Or rather a little bit more extra money because the money I have in Germany each month available, covers completely the rent for my room. As you might imagine I also need food every month and a bus ticket in the cold and rainy Reykjavik.
First I applied for Bafög which is financial help from the state for studying. However, that was a total failure. I got wrong information and send them like a book of documents and so on. Still I got rejected with the justification I can cover the basic needs every month with the money my parents have available. Which is totally wrong because they calculated what my parents would have eventually free to spend on me. They did not calculate what I get each month as aliment from my parents. I even lodged an appeal … which was rejected just a month ago.
Then I wanted to get a education loan. However, the monthly rate was limited to 300 Euro and that is sadly insufficient for Iceland. So goodbye with that idea. Next idea was a education fund which is similar to the loan. You can set yourself the monthly rate and it carries more interest. The interest were so high that at the end I would have paid back the double amount of what I borrowed. At the end, my father had pity with me and offered me to borrow the money. Means no interest for me! Still I would liked the Bafög more but you can not always get what you want.
The health insurance did my father so sadly I can’t give you much information about that. However, you need for sure a different insurance if you stay longer in a country than just a few weeks. My father got a health insurance by Hanse Merkur for the few months. But mind, you should apply for the insurance just short time before your leave. Anyway, inform yourself earlier enough.
I hope I did not forget anything else. Of course, you also should gather information about the area, the transportation system and so on. But mind, mostly you should wait for that until you arrive. The university might offer additional information on orientation days and you might save up money if you wait, e.g. bus ticket price.
If you have any question, feel free to leave a comment or write me an email. I hope I can help you!
If you want to see more from my semester abroad, take a look to my Instagram page.