Introduction: An Icelandic Adventure Awaits

Sæll, gaman að kynnast þér! My name is Hannah Ezra, and I am moving to Iceland.  I have two more months in the US before I head to the top of the world to get a Master’s degree in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies.

The colorful houses of Reykjavik seen from the bell tower of Hallgrimskirkja [church].

The colorful houses of Reykjavik seen from the bell tower of Hallgrimskirkja [church].

The program

I will be studying for two years at Háskóli íslands (The University of Iceland) in Reykjavik with a semester abroad in Denmark or Norway. The program is an interdisciplinary approach to Viking and Medieval Scandinavia that draws on “expertise in the fields of Norse literature (including the eddas and sagas), linguistics, history, textual criticism, palaeography, runology, folklore, religion, art and archeology at four different Nordic universities and associated research institutes. Two of these, the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies in Iceland and the Arnamagnæan Institute at the University of Copenhagen, share custody of the largest single collection of Icelandic medieval manuscripts in the world.” (via)

Your Truly with the swans at Tjörnin Lake in  Reykjavik

Your Truly with the swans at Tjörnin Lake in Reykjavik

The Reason

Because it’s cool, duh.

Of course, as soon as I tell someone about my upcoming educational adventure, they ask “So what are planning to do with that degree?” At that point I’m usually prevented from replying by some fascinating ceiling fan or outlet that completely derails my attention.

Seriously, I have no idea. But having an idea of what I wanted to do with my undergraduate degree in English didn’t really help me at all, so I’m not too worried. During my first three years of college, I was sure I wanted to teach; during my senior year I was sure I wanted to do anything but teach. At the end of my last semester, I gave myself one year to figure out a direction to pursue, and the day after graduation I went to work for my mom’s granite countertop business (as I had been summers, winter breaks, and weekends for the last few years) as sales and marketing. It turns out I’m actually very good at marketing a small business on a small budget. It also turns out that it bores the hell out of me.

My parents home-schooled me through high school, so as a young-un, I was encouraged to follow an early interest in reading world mythology in translation over an extended period of several years, from the journeys of Gilgamesh to the exploits of Thor. However, it wasn’t until the summer after college that I really developed a strong interest in this field. I’m a voracious reader and compulsive book buyer. The used bookstore was to me as the shoe store was to Carrie Bradshaw (my sitcom might be “Eating a lot, reading, watching tv and the suburbs). At one point I picked up a big, boring looking book about Vikings. It had the boring cover design (one color and the title) of a book designed for academics. And it was a objectively boring book. But I couldn’t stop reading. That book was the catalyst that helped me see the interests I already had. I had spent my summer up till then reading huge history books, buying books about history, and using spotify to improve my knowledge of the history of classical music (including Wagner- another piece in the puzzle).

Street art at a skate park in Reykjavik.

Street art at a skate park in Reykjavik.

Then one night in October last year I was sitting at my desk at work in the evening after almost everyone else had gone home. All of a sudden, I thought, “Gahhh I can’t do this anymore. I need to go get a job somewhere far away. I want to move to the English moors or Iceland. So I started “something-ing” jobs in those places. Needless to say, there were not a lot of available positions for people of without anything besides my current job worth putting on a resume.  At one point I read somewhere that it was easiest to move to Iceland for school, and that somehow led me to the Viking and Medieval Norse Studies program. By the time I read the description I was almost in tears I was so excited that such a thing existed.

I’d done some searching around for Medieval graduate programs, but the only programs I was qualified for were strictly literature. All the history degrees required (obviously) a background in history. And I didn’t want to separate them out. I wanted to study the literature and the cultural history. That week I ordered books off the prepatory reading list, and my interest has only grown the more I read sagas, books about sagas, books about Norse mythology (no surprise there- I thought Chris Hemsworth was really hot in Thor I went through a Norse mythology “phase” in elementary school).

View of Reykjavik from the University of Iceland

View of Reykjavik from the University of Iceland

The Plan

I found out in March that I was accepted, and since then it’s been hard to adjust my day to day routine and strong nesting instincts to a I’m-moving-in-a-few-months-so-I-don’t-need-to-buy-that / avoid-men-like-the-plague-in-case-I-get-attached-to-one-mindset. In addition, while I don’t think the transition will be too hard (I’m a hardcore introvert with good social skills so I won’t be lonely), I won’t have anyone to talk to excitedly about my new home and all the things I’ll be seeing and learning. So I’m hoping to post regularly here. Until I leave I’ll muse on the transition and share photos and the like from the weeklong trip I took to Reykjavik in February.

I leave on August 3rd. I’ll spend a day in Reykjavík before boarding a bus to Ísafjörður for a three week course on Icelandic to give me a headstart on the language. Then I’ll head back to Reykjavík to start full time studies. I’ll be staying in a full apartment in a guesthouse in the city center only a few blocks from the water and within walking distance to the University. (Tourism season is May to August so during the school year many guesthouses rent out apartments to students for pretty reasonable rates.)

I’ll get to work on editing all my photos from my trip and writing my next post. Meanwhile you can read my essays, humor, poetry, and more at Ezra Won’t Shut Up, where I hope to continue posting as the inspiration arises.

Whale watching boat at the Old Harbor in Reykjavik.

Whale watching boat at the Old Harbor in Reykjavik.

One thought on “Introduction: An Icelandic Adventure Awaits

  1. Pingback: Gleðilega þakkargjörðhátið || Happy Thanksgiving | An American in Iceland

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