By Henry Chau:
Hitchhiking, riding a rental scooter through the most unpredictable weather known to mankind, running out of fuel in the middle of nowhere and trapped in the beginning of a sand storm. Hiking on top of a glacier, descending 120km into a volcano which erupted 4000 years ago and taking a natural geo-thermic heated bath. This was an adventure of a lifetime. The two weeks I spent camping and riding around Iceland was the most dangerous, thrilling and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. I felt like Walter Mitty, except way cooler!
Iceland is located north of Europe, just under Greenland and the Arctic Circle. For adventurers and nature lovers, I can only describe Iceland as basically stepping into heaven. Every corner and every kilometre is a picture out of a postcard, with contrasting scenery ranging from glaciers to dark volcanic sediments, waterfalls to desert land and farmland to lush greenery. It’s no surprise big Hollywood movies such as Game of Thrones, Thor and the Secret life of Walter Mitty were shot there.
Riding around Iceland on a small and light 125cc rental scooter seemed impossible, even the local Icelander who picked me up while I was hitchhiking thought so. But this was a challenge I was willing to accept. Many of the days I was constantly harassed and bullied by the gale force winds, ridiculed by the horizontal rain and blinded by the low and heavy fog. In addition to the freezing temperatures and the unpredictable storm like conditions, I faced difficulties keeping my clothing and backpack dry. Still, I soldiered on. Setting up camp was determined by four main factors. Tiredness, road and weather conditions and hunger. Camping provided a sense of tranquillity, peacefulness and freedom. And I would do it all over again (even if I had to survive on dried-cooked meals).
Eventually I managed to complete my goal of riding through the entire country. Along this journey I made deep self-explorations and discoveries, met a whole lot of adventurers, formed new friendships, gained a deeper insight into the Icelandic culture and those of other travellers. However, one of the most memorable and magical moment was on the flight out of Iceland. From my window I saw the glowing red of lava beaming through the clouds of the night sky, the frozen mountain peaks of glaciers reaching beyond the clouds, complimented by an array of the Northern lights.
Iceland is truly the land of fire and ice! I would highly recommend and encourage you to visit!
STUDY EXCHANGE: Best experience ever
Going on exchange is one of the greatest life changing experiences that anyone or anything can ever offer. The option to undertake study abroad is a window of opportunity to unlock the small secrets to life. I cannot say that I’ve mastered life, but my exchange has definitely changed me, my perceptions of the world, others and even everyday life in a new way, one that I could have never have possibly imagined! Don’t miss your opportunity!
I have lived and experienced more things in my one year abroad in Sweden than in the other 24 years of my life. Going on exchange is all about the experience of living and studying in a foreign country, regardless of where you are. A large part of my exchange revolved around the many opportunities to push myself outside of my comfort zone. This included deep self-exploration and challenges, meeting so many people that often names were forgotten, learning Swedish and experiencing the culture, in addition to the cultures of everyone else around me. In addition I was able to travel to 17 other countries and more rewardingly, make lifelong friends and of course party to a whole new level.
I’m not saying you’ll experience the same. But once on exchange, you’re outside of your comfort zone, it’s a different environment and your mates from home aren’t there for you to fall back on. So you begin to self-explore, do things differently and view life through a new perspective! And these are only a few examples of this life-enriching journey. So if you’re sick of living your everyday mundane life or if you’re looking for new and different experiences, go on exchange! It’s the best decision you’ll ever make. Trust me!
Visit uws.edu.au/globalmobility for info on study exchange programs
IMAGES: Henry Chau