Now on a more personal note, how it is to live in such a remote village?
Maybe It is too recent, but I cannot define my experience here. Do I like living in Iceland? In this village? Like everything in life, there are good and bad points.
Let’s start with the positives. Iceland is a beautiful country; the landscape is out of this world. I never in my life thought I would travel here let alone live here. This is a lifetime opportunity. How many people can say they have lived here? From my apartment, I can see the Northern Lights on a regular basis and when they are spectacular, I just go out and 30 seconds later, I am at the beach where the beautiful show awaits me. That is for me the highlight of living here. I never get tired of it. I was born and raised in Montreal, and I always loved the city vibe, however, nothing beats looking out of the window and watching the mountains. Smelling the sea and the fish when walking to school. I love winter, always been someone who prefers the cold over the heat. I love watching how my environment changes from one day to another. How the skies are different each day, especially in winter. Even in the darkness, there is a calmness to it. No traffic and noise pollution. Watching the crows, they are quite big here or maybe it is because I see them up close. Being able to walk everywhere and how close everything is. Dokkhan, the bar is the furthest from my house and sometimes, I don’t feel like walking there with the excuse that it is far, yet it is only a 12-minute walk. Just feels like it is far because it is across town. I like the freedom of not locking the house so no key to carry. I also pay for everything with my phone, I don’t have to worry about having my wallet with me. I realize I drive without my driver’s license, but we rarely see the police. I think there are a few shops in town, but since I am not someone who likes to buy things, I’ve never been inside these stores. Lastly, I love going to the swimming pool not for the swimming, but for the hot tubs. It’s just so relaxing and amazing looking out to the sea or mountain.
Let’s talk about the darkness, days are very short in winter, I personally didn’t mind it nor was I affected by it. Of course, in October when days started getting shorter, I was more tired and slept more (as when I am at home). I discovered Vitamin D, and it is wonderful how great they make you feel. No more tiredness. I took the last pill today as now, we have over 12 hours of daylight. I find it harder when there is too much daylight as it’s difficult to sleep at night. I do love these extremes, not enough or too much sun.
After living here for over 7 months, I can honestly say, it would be difficult for me to go back to living in a big city. I like the peacefulness too much; the slower pace and less consumerism fit me perfectly. The likelihood of me moving back to Montreal is close to null. I do realize my family and my friends live there; I’ll just have to come to visit occasionally. I still have a few months to think about it.
So here is the update on my studies. It’s been quite a challenge, the fall semester was difficult, and I was often out of my comfort zone, but I enjoyed it very much, nonetheless. I remember one of my professors (who was also from Quebec) letting me know that he was available and not to hesitate to ask questions if I had any. I replied to him, I have none for the moment as I have no clue what you are going on about. He was so shocked and had a thought to one of my bosses who had once told me: Filter Carol, Filter. Maybe I was too direct. I told him not to worry that it was like that for me in all my classes, especially the first week, but by next week, I’d be ok. Having courses taught in modules is challenging. You have two weeks to assimilate all the information when usually, you have a whole semester. It turned out that his class was my favourite and I finished with a 95%. My grade average is between the 75-85 range. In January, I only had three classes to complete, and I disliked all three of them, especially data analysis. I guess, at this point, I was saturated with all the classes since I had already done these classes in Russia last year. I finished my last class in February, and I must say, it’s quite nice not having to go to university every day. I wrote my research proposal, and it was approved which means, I can officially start writing my thesis. The objective is to submit by August 15 and defend in early September. I do realize it does not give me much time to collect my data and write a thesis. The next months will be challenging, to say the least. My topic is the new Environmental Regulation in Svalbard, Norway, and the perception of cruise tourism operators regarding the new rules. Now, Tom Cruise is in Svalbard filming Mission Impossible, and these new rules mean that their request to land helicopters on the archipelago was denied. I wonder If I could interview him. I would like to go to Svalbard, and perhaps, I will have the opportunity in May, a shame it is not now, I could have seen Tom Cruise walking around the island. What is the plan now? I have a Teams meeting with my thesis advisor (who is in Norway) on Thursday, we will discuss my thesis and I will ask if I can go to Norway for 4-5 months. Makes more sense since she is there and my topic is there too. I have always dreamed to go to Norway, and it is such an expensive country that this would be a great opportunity to get a scholarship.
I would love to leave as I am struggling with living here. For many reasons, as much as I like nature, there is not much to do daily. Now that my classes are over, I hardly see anyone, and it can quickly become lonely, especially for a social person like me. There aren’t many people my age either. I like my roommates, well at least, two of them, but the reality is that I hardly have anything in common with a 22 years old. I have never watched Big Brother but seems like I am part of a reality show sometimes. In a small village, you just need 1-2 toxic people to create uncomfortable situations for everyone. This is a small town; everyone knows everyone’s business. I realized that after 2 or 3 months, I feel claustrophobic if I don’t go out of the village. I don’t know how to explain it, but I have this need to get out. So next Friday, I am flying – hoping my flight doesn’t get cancelled- to Reykjavik and on the 27th, I am flying to Riga in Latvia. I have decided to stay there for a month. It is a small city, much cheaper than here and lots of cafes where I can quietly write my thesis. After that, will depend on if I can go to Norway or not. I’ll need to come back here for one last compulsory class- I tried asking if I could do it online and the university refused. I don’t know where I will spend the summer, my lease here ends June 30th. For now, I have a second-year student renting my room until May 28. I guess it will depend on how quickly I can write and finish my thesis.
It is too early for me to know how I feel about living here. There have been ups and downs and let’s not forget that I landed here because of the economic sanctions toward Russia. I had to deal with the end of my dream. We are often told to follow our dreams, but hardly anything is mentioned about what to do when the dream suddenly becomes impossible. I will end by saying, that I am grateful for the people I have met in the last seven months. That despite everything that has happened, we have shared many laughs. I miss Maria and Nicole that went back to their respective countries. I will definitely miss my roommate Sonya, but I know our paths will cross again.
Lastly, I have started looking into what happens next. The plan is to travel around Iceland for two weeks after my graduation in September and to return back home with my mom (and friends) on September 19. As I said, I have no intention of moving back to Montreal, but I will be there for a few weeks to see everyone. Where I will live will depend on my future job. I am applying for jobs in the Canadian Arctic in Environmental Intervention.
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