International Travel Awards: put Iceland on your bucket list

Marketing (Digital) student Freya Padmore visited Iceland as part of our International Travel Awards. Here, she shares what she learned.

Iceland is probably not at the top of your bucket list of places to visit but it absolutely should be. I had the honour to visit this breathtaking country thanks to the University of Derby as part of its International Travel Awards. I honestly cannot express how grateful I am for the opportunity.

I personally wanted to visit Iceland before I had even heard of the University’s scheme. It has stunning views and is one of the few places in the world you can see the natural phenomenons caused by tectonic activity (earthquakes, volcanoes etc). And, of course, it is the perfect place to witness the Northern Lights.

This was why, when I heard about the opportunity to travel to a country with such majesty on a trip that is completely funded by the University, I so desperately wanted to apply. I was there, ready on the opening day of applications to write mine and make sure I was eligible to visit. In reality, I ended up taking several hours writing and rewriting my application to make sure it was perfect – but I was ready.

When I received my acceptance email, I let out a squeal of delight – completely forgetting I was sitting in the silent section of the library. I was one of just 40 people to have succeeded in our applications. Little did I know that some of these people were going to become close friends of mine.

Friends as good as the scenery

I could talk for hours about how stunning Iceland is and how I am now desperate to go back and revisit all of the amazing places we went to on this trip. Of course, I can search for images online to get my Iceland fix but one thing that you cannot see on Google is the incredible group of people I went on the trip with.

This is one thing that I was worried about when applying for the trip – having to make friends with complete strangers. We are thrown in the deep end and spend the week with a group of other students, from different courses, years, campuses and backgrounds. This is not only daunting but a huge learning curve.

Derby Difference

Across the trip, I met so many interesting people who I became close friends with quite quickly. The people are what made the trip as fulfilling as it could have been and I couldn’t have asked to have met a nicer group of people.

It was this positive experience with others that really gave me confidence in my sociability and adaptability when it comes to getting to know strangers and thriving among a group of people I have just met. I know this will be useful in my career in marketing where communicating with strangers and networking will be key drivers in my career.

Determination and motivation

Although this sounds like a cliché and perhaps isn’t the outcome I expected from the trip, I have found that the experience has also really influenced my determination and motivation to succeed.

The trip involved a lot of activities, such as a hike on a glacier, trying to navigate the city of Reykjavik and enduring the freezing cold in the early hours of the morning to see the Northern Lights (which was absolutely worth it!).

I was determined to make the most of every opportunity provided. To do so alongside people I had only known for a short amount of time was really challenging. The trip was so rewarding, however, and I feel so proud of myself for thriving in such a different environment than I am used to.

This trip therefore has really motivated me to seize every opportunity that comes my way. I never thought that my application would be chosen out of 700 people and I never thought that I would make so many fantastic friends.

Yes, an opportunity is what you make it but you also need to seize every one that you can. I have since gone on to apply for internships and land my dream one, apply for year in industry placements and numerous opportunities to supplement my learning like a CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) qualification and Google Digital Garage certification.

Cultural enrichment

One of the most interesting things about this trip was how much I learned about Iceland and its people. For example, when we visited in January, they only had about 5 or 6 hours of sunlight a day and one of their traditional foods is fermented shark. Yes, I did try some and, yes, I can confirm it is revolting (I would recommend NOT looking up how it made!).

It was also interesting to learn that Icelandic people often visit outdoor heated pools in their spare time. It is extremely common to just head to the local pool after work for a couple of hours. I don’t think this is a popular activity here in England at all. Also, electricity is so cheap in Iceland thanks to the geothermal activity that they don’t really care about their electricity bills. They will have the heating on constantly and just open a window if it gets too hot.

Not only has this trip improved my intercultural awareness but also my curiosity when it comes to exploring new cultures and ways of life.

Overall, the experience was really enriching and quite humbling to see Iceland’s natural beauty. I am so grateful for the opportunity and I cannot recommend the experience enough to every student at the University of Derby.

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