Summer Abroad Iceland - On Site

UC Davis Study Abroad, Summer Abroad Iceland, Thermodynamics in the Land of Fire and Ice Program, Header Image, On Site Page

Thermodynamics in the Land of Fire and Ice


Students will live in cozy, wooden, Viking-themed cabins in a small fisherman’s village, on a relatively remote peninsula about 5 miles from downtown Reykjavik. Hlid is a beautiful waterside area near the President’s residence with rolling hills, golf, and much Viking history. A local bus system connects to downtown Reykjavik and students have the option of renting bikes for the month to assist with freedom of travel.

The community room nearby serves as the classroom and internet is available. Laundry services are limited, so students should only expect to do laundry once or twice on the duration of the program.

UC Davis reserves the right to change the accommodation location. Should this be necessary, we will arrange comparable lodging. Please note that elevators, air conditioners, and other modern conveniences may not be available in all locations.


All breakfasts and dinners will be provided at a buffet facility near your housing in Hlid. Weekly lunches will be on your own. All meals are provided when on excursions and overnight trips. Food options are limited on the peninsula so students are encouraged to shop in Reykjavik to maximize food affordability and choice.

Food in Iceland is truly unique; learn more here. Vegetarian and vegan options are easily accessible.

Excursions and Day Trips

During the regular week, class meets in the mornings. Your afternoons are usually free, so students are welcome to take the local bus into downtown Reykjavik to explore or study.

The class will also take local and overnight excursions. Some of these include:

  • Hengill and Krafla geothermal powerplants
  • Field trip to aluminum manufacturing plant with Hydroelectric facilities
  • Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Natural excursions to see local wildlife
  • The Arctic circle to experience the midnight sun
  • Glaciers at Vatnajökull (formerly Skaftafell) National Park
  • Ice lagoon of Jökulsárlón
  • Lava flows at the Westmann Islands
  • Local museums on the history of Iceland

Students will also have the opportunity to participate in optional field trips to the Blue Lagoon, snorkeling, whale watching and many others (not included in program fees).

Study Abroad Advisory of Student Risk

Participation in this UC Davis Study Abroad program requires travel to and extended living in a foreign location(s) abroad. UC Davis Study Abroad endeavors to reduce and mitigate risk wherever possible.  However, the environments and risks associated with living in these locations are substantially different than those found during a regular course of study at UC Davis. All participants must download and review the following information prior to departure. Any questions should be directed to the Program Coordinator.

This program will require students to walk a lot (2-6 miles per day). Students are encouraged to speak with their Program Coordinator or the instructor if they are concerned about the physical requirements of the program.

Study Abroad General Risk Advisory

Program Specific Risk Advisories (PDF)

About Iceland

From Lonely Planet—Iceland:

Iceland is, literally, a country in the making – the natural elements work in harmony to power its veritable volcanic laboratory: geysers gush, mudpots gloop, Arctic gales swish along silent fjords, stone towers rise from the depths of an indigo sea, and glaciers grind their way through cracked lava fields and the merciless tundra. The sublime power of Icelandic nature turns the prosaic into the extraordinary. A dip in the pool becomes a soothing soak in a geothermal lagoon, a casual stroll can transform into a trek across a glittering ice cap, and a quiet night of camping means front-row seats to either the aurora borealis’ curtains of fire, or the soft, pinkish hue of the midnight sun.

Currency: Iceland Krona

Language Spoken: Icelandic

Weather and Climate

The summer in Iceland is cool, usually between 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit. It is not uncommon to experience wind and sometimes rain. Be prepared for the weather to vary throughout the day. The most noteworthy phenomenon about summer in Iceland is that the days are very long—in the North toward the Arctic Circle, the sun never sets in the sky. This is known as the Midnight Sun. Be prepared for long light days, even when very “late” at night.

Research Your Destination

Summer Abroad endeavors to provide you with as much accurate information as possible. However, information can change daily. It is your responsibility to become acquainted with your host country before your departure.

We have listed some good starting points for your personal research. 

Keeping in Touch

Since communication options can vary dramatically from country to country, Summer Abroad advises checking with the instructor or the Program Specific Guide for advice about what might be the best option for your particular program.

Calling the U.S. from Abroad

Many U.S.-based long distance phone companies provide special services that make it easy for you to phone home from abroad. Some provide toll-free access numbers that connect with an operator in the U.S. Some provide the means to charge long distance calls to a credit card or to a third party. Some provide better long distance rates. Others provide access to emergency, medical, legal, translation, and entertainment information. Students are encouraged to investigate these options before departure and to shop for the best services and rates.

Global Cell Phones

Most cell phone companies can sell you a special global cell phone with the option to add more minutes as needed. Also, most cell phone companies can unlock your cell phone for global use, but this requires a trip to a provider at your destination who will give you a SIM card and sell you minutes. Check with your cell phone provider for more information. Global cell phones are also available through travel agencies and online. Be sure to check the policies for both incoming and outgoing calls and text messages.

Cell Phone Rental

Some students choose to rent a cell phone that works at their destination. Some companies will ship the phone directly to the student in advance of the program dates—and include a packet for sending the phone back when they return. Interested students can locate service providers via the Internet.

Phone Cards

Many travel agencies and specific phone providers carry great options for phone cards. Check the rates available from your long distance provider. You can often buy phone cards on site.


Skype is a computer program that you can download for free that allows you to talk (for free) on the phone over the Internet with anyone else who has Skype. Go to to download the program. For an extra fee (as low as .02 cents/minute) you can enable your Skype to call land lines instead of just other computers. You will need a microphone and headset so that you can talk to the person on the other line. Skype also includes a chat option for instant messaging.

Instant Messaging Systems

Instant messaging systems are also a great free way to communicate with people back in the states. There are numerous options for messaging systems from AOL Instant Messenger to Yahoo Messenger. Just about every messaging program can be downloaded for free online.

Internet Access

Computer and internet access varies by program. Information for your site will be listed in your Program Specific Guide.

Internet access is offered in all the countries we go to, but the reliability of it differs from program to program. Internet can be accessed through internet cafes. Some programs also offer access through the dorms or on-campus computer labs. Internet cafes are very reasonably priced and often times have various instant messaging programs installed and headphones available to chat with loved ones. Relying on internet cafes may reduce worry of bringing your own laptop with you. You can upload pictures at most internet cafes, but remember due to the speed of some connections, it may be a better idea just to bring multiple memory cards to avoid spending your whole day on the computer.

Cultural Learning

Living in a new culture can be exhilarating, rewarding, and stimulating. It can also be frustrating. It is one thing to tour a country, but it is quite another to live and function according to different norms. It is important to be open toward a new culture, to try to discard stereotypes, and to learn as much as possible about the culture before departure. If you educate yourself about the country you will be visiting, you will better understand and appreciate your new surroundings!

Even with preparation it is likely that you will experience "culture shock." Recent studies show that there are distinct stages of culture shock. Some of these stages include: awareness of the host culture and preparation, initial euphoria and excitement, irritability phase during acclimation, gradual adjustment, and adaptation to culture. Upon return to the United States, many students face "reverse culture shock."

There are some things you can do to minimize your cultural adjustment. Keep a sense of humor! Treat yourself to an occasional U.S. indulgence like a favorite food, or purchase a U.S. magazine or newspaper. Avoid other Americans who are overly negative or who complain a lot. Keep healthy. Above all, don't be afraid to try new activities!

Resources for Further Study

Ethical Considerations in Study Abroad