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Leading Across the Globe: Global Education Takes Students to Iceland

By Sophia Toback ’21 

The trip was an 11-day journey around the golden circle of Iceland, starting in Reykjavik. We spent a day there, where we tried petrified shark (which was both loved and hated by the group). The next day we visited our first waterfall and stayed in a beautiful old house. We continued our journey around Iceland, visiting national parks along the way and looking at the unique geology of the region. 

One of my personal favorites was when we visited the black sand beach. As the name suggests, the sand was dark black, and along the beach, there were colossal basalt formations (beautiful octagon rocks that shoot up in the air). Later in the trip, we stayed at a horse farm and celebrated David Kim ’23’s birthday as well as going on a nighttime horseback ride. Later in  northeast Iceland, we visited Gudafoss, one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen. In addition, we visited multiple hot springs; it was an incredible experience, unlike anything I had ever seen before because the water was so murky and blue. Eventually, our trip came to a close in Reykjavik, where we began.

On the trip, we learned not only about geology and Icelandic culture but also about our friends, teachers, and selves. In Reykjavik, our tour guide, Martin, explained to us how Iceland is a “hot spot,” meaning, geologically speaking, Iceland is a masterpiece. We experienced this firsthand when we went scuba diving between the European and North American continental plate. Also, our tour guide explained how Iceland's political structure is different than ours. In Iceland, there are eight political parties instead of two, a prime minister and a president and free education (this left some students in shock). We also learned about Iceland's culture through music and food. One of my personal favorite Icelandic foods was the "skytr" or yogurt. It tasted thick like Greek yogurt, but we learned it is made with skim milk because in Iceland all the fat is floated off to make cheese. Another favorite Icelandic food suggested by our bus driver, Bo, was an orange soda called Appelsin. Although I personally thought it tasted a lot like Fanta, I still enjoyed it.

In Iceland, all the kids, including myself, did a lot of growing up and maturing. At times the trip was uncomfortable, we got tired (due to jet lag and constantly being busy) and sometimes it was freezing. But throughout the journey, the group outlook shifted to stop focusing on the small annoying things and truly appreciate the beauty of Iceland and cherish moments with friends. When we were super-cold we created a game called "the Penguin Huddle" where three people hugged and more people huddled around them (like penguins do). It was inspiring to see the group bond together.

One defining moment in the trip for me was when I had an allergic reaction. The reaction was extremely unexpected because it was to the same kind of granola bar that I had eaten days earlier. I knew I needed to use an EpiPen, and my friend Webb Ellerbe ’23 gave it to me, as I was freaking out. Then Mr. McAllister, Mr. Anysz, and our guides Evee and Tyler came in my room post-EpiPen. They were so supportive and kind about what happened. I ended up calling my parents, getting a second EpiPen, then going to the nearest Icelandic ER with Mr. McAllister, Evee and two friends. Although this was a traumatic experience, and I would not do it again, it made me realize how great the teachers, guides and my friends are. Throughout that night, all the kids on the trip were so kind and genuinely concerned. It made me realize how close we had become. Ultimately, this was a great lesson because in real life, “bad things” are inevitable, but with the right people and support and the right mindset, you can get through anything. 

I would encourage everyone to go on this trip. Iceland was the highlight of my summer. The scenery was shockingly beautiful and the activities were incredibly fun. I made so many friends with people I would not ordinarily talk to in school. This trip gave me a new appreciation for the Ravenscroft community and the natural beauty of Iceland. 

Iceland did help me in Lead From Here. It made me realize that problems are part of life and as a result you need to be adaptive and come up with creative solutions. Sometimes that means taking charge and setting rules; however, sometimes "lead from here" only entails being a good friend. Iceland offers ample opportunities for all the above.

Join us on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 6:30-8 p.m., for the Middle and Upper School Global Opportunities Presentation for Parents and Students (Jones Theater and Pugh Lobby). Learn more about our global education program here