English |  Español |  Français |  Italiano |  Português |  Русский |  Shqip

Erasmus+ Journal (Issue 4) 2015/16

Katrin Strell, University of Iceland, Iceland, Mobility for Study, PHST

Author: Katrin Strell

Reviewer: Theresa Majcenovic, Gloria Nowak

Contact Details
University of Iceland
Sæmundargata 2
101 Reykjavik
Mail: hi@hi.is
Homepage: english.hi.is
Before going abroad you will find a lot of useful information on this homepage, such as tips on how to find accommodation, pre-orientation videos, the guide for international students or the course catalogue. This website is definitely worth a visit!

School of Education
School of Education
Service center
Tel: +354 525 5950
Mail: menntavisindasvid@hi.is

International Office
University of Iceland, 3rd floor
Tel: +354 535 4311
Mail: ask@hi.is
The international office organises an orientation week for international students. The programme includes a crash course in Icelandic, organised walks around the campus, receptions with music, and school welcome meetings where the courses held in English are briefly introduced. The events are organised by the Student Council.
Aníta Hannesdóttir
University of Iceland
Tel: +345 525 4496
Mail: anita@hi.is
Aníta was always very patient and friendly when answering my questions - before, during and after my stay in Iceland.

Service Desk
University Centre 1st floor
Tel: +354 525 5800
Mail: haskolatorg@hi.is
This is where you register and where you can pick up your student ID.

The University of Iceland - Háskoli Íslands
According to the Times Higher Education World Uni­versity Rankings, the University of Iceland is currently ranked the 222nd best university in the world.
The University is divided into five schools (Social Sciences, Health, Humanities, Education, Engineering and Natural Sciences), 25 faculties and several hundred study programmes. In 2016 there were about 13300 students enrolled. With over 1000 students, Teacher Education is currently the biggest faculty.

My Courses
- Teaching English to young learners (10 ECTS)
- Teaching Practice (2 ECTS)
- Icelandic Nature and Cultural Legacy (10 ECTS)
- EFL learning and second language acquisition (10 ECTS)
(information according to the course description in the course catalogue or as issued by the instructors)

Teaching English to young learners
Course work consists of reading, oral and written assignments, presentations and class or online discussions. The course includes 2 ECTS teaching practice.

characteristics of young learners
appropriate approaches and techniques
National Curriculum objectives
listening and speaking
songs, games, drama and creative activities
topic-based work
reading and writing
teaching materials
the European Language Portfolio
assessment methods

Learning outcomes:
demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the approaches likely to lead to success with young learners aged 6-12
demonstrate an understanding of the principles that underlie successful language learning and teaching
develop competence in organizing teaching with a variety of techniques and activities, based on professionally grounded decisions
can evaluate objectives, materials and approaches to meet the needs of learners in mixed-ability classes
demonstrate knowledge and understanding of assessment methods suitable for young learners

Teaching Practice
Aims and content: five days of teaching practice. Exchange students are offered teaching practice in Icelandic pre-, primary and lower secondary schools where they have the opportunity to get familiar with Icelandic schools and the school system. Students will introduce their home country and participate in the school work and teach different subjects as applicable, such as language teaching or arts and craft. These are decided according to students’ fields of interest and organisation of the school work.
Within a week after the last day of the teaching practice period, the students are required to hand in a one-page report of approximately 450 words.

Icelandic Nature and Cultural Legacy
This course consists of two parts. Due to of the very limited amount of daylight at the beginning of the term, it starts with the cultural part, and continues with the nature part in March.
Coursework comprises reading, oral and written assignments, presentations, class and online discussions, as well as an exam.

Cultural Legacy
The course will give an overview of Icelandic history and culture from medieval times to the present. An Icelandic Family Saga will be read. Some Icelandic folk tales and familiar motives from oral tradition will be looked into as well as modern and contemporary literature and other art forms.
Field trips are made to historical museums and art exhibits.
Teaching methods: Lectures, seminars, group work and field trips.
Nature of Iceland
Students learn about the weather and climate, geology, vegetation and animal life (wild and domestic). They attend lectures about the geology of Iceland and go on field trips to see volcanoes, hot springs and lava and study the geography of the country. They go birdwatching, to the seashore and to a woody hill.
Field trips (1-6 hours) are an important part of the course.
Environmental problems and nature conservation in Iceland are discussed.

Learning outcomes:
The student
should be able to discuss Icelandic culture and its connection to Northern Europe.
should be familiar with the main literary genres of medieval Icelandic literature and able to deepen their knowledge of one of them, the Icelandic sagas.
should have a general knowledge of Icelandic literary history as well as the history of other art forms in Iceland.
is able to describe the main geological features of Iceland.
knows what characterizes animal life in Iceland (origin of the fauna, few species).
knows what kind of vegetation is characteristic of the island.
knows what kind of environmental issues are the most troublesome in Iceland.
has experienced birdwatching and environmental interpretation.
has planned and practised presentations of natural phenomena to other students.

English as a foreign language (EFL) learning and second language acquisition
Coursework consists of reading, oral and written assignments, a presentation, and class and online discussions.

Adolescents as learners of EFL
Learning and acquisition of other languages
Teaching and learning vocabulary, listening, speaking, reading, writing, grammar
Styles and strategies for learning languages
Learner autonomy
Teaching and learning language with technology
Language assessment

Learning outcomes:
Students will understand important theories and concepts that underpin EFL learning and second language acquisition, especially with regard to teaching the four language skills to adolescents. The course mainly focuses on the theories and concepts behind effective English language teaching and learning rather than on practical teaching methods and techniques. EFL/SLA examines the WHY behind language teaching.

Registration process at the University of Iceland
Students must show a valid ID at the Service Desk and will get personal access data for UGLA, the university’s intranet. Via UGLA, students can order their student card at the Service Desk.  

Flight Vienna - Reykjavik - Vienna: around 400€
Rent/month (room in central two-bedroom apartment - area code 105): 530€

It is hard for me to say how much exactly I spent on food but there is a list on the cost of living in Reykjavik on the university’s website: http://english.hi.is/cost_of_living

Living in Iceland is substantially more expensive than in Austria, so here are a few tips to save money:

  • Bónus is the cheapest supermarket in the country.
  • Very often you can get discounts with your student ID, e.g. at museums.
  • For a very small fee (9000 ISK/year) you can use the university’s gym and attend sports classes there.
  • If you live in central Reykjavik and you don’t mind walking, you don’t necessarily need to buy a semester ticket for the bus. During my exchange semester, I used the bus maybe two or three times (one ride is 400 ISK).
  • For weekend trips, rent a car from SADcars. And yes: they really look sad because they are very old but we did not find a cheaper alternative anywhere else.
  • Happy hour: I think the name is self-explanatory.
  • Nova App: By using this app, you can get two-for-one discounts for meals in certain restaurants. The App is in Icelandic though.
  • If you like drinking coffee, always order filter coffee. It is a lot cheaper than a cappuccino etc. and you usually get unlimited refills.
  • The student cellar at the University is very pleasant and a lot cheaper than most other  restaurants/bars.
  • Apart from student housing, the cheapest accommodation in Reykjavik I heard of was the Salvation Army Guesthouse. Although it is apparently quite difficult to get a room there, it is definitely worth a try because it is very central.

Review on my stay abroad
Teaching practice
Túngötu 15
101 Reykjavik

During my teaching practice I spent ten days with two international classes at the private school Landakotsskóli. As I was not assigned to one teacher but to two classes (preschool to second grade & third to fourth grade), I was able to participate in various subjects, such as English, maths, science, music, French, arts and philosophy.
I know the school and especially the classes I visited in my teaching practice are not the Icelandic standard but rather privileged ones. With fewer than ten pupils, both of the classes were a lot smaller than the typical Austrian class.
About half of the pupils spoke English as their mother tongue; the rest French, Farsi or German. The teaching language was English, which most of the pupils had already been fluent in. One or two pupils per class had just started learning English, which is why in both classrooms English had to be taught as a first, second and foreign language.
Each subject was taught by a different teacher and I really enjoyed seeing so many different teaching styles. The teachers let me participate in their lessons and most of the time I got the opportunity to teach a small group on my own, which was a great educational experience.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed my teaching practice at Landakotsskóli and I learnt a lot from the dedicated and charismatic teachers there.

Academic life
Studying a semester at the University of Iceland was definitely a good choice for me. From the PHST, I was used to having a lot of different small courses. This time I only had three courses and the teaching practice which allowed me to go more into depth in those three subjects.
My focus in this semester was definitely on learning more about how to teach English. The course “Teaching English to young learners” was more hands-on and answered the “how,” while the course “EFL and Second Language Acquisition” provided background information and rather answered the “why” when it comes to foreign language teaching.
In the third course, Icelandic culture and natural legacy, we went on numerous excursions and trips. We visited museums, craters, lava fields and many more interesting sights. But this course was not only interesting because we got to know more about beautiful Iceland and its culture and nature. We also had to write teaching plans and most of the exercises students had to do on the field trips can be simplified and done with school classes.
In all of the classes we had to do various small tasks throughout the semester which is easier to handle than only one big exam at the end. We also received very constructive and detailed feedback on our work, which I considered very helpful. Like everywhere in Iceland, students and instructors were on a first-name basis and maybe because of that I felt that the atmosphere in the classes was friendlier than in Austria.

Social life
Right at the start of the semester, the International Office organised an orientation week which was a good opportunity to get to know other exchange students. Other opportunities during the semester were trips and parties organised by the ESN (European Student Network) or the Icelandic culture and natural legacy course, which was only attended by international students. However, getting to know Icelanders was a lot harder. There were a few in my English courses and we had conversations during the breaks (on where to go in Iceland and Reykjavik etc.) but nothing more.
Anyway, it was not difficult to find friends.

In a nutshell, I can very much recommend doing an exchange semester in this beautiful country with its rich cultural heritage and breathtaking landscapes.

There has been error in communication with Booktype server. Not sure right now where is the problem.

You should refresh this page.