In the Spring 2018, a group of 15 students and faculty from Belmont University visited the country of Iceland as part of Study Abroad. Following an eight-week interdisciplinary study of the island nation, participants in the program were able to spend their spring break visiting Iceland and exploring different museums and natural sites.
At this year’s Humanities Symposium, a number of students and faculty shared their experiences in the pilot program. In a panel discussion titled “There’s More to Knowing Than Seeing,” the group discussed topics like why they wanted to go to Iceland, how the classes and trip changed their understanding of Iceland and its people and what some of their most memorable experiences were while there.
Dr. Maggie Monteverde, professor of English, spearheaded the idea for the trip and taught a class focused on Icelandic culture and literature. Dr. Jennifer Thomas, department chair and professor of biology, was also a part of the trip and taught a course on the biological standpoint of the Icelandic peoples genetics and the founder effect. The third faculty member a part of the trip was Dr. Nathan Griffith, associate professor of political science. He taught a course focused on the Icelandic government and its traditions.
Students Zach Stenzel and Victoria LaTeano, who were a part of the study abroad program, participated in the panel discussion at the Humanities Symposium. The panel was asked why they wanted to go to Iceland, and both students commented on how Iceland was on their list of places to visit and how the classes offered were a huge draw. LaTeano said, “The topics presented, particularly the combination of the three elements, are what made me want to go on the trip.”
All the members of the panel agreed that by studying Iceland and its people first, their perspectives were changed and influenced when they visited the island. Stenzel commented on how the opportunity to go and see what they had learned in class made the experience more meaningful and unique. LaTeano agreed saying, “We were seeing the things we learned in the little things in Iceland.”
When asked to comment on the topic of the symposium, the present and the future of the past, in relation to Icelanders’ relationships with their past, present and future, the participants of the panel commented on different things. LaTeano talked about how the Icelanders relationship with the environment was a huge factor in their past, and it will continue to be in their future. Thomas also shared how Iceland is welcoming others in order to benefit their economy. Being an island nation, most of the people on the island come from common ancestry but now they are welcoming more immigrants to their country to grow the economy. Thomas commented on how they are an independent nation due to their isolation but are focused on becoming more interdependent as the future becomes reality.
In the closing remarks of the panel, Griffith shared some wisdom with guests about how in Iceland people know where and who they came from and on the island nation it can seem as though “it’s all related.”