Study climate models, carbon management, and the impact of climate change on Arctic ecosystems and societies. Visit renewable energy centers and glaciers amidst Iceland’s and Greenland’s unique landscapes.
Witness the impact of climate change on Arctic and subarctic ecosystems and communities.
No ecosystem is changing faster than the Arctic. In Iceland—dependent on the sea since the first Vikings settled over 1,000 years ago, and where whaling is still a part of the country’s fisheries tradition—you will study changes to sea ice and snow cover. Scientists warn that Arctic amplifications may lead to feedback effects that will cause further warming. On this program, you’ll visit subarctic communities, cross the Arctic Circle on the Icelandic island Grimsey, and learn about the Arctic Council in Akureyri.
Live with an Icelandic family for three weeks.
In the subarctic fishing town Ísafjörður, surrounded by steep fjords and glacial valleys, you’ll stay with an Icelandic family and study at the University Centre of the Westfjords. Here, in Northwestern Iceland, you’ll experience an environment and community affected by climate change. Ísafjörður is rarely visited by tourists and is well off the beaten path.
Spend two weeks in Greenland.
Explore the historical old town of Nuuk, meet experts at the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, and visit Kobbefjord climate monitoring station.
See stunning landscapes and visit sites of cultural importance in Iceland and Greenland.
See glaciers, beaches, waterfalls, fjords, and geothermal areas. Explore Iceland’s dynamic capital, Reykjavik, and visit the deserted village Hesteyri and Haukadalur, the setting of an Icelandic Saga. Visit Greenland’s Katuaq Cultural Center.
Complete an original research project with real-world applications.
Conduct fieldwork that introduces you to scientific methods, data collection, and the ethics of conducting climate research in Iceland. You will critique climate change issues holistically and assess the impacts of causes and solutions from an interdisciplinary perspective. Your project will connect with, build on, and add to current research in the country.
Learn conversational Icelandic, West Greenlandic, and Danish.
In fun, non-credit bearing classes, you’ll learn the basics you need to communicate with community members. Stories and literature from Viking and modern eras put Icelandic and Greenlandic identities in context. Language study helps your immersion in Icelandic and Greenlandic cultures.
Gain insider access to experts who design and maintain renewable energy systems.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Climate | Environment
Previous college-level coursework or other preparation in engineering, earth sciences, sustainability, environmental policy, sociology, biology, geology, geography, chemistry, archaeology, and/or environmental science/studies.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- An overview of Arctic climate, landforms, and ecosystems and how humans interact with them
- The impact of climate change on animal, plant, and human communities in the Arctic and how these communities adjust
- Climate modeling and trends, including a chance to develop your own climate models
- Renewable energy systems
- Carbon management
- Indigenous knowledge of changes in climate
- Communicating climate change and science
- How changes—from potential sea level rise to accessibility to resources previously under ice— will affect the globe
- The consequences of climate change and ideas to solve the problems it creates
- Scientific methods, data collection, and ethics of climate research
Participants in this program develop knowledge of how climate change is impacting the animal, plant, and human communities of Iceland and Greenland as well as the rest of the globe. Students study climate change from scientific and indigenous perspectives, examine trends in climate modeling, and learn about carbon management and renewable energy in Iceland. They gain an understanding of the role climate change plays in Iceland’s social and political context and independently or in small groups apply their knowledge and explore solutions to preserving the Arctic climate.
In addition to coursework on climate change and research methods and ethics, students learn conversational Icelandic, West Greenlandic, and Danish and examine the ways in which these languages reflect the socio-cultural identities of the places they are spoken.
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- Climate Modeling and Carbon Management – syllabus
- (ENGR3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This seminar focuses on the analysis and use of climate models in understanding and projecting climate change in the future. Though climate models are based on quantitative data and physical principles and have been proven to reproduce climate projections, they are constantly subjected to more systematic evaluation for higher fidelity. Estimates based on climate variables such as temperature and cloud or cryospheric feedbacks provide high credibility for scientific climate change projections. Though a reliable model of metrics for climate projections is yet to be developed, interactive aerosols are now included in most climate models and substantial progress has been made in the areas of computational methods and the simulation of modes of climate variability. The seminar also addresses issues of gas emission, carbon containment, and management. The focus is on Iceland’s innovative experiments with carbon storage and the development of renewable energies. The seminar relies on resources available through program partners including University Centre of the Westfjords, University of Akureyri, University of Iceland, and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources.
- The Arctic: Changing Ecosystems and Resilience – syllabus
- (ENVI3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- The Arctic, a region of major importance to the world, is changing rapidly. This seminar makes the effects of climate change in this unique part of the world a subject of discussion. It addresses the conditions of change in the Arctic, spanning ecological, social, and political-economic contexts. The seminar also considers community adaptation to the changing environment around them. Sessions will take place in different parts of Iceland in cooperation with program partners and working groups of the Arctic Council, as well as in Nuuk, Greenland, at the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources. Students will learn from experienced scientists, competent instructors, and experts of the Arctic Council.
- Research Methods and Ethics in the Arctic – syllabus
- (ENVI3500 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- In this seminar, students are introduced to recent research on climate change. Students become familiar with the methodologies employed in natural and social science research on climate change as well as in renewable energy and sustainability studies. Students select and analyze relevant issues surrounding climate change in the Arctic, including its impact on ecosystems and human communities, in consultation with program faculty. Students will work independently or in small groups to research and identify an existing problem related to climate change in the Arctic and produce a research proposal for their Research Project in Arctic Climate Protection. This course gives students the opportunity to engage on a deeper level with the topics covered in the seminars and to develop their academic and research skills. Support is provided throughout the course by program faculty, particularly in aiding students in finding resources and Research Project in Arctic Climate Protection advisors in Iceland.
- Research Project in Arctic Climate Protection – syllabus
- (ISPR3000 / 6 credits / 180 hours)
- The Research Project in Arctic Climate Protection should provide a design for the protection of Arctic climate through a renewable energy, behavioral practice, or a creative method/approach to track climate change in the Arctic. Students have the opportunity to work independently or in small groups on their projects. Another aim of the Research Project in Arctic Climate Protection is to build collaborative partnerships with local scientific and indigenous communities for the enhancement of innovative approaches to climate change.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
Exploring the Geology beneath Iceland’s and Greenland’s Energy
The program is designed as a mobile and nomadic platform with temporary homes across Iceland and Greenland. In Greenland, you will explore the impact of climate change in the critical environment of the Arctic—the “refrigerator” that helps cool the planet. In Iceland, you will travel to study the impact of global warming on glaciers and ice sheets and enjoy Iceland’s stunning landscapes, changing climate, and renewable energy technologies.
Destinations typically include:
- Reykjavik, Iceland
- Akureyri, Iceland
- Glaciers in Greenland and Iceland
- Icelandic highlands, waterfalls, and black sand beaches
- Downtown Reykjavík
- Geysir, a geyser that has been active for 10,000 years
- The deserted village Hesteyri in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
- Haukadalur, the setting of Gísla saga Súrssonar, one of the famous Icelandic Sagas
- Historic “Old Nuuk” in Greenland’s capital, Nuuk
- The Katuaq Cultural Center
In Iceland, where the program spends most of its time, you will explore astonishing glaciers, volcanoes, fjords, geothermal fields, highlands, lava flows, rugged coastline, and waterfalls. You will also experience the power of nature, evident in every aspect of this constantly transforming island. Witnessing Iceland’s various landscapes provides you with an essential understanding of how climate change is transforming, and will continue to impact, the country.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Jennifer Smith, MA, Interim Academic Director
Jennifer holds graduate degrees in environmental management from the University of Akureyri in Iceland and in international relations from Johns Hopkins University. She has studied and worked in Iceland, China, and France. Her research has focused on local food networks in Iceland and on China’s engagement in Iceland and other Arctic states. Jennifer earned high praise from students as program assistant on this program in fall 2016. She has also worked with SIT as program assistant on the summer program, Iceland: Renewable Energy, Technology, and Resource Economics.
Daniel P. Govoni, PhD Candidate, Academic Coordinator
Daniel is a PhD student in the biological sciences at University of Alaska Fairbanks. His research has primarily been in Iceland and includes data collection and management, data analysis, sample processing, and supervision of technicians. As a teaching assistant at the University of Fairbanks Department of Biology and Wildlife between 2012 and 2016, he taught Fundamentals of Biology. Dan has an MS in aquatic biology from Hólar University College in Skagafjörður, Iceland; a BA in zoology from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale; and a BA in psychology from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Dan will assist in the design and teaching of the thematic seminars, the Research Methods and Ethics in the Arctic, and the supervision of ISPs, and will serve as a main resource for students’ field activities and research.
Pernilla Rein, Homestay Coordinator
Pernilla holds an MSc in library and information science from the University College of Boras, Sweden, which is also her native country. Pernilla is chair of the local branch of the Icelandic Touring Association, a project manager with the University Center of the Westfjords since 2008, and also a librarian at the Isafjordur Public Library. She has been coordinating the homestay component on SIT’s summer program Iceland: Renewable Energy, Technology, and Resource Economics since 2008. Pernilla is a single mother with three children.
Lecturers for this program typically include:
Oddur Sigurdsson, PhD
Oddur is a geologist and a specialist in glaciological research at the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO). He has researched and published extensively on the subjects of Icelandic geology, glaciology, and global glacial decline in the 21st century. He was also senior author of the “Map of the Glaciers of Iceland,” which was produced by the IMO in collaboration with the United States Geological Survey and Iceland Geosurvey. Throughout his career, Oddur has accumulated an invaluable collection of about 55,000 photographs of the ice caps and glaciers that document the effect of climate change. This photo collection is now preserved at the Icelandic Meteorological Office.
Throstur Thorsteinsson, PhD
Throstur is a professor at the University of Iceland’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Institute of Earth Sciences. His extensive research has covered a variety of environmental issues, including climate change, glaciology and the anisotropy of ice, and the causes of air pollution in Iceland and its health impacts. Throstur received his PhD from the University of Washington in Seattle.
Tom is the executive secretary for the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council, based in Akureyri, Iceland. Tom was also involved in the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment and in the implementation of the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programme, which works to monitor and respond to biodiversity-related trends and pressures affecting the circumpolar world.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
You will live with a host family in Ísafjörður, the capital of the Westfjords region, for three weeks. Host families are usually close to the University Centre of the Westfjords, where classes are held. Ísafjörður is a town of about 2,500 on a narrow spit of land in the fjord Skútulsfjörður, surrounded by mountains and the sea. The town is an urban center in the remote Westfjords, offering services such as a hospital, schools, cafés, and arts venues.
A traditional fishing town, Ísafjörður has in the past few decades expanded into knowledge-based industries and nature-based tourism. Ísafjörður and the Westfjords are only visited by about two percent of tourists to Iceland and remain off the beaten track.
Staying with an Icelandic family gives you insight into Icelanders’ everyday life, culture, and language. Additionally, you can discuss issues of climate change with your hosts, having conversations around the dinner table—a favorite Icelandic pastime. The homestay is typically one of the most meaningful experiences of the program.
When on excursions, including in Greenland, you will stay at hostels.
Isafjordur can be difficult in the wintertime, but as far as I am concerned, that is what makes this place a suitable base from which to learn about challenges facing Arctic communities.
You will pursue your own interests within climate change, conducting an original research project with support from program faculty and partners in Iceland. Emphasis is placed on real-world relevance, interdisciplinary perspectives on climate change, and connecting with current research in Iceland. Working independently or in a small group, you will track climate change effects and/or design a method for protecting Arctic climate. You will also build collaborative partnerships with local scientific and indigenous communities to encourage innovation.
Potential project topics include:
- Thinning of ice sheets and glacier retreat
- Melting permafrost
- Ecosystem carbon sequestration
- Renewable energy
- Arctic air pollution
- Climate change impacts on traditional lifestyles
- Communicating climate science
- Arctic tourism and climate change
- Invasive species proliferation and altered migration patterns caused by climate change
Relevant career paths:
- Climate research
- Public policy
- Climate modeling and environmental planning
- Climate impact, vulnerability, and adaptation research
- Field monitoring station management
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Changing ecosystems and resilience in the Arctic
- Climate modeling and carbon management
- Research methods and ethics in the Arctic
- Conversational Icelandic, West Greenlandic, and Danish languages
- All fieldwork and educational excursions in Greenland and Iceland, including all related travel costs to Greenland
- Research Project in Arctic Climate Protection (including a stipend for food and accommodation, if necessary)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $6,675
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Ísafjörður), on all excursions including to Greenland, during the Research Project in Arctic Climate Protection, and during the final evaluation period.
- Homestay (three weeks with an Icelandic family in Ísafjörður, with an option of extending the homestay during the Research Project in Arctic Climate Protection period)
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
International Airfare to Program Launch Site
International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Visa Expenses: $465
Books & Supplies: $ 50
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.