After three years of waiting through a pandemic, Attallah College’s Leadership and Education for Peace and Sustainability course finally visited Iceland! Spending a week amongst the lush green hills, rushing waterfalls, and expansive glaciers provided salve to many nature-craving souls. At the same time, we learned about peace, equity, and sustainability from the nation that tops just about all of the world’s lists in these areas. Taken together, this was, for many, the trip of a lifetime.
“This travel course to Iceland and learning from the Icelandic people changed my life. As I prepared for this trip, I experienced many feelings of imposter syndrome and left Iceland with new confidence not just with traveling but in the light I found and brought back with me. If I were to give a brief list of the most important things I learned is that I have the power to serve others, that when I tend to my own garden, it has a ripple effect on those around me, that nature is powerful and recharges my soul, and that traveling with others is an amazing way to get to know and connect with people.” – Stacy Eldred, MA (‘13), Ph.D. in Education (expected ‘24)
We began our course by meeting with senior representatives in the Iceland Prime Minister’s office and continued learning about peace and sustainability in Iceland through conversations with Amnesty International, Iceland, the Icelandic Disability Alliance, and the Iceland Human Rights Centre. With the assistance of our incredible guide, Bjarni Thórmundsson, we further understood the history and politics of the country, and he arranged for us to connect with a local teacher to learn more about the educational system. He very willingly answered what likely were hundreds of questions from our group.
In addition to the social aspects of our learning, we learned a great deal from the raw nature of Iceland. From lava fields and volcanic activity to the forming and ongoing loss of glaciers. We found ourselves in the spray of the waterfalls and sitting on grassy cliff sides as we watched puffins circle overhead. We stood on black sand beaches and felt the basalt columns formed by the sea. We rode on ferries and buses and hiked on trails and through Reykjavik city streets. We discovered together the draw that is Iceland–its natural beauty and its social efforts of peace, sustainability, and equity.
My reflections on the travel course in Iceland have led me to form questions that I hope will continually guide the way I live: How can I live gently and not harm the earth? How can I cultivate peace within myself and share this peace with all those around me? How can I be a leader in my communities to continually promote and advocate for furthering human rights, especially for the most vulnerable? Lastly, I would love to come back to Iceland in the future (maybe in the winter so I can see the Northern Lights!) – Christopher Tran, Ph.D. in Education (expected ‘24)