Breathtaking landscapes, vibrant cultural events and pristine nature panoramas make for a perfect summer vacation. Nine students joined West Liberty University Professor Aron Massey for just this type of trip as the study group traveled to Iceland.
Leaving Pittsburgh on July 17, they flew first to Boston, then on to Iceland, arriving in the capitol of Reykjavik City about six hours later.
WLU students in the group included Daniel Doyle, Paul Henry, Scott Kaiser, Laken Lambert, Jordan Miller, Aaron Schneid, Caroline Schooler, Cody Stepanek and David Tucker Wilkinson.
Photos Provided/From left, West Liberty University geography student Cody Stepanek, Caroline Schooler, Jordan Miller, Scott Kaiser, Professor Aron Massey, Tucker Wilkinson, Aaron Schneid, Paul Henry and Danny Doyle stand in front of Skogafoss Waterfall in southern Iceland.
"I learned about the music and culture of Iceland while taking a geography class with Professor Massey, so when he presented the opportunity to go experience the culture in person I couldn't pass it up," said Henry, who is a rising senior from Wheeling with his career sites set on urban planning.
Henry continued: "The two most exciting things I saw were a waterfall called the Golden Waterfall and the glacier that we hiked. In addition to those two unique sites, I really enjoyed climbing up a crater volcano that some of us went down into after reaching the top!"
Iceland has been in the news this week as a different volcano - Bardarbunga, the country's largest - has been more active than it has since 1996. It if erupts, air travel to Europe may be interrupted like it was in 2010 when another Icelandic volcano erupted, causing gridlock for days in European airports.
"When we were on a glacier hike, our guides mentioned the possibility of an upcoming eruption due to the increase in rumblings. The whole area of Iceland is very active with volcanoes," Massey said.
Massey had gone on a similar trip to the one he took with the students, while he was a graduate student, so he knew the benefits of the small country, which is about the size of the state of Ohio.
"When I went, we saw so many things, so close together. Our days were packed full of great experiences. Iceland offers a real opportunity for students because you don't spend all the time driving. There are just 20 minutes or so between waterfalls, volcanoes and amazing landscapes," he explained.
Iceland is a Nordic country between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. It has a population of 325,671, making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe, according to Wikipedia.
"The travel trip to Iceland tied in perfectly with our students' interests. The class enjoyed seeing unusual landforms, interesting weather and a very different culture," he said. Iceland is known for adventure and offers hiking, birdwatching, Northern Lights, whale watching, caving and more.
They traveled by bus with a local tour guide during the nine-day trip. Every two nights the group moved to a new destination. Weather was chilly but pleasant with the low around 40 degrees.
Students could receive credit for the trip if they completed the coursework for the class, "Geography of Iceland," and three of nine students took the opportunity to gain three credit hours for the summer trip.
West Liberty University students also had the chance to enroll in three other travel trips this summer with destinations that included the United Kingdom, Costa Rica and the Florida Keys.
"Students who have a chance to explore the world and study abroad during their college years have a distinct advantage over those who miss the chance. We are pleased to offer these opportunities for our students," said Massey.