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Students experience Northern Lights in Iceland

Monday 1 April 2019

College students experience Northern Lights on Iceland Tour

Last month a group of 30 from Selby College, including Geography students, staff and other Level 3 students flew out to Reykjavik from Luton Aiport for a jam-packed five-day tour of the stunning Nordic island and its natural wonders.

After an early flight on the Sunday morning, the students enjoyed lunch before visiting the famous ‘Blue Lagoon’, a geothermally heated spa located in the lava fields at Grindavik for a few hours before heading to their accommodation in Iceland’s capital of cool, Reykjavik.

Geography A Level student Erin Simpson, aged 18, who previously attended The Snaith School, said: “I really enjoyed the Blue Lagoon experience, I think that would have to be my highlight from the whole trip!”

Geography Lecturer and Trip Leader Karen Ralphs added: “We’re weren’t expecting the gale-force wind, hail and rain to such an extent, although it made for a very memorable (and geographically relevant) spa experience for everyone!”

On the Monday, their first full day, the group then headed out into the countryside on a private guided ‘Golden Circle’ day tour which covers around 300km from the city into the southern uplands and back, exploring the North American and Eurasion tectonic plate boundary in Þingvellir National Park, before travelling further out to the dramatic triple-drop Gullfoss waterfall, the geothermal power plant and the Geysir hot spring area.

The group were lucky enough to see the Aurora Borealis, the northern lights, on an expedition to Þingvellir National Park one evening, were they spent a few hours in the historic site.

Former Selby High School student Seb Bedkowski, aged 18, said: “It really was a once in a lifetime experience, the chances of seeing the lights are so unpredictable as it depends on the weather even though winter is the best time of year to witness them.”

On the Tuesday students were given the freedom to explore Reykjavik, with sightseeing opportunities including the Perlan observation deck, the Volcano House geology exhibition, exploring Viking history at the Saga Museum and the city’s Laugardalur Geothermal Swimming Pool (the largest of 17 in Reykjavik!). Fellow Geographer Alex Hornostaj, aged 17, who previously attended Selby High School, added “It was great to have some free time in groups, we also managed to explore some of the tourist shops and had Icelandic fish and chips!”

On Wednesday, the group went on a ‘South Shore’ adventure exploring natural hazards including the recently erupted Eyjafjallajokull Volcano, before taking in the magnificent waterfall of Skogafoss near the small village of Skogar and then on to Seljalandsfoss, which they were able to walk behind for a fully immersive experience! Later in the day they visited the Solheimajokull Glacier situated between the volcanoes Katla and Eyjafjallajökull and finally the fascinating Dyrholaey rock formations, a small peninsula on the south coast of Iceland.

Before travelling back on the Thursday they were able to have more time to explore the city before their return flight.

Speaking of the importance of trips such as this for the students, Karen Ralph said: "Geography is the study of the world and its people, so being able to take students to experience different locations, especially overseas, is of huge importance. Iceland is a geographer's dream, as you have so many different environments to explore. Being able to stand between two plate boundaries that have been rifting apart and see the evidence of volcanic activity all around you, will really help the students understand some quite challenging scientific processes. In addition, the students will take away with them memories for life. Being able to witness the Northern Lights in particular, is something they may never be able to experience again."

Karen added, "The students really were the best group I have ever taken on a residential trip, all of the College staff that came with us commentated on what an absolute pleasure they were to be around, we had a great time."

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Skogafoss unedited