Exchange Student Enjoys Experiencing Different Cultures

Posted on: March 30, 2022

Bolli Steinn Huginsson, an exchange student from the University of Iceland, spent the fall 2021 semester at the University of Minnesota. He is finishing his philosophy degree in Reykjavik this semester.

Why did you want to study abroad?

Iceland is a very small country. Although it is a good country to live in, I wanted to expand my horizon and try living in an environment where there was more variety and where different cultures meet. I feel like the U.S. doesn’t have one specific culture. It’s where so many different cultures come together in one place. You can experience that in the big cities. You can go and have some authentic Palestinian food and then the next day you can have some authentic food from Africa. It’s just a place where so many different groups of people come together.

What were your expectations before arriving in Minnesota? How did your experience match or differ from them?

I didn’t have a very clear idea of what it would be like. I always thought it won’t be like in the college movies—it’s probably way different. The funny thing is that I found it was not that dissimilar.

I lived on campus with a lot of my friends. You get the week where you’re just focusing on your studies and then on the weekends you get to just focus on socializing and being with your friends. It was a very nice lifestyle. It’s not usual here in Iceland that you live on campus in an apartment with your friends.

What was your favorite thing about Minnesota?

The food I think. There was another Icelandic student with me there and every Friday we got together and tried a new restaurant. There was such a variety of restaurants and food from different cultures to try. That was one of my favorite things to do.

But also the people. They’re in so many ways just like Scandinavian Icelandic people, but just more open.

Was it difficult to make friends?

It was difficult when I first arrived not knowing anybody there, but there’s so many other people in the same situation as you, especially international students. I started going to the football field to play soccer and met some people there. Also I met a few American friends through my classes and just speaking to people out and about on the weekends. The Americans are much more approachable than Scandinavians. The Scandinavians are pretty closed off, whereas the Americans are pretty open when it comes to new people. 

I’m still in touch with a few of my friends in Minnesota. I’m hoping to be able to visit next summer.