CAS '20 Jacob Rieber

PGS: Travel to Iceland

Program Abroad:

  • Penn Global Seminars (PGS): Environmental Studies, Travel to Iceland

Ask me about...

  • Going abroad for the first time. Before my junior year, I had never been abroad.

  • The financial feasibility of traveling abroad. PGS's are meant to be accessible to all, and this was something I didn't understand before signing up for this trip. I always considered studying abroad as something that was too expensive, but the subsidized cost of the trip and the added financial aid I was given made this amazing opportunity something within reach.

  • Being able to go abroad without leaving Penn for a whole semester. I didn't look into Penn Abroad's offerings because I was worried about missing out on my friends and opportunities that Penn had on campus. However, I saw PGS's as an opportunity to explore a new culture without taking away from my experience on Penn's campus. 

My Experience Abroad:

As an economics major, I'm not the first person that you'd picture taking a course on Iceland's environmental sustainability. However, our trip--a complete circumnavigation around Iceland's perimeter--proved to me first-hand that economics, culture, and sustainability can at times be almost inseparable. 

During our course, I prepared a case study that sought to uncover the sustainability of Iceland's fishery management system, specifically looking into the economic, environmental, and social consequences of the country's individual transferable quota system implemented in 1990. Pouring over research articles, it's easy to see environmental and economic effects. However, understanding the social ramifications of the policy was something entirely different. It's something you can't truly understand without seeing it for yourself.

While abroad, I was able to talk with Iceland's researchers, members of the community, and the people affected by the economic policy that I had been studying. I was able to see the fishing boats, see how communities have adapted and changed in response to the quota system. I was able to get varying perspectives, to draw my own conclusions about the social consequences of the fishery management system.

I saw for myself how the economic policies affect people, affect communities, and affect culture--in a way that could not be replicated in the classroom. 

Other Highlights:

  • We walked on a glacier covered in volcanic ash.

  • I pet the goat from Game of Thrones.

  • We went whale watching in Iceland's Northern Fjords and saw two humpback whales.

  • I relaxed with friends in a geothermal hot tub that overlooked Iceland mountains and had sheep walking all around us.

  • I can say I ate my way through the country--I ate skyr, pickled herring, and had goat-milk ice cream. All while traveling throughout rural Iceland.

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