CPISP scholar Latifa Alkhayat had the opportunity to discover and capture the beauty of Iceland’s ice-covered landscapes first-hand with her university’s Student Union Photography Society. An undergraduate majoring in Architecture at the University of Bath, UK, Latifa joined a group of student peers on a four day trip to Iceland in January to develop her photography skills.
“There were 46 students on the trip, ranging from amateur to professional photographers. I was a new member to the society prior to the trip, so it was a great opportunity to meet new people. Luckily, I met a few other architecture students from third and fourth year, who shared their course experiences with me, which was very motivational and encouraging. I also met students from other departments and majors, which created a more diverse atmosphere. “
During the trip, Latifa was able to experience Icelandic nature by going on a glacier walk in Sólheimajökull, and coming in contact with the awe-inspiring natural formations and phenomena of the frozen terrain, including several waterfalls and the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights.
“We had to use crampons and pickaxes to aid us with grip through the walk on ice. The stroll through the mountains covered in white was beautiful, and often we encountered glaciers that weren’t fully covered in snow, allowing us to see the layers of volcanic ash within the large blocks of ice. The walk felt very surreal, like a walk on the moon, which explains why the place was used as a background and set for many TV shows and movies such as Interstellar and the Game of Thrones. Following the walk, we visited the coastal region, known for the Black Sand beach and unforgiving large waves. “
“We also went on the ‘Golden Circle Tour’, where we visited the Godafoss waterfall (around where the movie Thor was filmed), the Geysir hot springs and the Mid Atlantic Ridge, where the two tectonic plates meet. Throughout the day, the weather would range from clear skies and sunshine to snow blizzards, which added to the beauty of the visits.”
“During the night, we’d check for the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) forecasts and go to areas with the lowest level of city lights in order to clearly see the Northern lights. This was one of the most fascinating and exciting experiences I’ve ever had. Following years of wanting to see the Northern lights, the wait was definitely worth it.”
Latifa also spent time in the capital Reykjavik, where she was able to learn about Nordic culture and visit inspirational buildings that she regarded as architectural masterpieces, such as the Harpa Concert Hall.
“Overall, my trip to Iceland was a rare experience that I’m grateful for. Not only did I meet and make new friends, but I also developed a better understanding of photography on a more professional level. The place itself has heavily inspired me, and I want to go back to discover more. The country has clearly worked very hard to keep the nature untouched, despite it being a growing tourist location. Additionally, though the population is only 300,000 people, the level of advancement in the country was impressive, with the latest technology being used most of the time.”
“I feel lucky and thankful to be living in the UK, location wise; it has allowed me to visit and explore Iceland and hopefully, much more of Europe in the future.”