Vor í Reykjavík

I’m now half way into my studies at Listaháskóli Íslands (Iceland Academy of the Arts).
This has not been an easy two and a half months but I am glad that I came here.


View of the city from Laugarnes

I feel that Reykjavík is the city of opposites.
As a city it’s very young. In the 19th century the whole town of Reykjavík was still only one street (Aðalstræti), as most people lived and worked on farms.
Living and building in Iceland is not easy, so the development of a capital area in Iceland was happening much later than in other Nordic countries.

Now there is construction everywhere in the city and no house looks very much alike. There was an urban design plan in the early 20th century by Iceland’s first architect Guðjón Samúelson to transform whole Reykjavík so all houses would be made of concrete and they would all look alike. They started the project, but it came to an end when younger people started to protest against tearing down the older wooden buildings.
So now the center of Reykjavík looks very strange.

Construction in downtown Hverfisgata
Surprise winter
Surprise winter in Thórsgata
Graffiti art near the old harbour
Graffiti art near the old harbor 

There are a lot of graffiti in Reykjavík. And surprisingly most of it is really beautiful artistic work.

My favourite
My favourite

There are a lot of tourists in Reykjavík compared to the number of locals living here. I sometimes think (exaggerating) that I’ve seen more Spanish and Chinese people than Icelanders on my stay here.
But there is still enough room to find the quiet roads and calm spots. Even if you sometimes have to share them.

Harbor and Esja
Harbor and Esja
A raven giving a morning concert
A raven giving a morning concert


The view of Reykjavík is usually dominated by the beautiful mountain Esja. There are a lot of mountains in Iceland, but Esja is the one you see most often.

Esja, seen from the shore, downtown Reykjavík

I went for a hike on the most popular route of Esja in January (not the smartest of ideas), on a day that was supposed to be cold, but bright. How wrong was I.
When we got there it was dawn and everything was fine. Half way up the weather changed drastically and we found ourselves in the middle of a windy blizzard.
I had been walking ahead of one group of exchange students and could see another group of adult climbers before me. I kept going in the storm and at some point I lost the people before me, I lost the path and when I looked back I saw that the others had turned back.

Somehow I didn’t even get scared, because I could still sort of see footprints here and there, and I knew that the climbers had to come down the same way and that I would see them if they would decide to turn back. I just kept going and at some point I caught up with the climbers.
It wasn’t easy and the whole trip up and down to Steinn at 600m took hours. The conditions made it impossible to go any higher and we couldn’t see anything from the top anyway.
And later I learned that on the same day there had been an avalanche on the harder route through the mountain pass and one Icelandic man had died. This was a week after we had heard of many tourists being swept away by waves and killed because they went too close to the shore in the south.
Hiking or exploring in Iceland is not to be taken lightly. Ever.

Starting the hike
Starting the hike
When the sun started to rise the weather was still good
When the sun started to rise the weather was still good
...until it wasn't. This is the same landscape
…until it wasn’t. This is the same landscape
There were amazing moments of golden sunlight in the storm
There were amazing moments of golden sunlight in the storm
That’s the lowest peak. No view, just snow
But I made it. Even though my face hurt so bad. Eyeglasses were useless
But I made it. Even though my face hurt so bad. Eyeglasses were useless


Music and performing arts department in Sölvhólsgötu
Music and performing arts department in Sölvhólsgötu

I really love the teachers here. And the students are a nice bunch of people.
The mold I absolutely hate.
The school is the only higher education art school in Iceland and it’s still really small. The departments have been divided into three different locations and lucky us, the musicians and actors are all in the one building that has mold.
It’s not just a guess or something that needs to be investigated. You can go into certain rooms and look at it. Yep, black mold.
Here’s a video:


Here’s a link to an article:


Our singing lessons have been moved away from the building but everything else is still there.
I get headache and on some days symptoms of a hay fever.

They are apparently trying to find new housing for the departments, but it doesn’t help the students currently there.
I can’t wait for summer leave.

The studies and courses are similar to those in Finland. The level of the music department is not as high as that of TAMK’s, but I’m happy that I’ve got to work with these amazing teachers and get a new perspective to my studies.

We have a lot of masterclasses here, which is really good for singers and we are doing scenes from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte and Le nozze di Figaro.
We get to work with all the singing teachers in the school, which is also a benefit on university level.

But you do need to learn to at least understand some Icelandic here. Not all the teachers like to speak to the whole class in English and even though you can return all your homework in English, you will want to understand the lessons as well.
I would recommend coming here in the Autumn and going to the intensive language course in the Westfjords.
I have been relying on my own studies and it has left me only with the ability to compliment things and ask for my latte with oat milk.
Also the word for an exchange student (skiptinemi) is funny.

Iceland is a great place to visit, but living and studying here takes determination.

My hoodie from Mjölnir. Go train there. Mjölnir is great
My hoodie from Mjölnir. Go train there. Mjölnir is great

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Roosa Kemppilä


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