The Chilling Costs of Iceland: An International Student’s perspective

VefstjoriRoskvu Pistlar

by Eve Newstead.

For a foreigner, and foreign student in particular, living in Iceland is startlingly expensive. When digesting the feedback forms of previous exchange students, Iceland stands out as the most unique but also as the most likely to break your bank. Cost of living day to day, we are warned, is steep. Even steeper though: the cost of accommodation.

Due to the housing crisis the task of finding accommodation in preparation to move is both draining and frightening. Sites such as Rentmate and Housing Anywhere offer limited options that are all at ludicrous costs. Facebook groups are confusing and competitive. Apartments go at a rapid auction pace; too quick to make a decision on where you are looking to call home for a year. The most trustworthy place to look is the Student Agency Housing site and even this is slightly unreliable. Not only are the posts not updated regularly, leading you to chase an already let apartment, but the landlords advertised are at times dishonest.

If you are lucky enough to find a house quickly, or at all – many were still living in the campsite when classes started – they are often low quality. Problems with heating, extra hidden bill payments and broken items left unfixed lead to further problems. The lack of housing in general is a deterrent from finding somewhere new to live if complications do arise. Many landlords are aware of this and use the desperation to their advantage, not fulfilling agreements in regards to the letting. Due to the private landlords being unconnected to University, it’s tough to know where to seek help. More Student Housing would ease the panic for students immediately. It’s the cheaper option, as well as being the most reliable for a good standard of living. However, because it is so competitive, prospective students are warned not to apply for Student Housing at all.

To aid the cost of living abroad, Erasmus students receive a monthly Erasmus Grant. Imagine the shock of each student when they are told Iceland is considered a low-cost country and therefore they are to receive a smaller grant. This amount is even more astonishing when considering it is given in the same handbook as an estimate average cost of living per month. The living estimate suits Iceland’s inflated prices but the grant certainly does not. Other countries in the low cost Erasmus group include Poland and the Czech Republic, whilst places receiving higher than Iceland are France and Italy.

Working in Iceland is a must then. That is, unless your desire is to live off hot dogs for the year. However, the taxation system in Iceland for students is as unhelpful as the Erasmus grant. Taxes are unavoidably high, only lessened by a tax card available in the same amount for international workers and international students managing studies as well as work.

The cost of living in Iceland sets a firm barrier up against students. Alarmingly, it is a deterrent for prospective international students from experiencing the unique culture and landscape that Iceland has to offer. The estimated costs for a year in Iceland allow only the advantaged and financially supported students to come. This filtering is unethical and unfair. Added stress and worry caused by housing and finances should not accompany studying; students have enough of that with their deadlines.