Birds eye view of cliff and crashing waves in iceland

Iceland - Science, Systems and Sustainability

ISCI 361 | 3 Credits

  1. Log in to the Gateway online application program
  2. Select “Search Experiences” and type "GSP" to explore Global Seminars programs
  3. Upload the application form for your selected Global Seminar – see Application documents below

Please note that you can apply for up to a maximum of 2 Global Seminars.

Students are encouraged to meet with the Program Director at an orientation session or one-on-one to learn more about the program.


About the course

This course is led by UBC faculty member Lee Groat.

Contemporary scientists agree that solutions to complex global challenges such as environmental sustainability calls for “systems thinking”: the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole. Systems thinking as an approach to problem-solving argues that the component parts of a system can best be understood in the context of relationships with each other and with other systems, rather than in isolation.

A scientific approach to examining the world that embraces systems thinking therefore demands that we consider landscapes, regions or whole continents as systems. In these systems, elements such as land, air, water, human societies, plants, and animals, interact in ways that influence the likelihood that the system will survive or perish.

This 3-credit summer intensive course ( program runs between May 1 to May 18, 2020) builds on ISCI 360, in which students examined the complex interconnecting components that contribute to the nature and status of the present-day system of a country, a region or a city. We intend to begin with a study of Iceland (as a completely self-contained nation-state ‘system’, Iceland offers a particularly valuable case study).

About the experience

The summer intensive course offers you an opportunity to visit and experience Icelandic land, ecosystems, and communities first hand, and to hear the perspective from locals and local experts on contemporary and historical factors influencing (in this example) the Icelandic system.

In addition, the course will function as a data-gathering field trip to allow student teams to pursue a research project investigating the possible effects of perturbations of the Icelandic system.

A typical day might include:

  • Attending lectures from selected local guest speakers on topics relevant to Iceland such as:

    • Climate change and Iceland.
    • The shrinking glaciers and the volcanoes underneath.
    • Flora and fauna (native and introduced).
    • Geneology and genetics.
    • Renewable energy in Iceland.
    • The debate over hydroelectricity and heavy industry.
    • Fisheries.
    • Whaling and whale watching.
    • The debate over reforestation.
    • Icelandic culture and history
  • Data gathering for students’ research projects

  • Visits to sites including:

    • Reykjavik, the country's capital and largest city.
    • The Reykanes Peninsula: the fishing industry, geothermal areas (Krýsuvík, Gunnuhver), extinctions (the Great Auk), Bridge Between Continents, geothermal power (the Blue Lagoon).
    • The Golden Circle (Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, Gullfoss waterfall, Fridheimar Greenhouse, the Secret Lagoon).
    • The Westmann Islands (Vestmannaeyjar): the 1973 eruption of Eldfell, puffins.
    • The South Coast: LAVA Centre, Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Vík í Mýrdal, the Dyrhólaey peninsula (more puffins), Reynisfjara beach, Skaftafell, Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, Höfn and the effects of climate change, glacier walk (conditions permitting).
    • The East Coast: Reyðarfjörður, aluminum smelter, hydroelectric power, reforestation, tree planting (location TBA).
    • The unique and threatened ecology of Mývatn: hiking, optional whale watching from Húsavík, optional trip to Ásbyrgi glacial canyon.
    • The North Coast: Akureyri (Iceland’s second city), Siglufjörður(Herring Museum), Grettislaug, Ósar, optional horseback riding.
    • The Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Stykkishólmur, Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum, Djúpalónssandur beach, the world’s best ice cream.
    • Many other locations, most not accessible outside of this course.
    • Weather permitting we will also be visiting the Westman Islands

Notable environmental conditions

Lots of walking, hiking, and outdoor activities.


Accommodation will be dormitory style and similar to modern hostels.

General timeline

The program will take place in Iceland from May 1 to May 18, 2020

Prior to your time in the field, you will be required to attend pre-departure sessions in Vancouver.


To be accepted for this Global Seminar, you have to meet both program-specific requirements as well as Go Global’s general eligibility.

Program-specific requirements

This course is open to students with third-year or higher standing in the Faculty of Science.


ISCI 360, Systems Approaches to Regional Sustainability (taking place in Term 2 of each academic year) or assigned readings.

While the course is suitable for third-to fourth-year students from a variety of majors and science disciplines, preference will be given to students registered in Integrated Sciences.

Global Seminars - general eligibility

You must have at least a 70% average in your most recent Winter Session of full-time studies prior to application

You need to be a UBC student in good standing (e.g. not be under academic or non-academic discipline) to participate in a Global Seminar

You should have full-time student status (as defined by your faculty) in the year prior to your Global Seminar

You must maintain 70% average prior to your Global Seminar departure

You must have completed or intend to complete the necessary (or equivalent) pre-requisite courses prior to Global Seminar start date

Unclassified students will be considered on a case-by-case basis

You will need to be accepted by the Program Director leading the Global Seminar

Program fees and costs

Approximately CAD $3000+ tuition and flight.

The final fee depends on the number of students in the program. Students do not pay the Go Global fee when applying to a Global Seminar. The Go Global fee is built into the Program Fee and is payable upon acceptance to the program.

All qualifying students will receive a $1,000 Go Global Award.

Program fee includes Program fee DOES NOT include
Accommodation Tuition*
Program-related travel Flight*
Program-related excursions Incidentals*
Meals *depending on program
Go Global fee ($415.00)

*UBC Tuition - Not included. Part of your costs

This amount will differ for domestic and international students. This amount will be assigned to you on the Student Service Centre (SSC) according to normal UBC tuition timelines. Read about tuition fees.

This amount is not determined or applied by Go Global.

All students participating in a Global Seminar will have tuition applied to their SSC account.

*Flights - Not Included. Part of your costs

Travel to your destination is a separate cost. You are responsible for arranging your own travel. You should not book your flight until you are notified to book. All Global Seminars only run if there is a minimum number of students enrolled.

*Incidentals - Not Included. Part of your costs

Some examples include personal mobile communication, personal transportation that is not related to the learning outcomes of the program, additional meals that are not already identified as part of the program fee, immunizations, Visas, etc.

Please contact a Global Seminar Advisor if you have questions about the program fee. Connecting early with an Enrolment Service Advisor will also be helpful in order to plan for your trip.

Global Seminars refund policy

Adjustment on deposits

Students are eligible for an adjustment of their deposit under the following circumstances:

Withdrawal after you accept your spot in the program

  • You are eligible to have your Global Seminar deposit adjusted from $750 to $93.25 (ie: you receive a $656.75 credit)

Withdrawal after deposit posted on SSC

  • You are eligible to have your Global Seminar deposit adjusted from $750 to $321.75 (ie: you receive a $428.25 credit)

Withdrawal after deposit due date

  • The deposit and all remaining program fees are completely non-refundable. Exceptions may be determined at the discretion of Go Global. 

Any funds allocated to students through the ARA program must be returned in their entirety.

Students who decide to withdraw their application must submit a request in writing by email to the Global Seminar Advisor at


If you are considering applying for a Go Global program and identify with having a disability or pre-existing health condition (mental or physical) which could impact your participation, or if you require academic accommodations, you can contact the following offices and meet with an Accessibility Advisor before the start of the program:

The Centre for Accessibility (Vancouver) 604 822-5844

Disability Resource Centre (Okanagan) 250 807-8053

Pre-departure Policy

Safety Abroad

UBC is committed to preparing students for safe and successful international experiences. In order to achieve this, any student participating in a Go Global Program must complete the following:

  • All UBC Student Safety Abroad requirements
  • Go Global Program-specific pre-departure requirements (includes both online and in-person components)

Failure to successfully complete these and any other requirements may result in withdrawal from the Go Global Program.


Go Global Vancouver

When emailing us, please include:

  1. Your UBC student number in the subject line
  2. Your full name
  3. Which category of student are you:
    1. if you are a current UBC degree student interested in Go Global programs, include some relevant information like the type of program or region of the world you are interested in
    2. If you are an "outgoing UBC student" participating in a Go Global program, please mention the name of the program or host university you are matched to
    3. If you are an "incoming student" (from another university), please mention the name of your home university and which category of student you are (exchange, VIRS, Tec de Monterrey)

Go Global Vancouver

Telephone: 604 822 0942

Fax: 604 822 9885

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6138 Student Union Blvd
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1


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