By Nicole Curcio
Sociology professor Brian Sweeney will lead a 3 credit study abroad course in Reykjavik, Iceland from June 3-13. All students are eligible to apply to fill fifteen spots in Sweeney’s first international course.
During the trip, students will go “ Visit the National Museum of Iceland and Þingvellir (pronounced thingveller) National Park (the centuries-old site of Icelandic democracy), attend talks by the University of Iceland sociologists and political scientists on topics including income inequality in Iceland, the Icelandic healthcare system, the Icelandic political system, and the great Icelandic banking collapse of 2008, visit mental health care agencies, a Muslim immigration organization, and a gender-equality-themed kindergarten,” according to the trip info site http://liuiceland. weebly.com. Students will also go on the Golden Circle Tour and the South Coast Waterfall tour, where they will see “natural and historic attractions” such as natural water explosions known as geysers.
Sweeney teaches Sociology of Human Sexuality, Sociology of Men and Masculinity, and introductory sociology courses. “These classes I’m teaching now do relate to the trip.” The timing seems right for a trip like this with the ongoing news of the Trump administration, Sweeney said. “A lot of Americans don’t believe the federal government should play much of a role in education. Places like Iceland can offer a very different model for how the government can play a role in society. The Nordic people have more trust in the government and a lot of Americans are mistrustful of the government.”
Iceland is a “very natural fit” due to Sweeney’s personal and professional connections to the country. His friends there are a mix of sociologists and scientists who share the same interest in the comparison of the two cultures, mindsets, and governance. “It’s a very different place in terms of what Icelanders they think about equality, how are concerned about, how they think about opportunity.”
Sweeney said that countries such as Iceland utilize their opportunity to experience upward mobility, allowing the numbers between the rich and the poor to be much smaller than that of the United States. Icelanders are “shocked” by the Trump administration’s efforts to minimize the government and dismantle Obamacare, as their constitution says everybody should have access to quality health care, according to Sweeney.
Sessions during the trip will be given by two of Sweeney’s friends, Professors Gunnar Bernberg and Sigrun Olafsdottir, sociologists at the University of Iceland. Along with providing information on their own research in “comparative politics” about government styles and health outcomes, they will be very much a part of the trip, helping Sweeney coordinate trip activities.
Junior dance major, Emily Bivona is applying for the study abroad opportunity and, if chosen, will use the credit as an elective. “Professor Sweeney spoke to my Soc. 3 class and sparked my interest in applying,” Bivona said. “I’ve always wanted to take up the opportunity to study abroad which is difficult to coordinate with my major during the fall and spring semesters. The summer would be perfect for my situation.”
“Iceland is a really fascinating and easy place to travel,” says Sweeney. “It’s relatively close, not as far as mainland Europe; actually not as far as California. It is strikingly beautiful and is geographically and geologically fascinating to explore.”
Fifteen spots are available and applications are being accepted through May 1. The trip will count as credit for sociology, political science, or an elective. For students in the Honors College, it can count as an advanced honors elective. There is no prerequisite to apply for the trip. Students can log onto http://liuiceland.weebly.com for more information. To apply, visit http://liu.edu/study-abroad to fill out the “Faculty-Led Study Abroad application”. Following this trip there will be The Transition Economies of Central Europe and the Former Soviet Union coarse led by the economics department, taking place in Slovenia, led by Veronika Dolar from July 1- 14.