He studied and visited Iceland thanks to the PISCES programme

Kamil Kowalczyk, student of the Faculty of Management at the University of Gdańsk.

He is a scholarship holder of the PISCES programme, addressed to Polish students who wish to pursue their future in the fishing industry. Kamil Kowalczyk, a student at the Faculty of Management at the University of Gdańsk, admits that the study trip to Iceland opened his eyes to many aspects of the university and professional life. - I also experienced the beauty of the enchanting Icelandic nature. The aurora borealis, which I saw live, looks much more amazing in reality than in photos or films, just like waterfalls, which make you look as small as an ant - says the UG student.

The priority of the PISCES (Polish Icelandic SCholarship - Exchange Studies) scholarship competition is to support Polish students interested in the fisheries sector (food quality, safety and processing) who want to study at the University of Akureyri under the Erasmus Scholarship Programme.

The project aims to strengthen the Polish and Icelandic fisheries sector by providing qualified, experienced professionals as well as to increase the exchange, knowledge and good practices between the academic and business sectors.

The competition is dedicated to students of the Faculty of Management and the Faculty of Oceanography and Geography at the University of Gdańsk. So far, two editions have been held - the next one is planned, but due to the timing of the pandemic, the date of the third edition of the competition is not yet known.

Kamil Kowalczyk, a 5th-year student of Management, specialisation: Management of Enterprise Development at the University of Gdańsk, a PISCES scholarship holder, thanks to which he spent the spring semester on an exchange, studying and living in Akureyri from January to May 2020, tells about his six-month stay in Iceland, his studies, life and adventures.

PISCES is a development opportunity for young, active and ambitious students. It gives you the opportunity to study in Iceland, but also to meet a different culture, learn about job opportunities. The trip has allowed me to open my eyes to many aspects of the university and professional life that were previously beyond my reach, as well as to meet new people and slowly build relationships, even those related to academic and business life.

My impressions of Iceland are very positive. Living in the north of Iceland in the city of Akureyri, I met wonderful people, not only students but also Icelanders. University life challenges the student and you have the opportunity to acquire new skills and knowledge. There are innovative solutions available on the university campus, such as remote-controlled robots that we can use to attend classes and lectures. Classes are always recorded, so the student can listen to the audio recording via the student portal to recall and consolidate knowledge. The contact with the lecturers is impeccable, you can always count on professional help.

My stay in the country coincided partly with the pandemic. One could say that one of the adventures I had on the island was precisely the situation connected with the SARS-CoV2 virus. It was fortunate that there were not many cases on the island. The university in Akureyri rose to the challenge, momentarily changing the form of teaching from classroom to online. Personally, I preferred the classroom, before the pandemic broke out because it was an opportunity to meet the other exchange students.

The way the classes were conducted was very similar to the one we know from Polish universities. The student has to pass subjects equivalent to 30 ECTS credits per semester.

I came to Iceland during the spring semester (January-May), which is when the sun is practically non-existent. Three hours of sunlight every day is basically the maximum, so we spent most of our time in our guesthouse/dormitory studying and writing our thesis, of course taking breaks to chat with friends and take night walks in search of the aurora borealis. As time goes on, i.e. the closer we get to April/May, the days start getting much longer and that's when we had the best time exploring Iceland.

Iceland's nature is captivating, what is depicted in films is only a fraction of what the human eye can register in person. The most beautiful experience, in my opinion, was the aurora borealis, which looks much different in person than it does in photos or films, and waterfalls which make you look as small as an ant. A completely different experience from that of watching the 10 wonders of the world on YT.

A significant aspect of the PISCES travel scholarship is the interest in the fishing industry. As an interesting side note, as part of the Icelandic Nature class, we were able to participate in a whale watching trip, with the added attraction of being able to catch fish to take home with us.

I think Iceland is a great place for people who want to slow down in their lives. During these 6 months, I noticed that people are very nice, kind and understanding, but most of all, they do not live in such a hurry as we do. Everyone shows great patience and respect not only for the other person but also for nature. The difficult living conditions in Iceland, such as active volcanoes, low temperatures, very low forest cover and frequent snowfalls, have led the inhabitants to a state where they do not get angry or try to fight nature, but accept it and patiently wait for better weather conditions.

If any scholarship holder would like to work in Iceland (I was not able to do so due to the pandemic), he or she must know at least communicative English and have a lot of patience with people who are not in a hurry by nature.

In my opinion, every ambitious person interested in the topics covered by the scholarship programme should give themselves a chance to develop and take up this challenge. Not only do we increase our competencies, but we allow others to get to know us from the professional side. I say challenge because the requirements to be met in the PISCES competition are not the simplest. A participant of the scholarship competition must first write a 15-page essay in English on a topic chosen by the competition council. In my case, it was 'Quality management driven by innovations - influence of storage and transportation conditions of frozen herring, mackerel and cod on quality and processing.'. The next stage is an interview with the competition board to defend the previously written essay. Moreover, the winner of the PISCES scholarship competition must be an ERASMUS+ scholarship holder, so we can add grade point average and English language skills to the requirements.

In conclusion, I personally recommend the trip to all students who decide to devote their time to self-development.

The PISCES scholarship programme, which provides financial support to talented students, is co-organised by the University of Gdańsk, the University of Akureyri and the North Atlantic Producers Organisation. More information is available at www.pisces.edu.pl

Stay in Iceland as part of the PISCES scholarship. Photo: personal archive of Kamil Kowalczyk
Elżbieta Michalak-Witkowska/Press Office of University of Gdańsk