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Education student grateful

Iceland native concerned about economy at home

By Heidi Wicks

Faculty of Education master’s student Eyrún Skúladóttir is over the moon about recently being awarded a CURA Fellowship to complete her research in educational leadership.

She, her husband and their two children came from Iceland this past fall, and have been through a whirlwind ride since the stunning collapse of their native country’s economy. Ms. Skúladóttir takes great solace in the kindness that has been shown to her and her family since they’ve returned to Newfoundland.

“We had been to Newfoundland before (seven years ago) and liked it, so we had no hesitation in coming back,” she said, adding that her husband, a school principal in Iceland, had been working with Dr. Jean Brown in the Faculty of Education.

“St. John’s has changed a lot in the last seven years,” she continued, “but we find it very family friendly. We find some kind of a similarity between Newfoundland and Iceland. Maybe it is because both are islands and an Icelander is proud of his/her nationality and so are Newfoundlanders. It’s probably some kind of islander mentality.”

Ms. Skúladóttir’s family had planned to be in Newfoundland for at least two years, but that may change, considering the situation at home.

“I have an educational leave for one year from Iceland and my work will be held for two years.” She works as a head department teacher in a compulsory school in Iceland, so she would most likely not have lost her job had she remained in Iceland. But she said her salary has decreased by about 40 per cent since she came here because of the unstable Icelandic krona, the country’s currency.

“There’s not much you can do,” she said of her friends and family still at home, struggling with the situation. “You just hope that you’ll maintain your job. But when you’re used to getting a certain salary, it will affect your budget. And if your budget gets chopped almost in half, it’s very tough. Many businesses are going bankrupt. Some material is hard to get because people aren’t buying, and then the companies don’t buy it from other suppliers. It’s almost like the Great Depression situation.”

She explained that when they first arrived in Newfoundland in June, the Canadian dollar was worth about 68 kronas.

“Now it’s rocking between 94 and 104 kronas, and it went all the way up to 120. When you’re doing something like moving from one country to another like we did, you organize yourself, you make some plans as to how you’re going to pay for things, how you’re going to live. But then if your salaries are decreased so much, just because of the currency, you are in big trouble. That’s why this fellowship is such a godsend,” she said.

“It meant much to me because of the situation at home,” she said. “I can continue my studies here much more easily thanks to that fellowship. I’ve been doing research about gender and the use of technology, and I’ll continue to research into the winter to find a topic to study. I’m very interested in teamwork and collaboration, and how to use technology to make communication more effective, especially in connection with administration.”

If the situation in Iceland has taught people one thing, it’s that you should never take any situation for granted.

“Our family is trying to make a living here in St. John’s, but we don’t know what the future will be like,” Ms. Skúladóttir admitted. “I’m just trying to do my studies and take it day by day. I’ve been working with a lot of great people. Everyone is so helpful and willing to do everything for me, and that’s very inspiring. It’s very nice to be around people who care. I can thank them for what I have accomplished.”