On the east coast of Iceland there is a long fjord called Seyðisfjörður. At the bottom of it, tucked safely between two mountains, lies a small village with a little less than 700 inhabitants. If that sounds quaint and idyllic, that’s because it is. In 2000, a group of young locals got together and threw the first LungA festival, an art festival for young people on the east coast of Iceland. In the 15 years since, the festival has grown substantially and is now a major music and arts event, held every year in July. The people behind the festival wanted to expand on the idea: creating art in one of the most tranquil and scenic places in Iceland. So they created a school, the first folk high school in Iceland.

Folk high school have a long history in Scandinavia as that place where you can go and find that certain something you are looking for in yourself when you’re young. A place where you can learn to think more creatively than you would in the regular school system and build a set of skills that will last you a lifetime.

Intrigued by this amazing project I had a word with Björt Sigfinnsdóttir, the manager of the school and got to know a little more…

What made you decide to open up a folk high school?

I am one of the founders of the LungA festival and a few years ago I started thinking how I could expand on this concept. After the festival was held in 2010, I aired my thoughts to the fellow board members and they agreed that it would be amazing to do something more with this incredible energy that is created during the festival. Shortly thereafter we got the idea to open a folk high school. It was a bit of a jump, but we really felt that there was this need for something different in the Icelandic educational system; some place where an individual could come and explore themselves, figure out what they want and who they are. We also really wanted to create a place of education where there was no competition; no comparison between students and no grades.

As a manager of the school, what do you hope students get from their stay at the school?

For me, it’s all about finding the love for your self. To give yourself the time to properly explore yourself and this love; find out what you can do with it, for yourself and for others. Also, I want people to have an opportunity to take a breather and figure out, not just what they want, but how to obtain it! So many of our students have found themselves in a rut or in a system that simply doesn’t work for them. At LungA they can take the time to figure out what works for them, as individuals and as a part of a group.

How many students have you had? And are they all natives?

Not at all, it’s about 50/50 Icelandic and, well, all over the world really. We’ve had people from Australia, US, Estonia, Germany, UK, Brazil and they’ve been all ages too, really. The youngest student we’ve had was 17 and the oldest was 34. The school has capacity for about 20-25 students per semester and it’s shaping up to be a really good semester this fall!

Oh yeah? Can you give us any scoop on what’s on the menu?

Well, Saga Sig, an amazing dancer, will be returning as a teacher and mentor. She’s incredible, she really helps students get deep in their introspection. Lotta and Daniel, from Denmark and the US respectively, will be teaching a great course on the creative process, how you set up structures for yourself and how you can break them. And Renaud and Marine, a French couple, will be joining us next semester. He’s a photographer and she’s a visual artist, they’re working on a really interesting course.

So the students can choose different courses for the semester?

Yes, the semester is somewhat divided. You spend about 5-6 weeks on introspection, and 5-6 weeks on creative courses. This fall we’re going to have two artists doing a residency with us and they’ll be helping us launch an exhibition for the end of the semester, as well as mentoring the students.

Sounds really good… What would you say to someone who’s thinking about applying?

Do it! If you want to go on a journey that’s like no other; a journey where you’ll rediscover yourself, and maybe even life itself, do it! Seyðisfjörður is a place like no else, set amidst spectacular nature. We use that a lot in the introspection; try to reconnect with the earth. And there’s no better place to do than in scenic nature and isolation. It’s unlike anything else!

The deadline for applying is August 14th!

For more information on the school and what it has to offer, go to www.lunga.is