Physics to Humanities

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is why Xan speaks Icelandic. It is not exactly a common language for a non-Icelander to speak and is incredibly difficult, let alone rarely used outside of Iceland. Since this blog is supposed to be about the two of us, I think it is about time I give Xan some more devoted posting time. Here is some insight into my husband’s educational decisions. 🙂 It is pretty unique…

Freshman year:
Xan initially intended to attend the Air Force Academy and had a really tough time picking between that and BYU. For whatever reasons in the end, he chose BYU and started his first semester in 1998. (I was just starting 9th grade. LOL). He was originally declared an electonic engineering major but had switched over to physics during his second semester.

After his freshman year, Xan served a mission in Madrid, Spain. While he was there, another missionary not in his area found a Danish investigator and asked Xan to find him a copy of a Danish Book of Mormon. Xan did this but ended up having the book in his possession for quite some time before he saw this missionary again. Being a European missionary, he had some time on his hands and started trying to learn Danish until he gave up the book. Why not, right?

Sopmore to Senion Year:
Returning to school, he decided to start taking Danish classes on the side of his physics. Keep in mind that he is incredibly smart and usually took at least 18 credits if not 21 each semester. He was planning on getting a double major in both physics and European Studies. He started taking Italian and other European languages, including Icelandic. Me: “Why did you decide to learn Icelandic?” Xan: “Cause it was a unique oppurtunity and I decided to jump on it.” This led to learning Old Norse, Old English, Latin and such so that he could read all the old European literature. Unfortunately, BYU discontinued their European Studies major. So, his new plan was to double major in Physics and Italian.

At this point, Xan was wanting to get into a PHD program for Medieval Studies. To get the double major, he was going to graduate in December 2005. He talked with his professors and knew that his physics degree would in some ways distract many schools from accepting him. He decided to apply to BYU’s Comparative Literature Masters program for Fall 2005 since he would be able to complete his physics degree by then if need be. If he got in, he would drop the Italian major. If not, he would finish the double major and take his chances for Fall 2006 with all the other grad schools. Well, he was accepted back into BYU. So, Xan graduated with a BS in astro-physics. Yes, my husband is a certified rocket-scientist. 🙂

Graduate School:
Xan continued to focus on Danish literature and the Viking Sagas and shipbuilding. His thesis was on the usage of ship words used in the Edda poems (from Scandinavia). My understanding is that he compared different areas in Scandinavia’s poetry in the Edda’s to show that some were more shipfaring than others. For example, some cultures have all sorts of words for boats: In English we have yacht, ocean-liner, sail boat, row boat, kayak… ect. Other’s just say boat for floating objects with passenger capacity. It is much deeper than my simple explanation… but it is along these lines. In summer 2006, Xan did a 6 week intensive Icelandic study here in Iceland. He really enjoyed it and planned to come back for this Masters program in Fall 2007. The program here was going to be part of his BYU masters degree. Unfortunately, finances fell through and he wasn’t able to attend. So, he graduated from BYU and was reaccepted to the program here in Iceland for Fall 2008. He actually applied for several graduate programs in Medieval Studies before applying to Iceland but didn’t get into anything. His professors were floored and we really don’t know how he was accepted into some of the schools he applied to. As you graduate students know, many times there is no rhyme or reason to getting accepted. It is just applying at the right time and to the right place.

Future Plans:
After finishing this degree, Xan will have a solid background that will be hard to refute and will hopefully get accepted to a good program. He is covering all his bases this time. For Medieval Studies, he applied to Cornell, Sydney, Berkley, Yale, Harvard, University of Bloomington Indianna. For nautical archeology (underwater), he applied to Texas A&M. And last of all, for physics (which is his second love), he applied to Hawaii BYU.

I hope this answers many of the questions some of you have. I actually learned a few things writing this. Xan was happy to answer any questions ’cause now when people ask him, he can just refer them to the blog. 🙂 He’s funny. Hope you enjoyed!


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