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Is It Really Over?

Time June 29th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, here we are. The end of June. I have officially been home for two weeks and have found myself re-entering the real world. I planned on writing this a while ago, but who knew the real world was so time consuming? Add that to procrastinating because I really don’t want to officially write that the semester is over, and it’s a miracle that I’m even writing this now. But alas, it’s time to address the end, a feat that I have been in denial about since I wrote my very first post back in January.

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The Final Countdown

Time June 12th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Finally a new post! This has probably been the longest break between posts since I started writing this blog back in January and that is 100% a result of being very overwhelmed with exams. But here I am, the beginning of June, and approaching the end of my semester abroad, completely finished with my exams. This probably won’t get posted until I’m already home, but I am writing this still in Cardiff so my trip isn’t technically over yet, but the end is quickly approaching.

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Let’s Talk Politics

Time May 18th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

I can hear the collective groans of everyone reading that title, but hear me out. I know politics isn’t everyone’s favorite topics and would probably rather read about some other adventure I’ve gone on but let’s try this, at least for one post. To be very honest, politics has probably been the most exciting part of my life for the past couple weeks. I’m in the middle of exam season and knee deep in notes so exploring the country has been put on the back burner for the moment, so I’ve had to resort to current events to spice life up a bit.

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Byw yng Ngymru

Time May 6th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Ok, as far as I understand that title roughly translates to ‘to live in Wales’ and considering I have two Welsh exams this week, hopefully I’m right. For someone who has had a long history of picking up languages relatively quickly, Welsh has been a right pain to try and learn, but that’s not to say it hasn’t been interesting. But anyway, I digress. This is going to be the long awaited (if not long awaited by you, than long awaited by me- I have been procrastinating this one since I landed here in January) culture shock post. I feel like I’m in a strange place with culture at this point with having been in London then Wales and then spending a month in Europe back to London and Wales and then being slightly wary about the reverse culture shock that I’ll be facing when I return to the US.

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Movie Magic

Time April 27th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Over the course of the past three weeks I have traveled all over continental Europe, seen some of the world’s most incredible sites, and eaten some of the most delicious foods I have ever dreamed of, and yet I didn’t reach the most exciting day of the trip until today. I have waited over three years for this day and I cannot believe it is actually here. The tickets are purchased, the travel plan is decided, and the Hogwarts t-shirt is laid out and ready to go. That’s right, it’s Warner Brother’s Studio Tour day

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The City of Light (and Dark)

Time April 22nd, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Ah Paris, the city with perhaps the biggest reputation of all the places we visited, and a city I could not wait to explore. However, while the few days we were there were a ton of fun, they also unfortunately seemed to support the not-so-positive stereotypes of Paris being a difficult place to visit.

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Easter in Eastern Europe

Time April 20th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Ok confession time, I had every intention of posting a separate blog post about every city we visited over spring break but alas, the real world happened and I just didn’t have the time (or the internet connection) to be able to post as frequently as I wanted. But fret not! I am back in beautiful Cardiff with a steady Internet connection and a laptop that I know will not let me down on the posting front. Instead of a post for every city I’m going to do a little bit of condensing, but I think I’ve got it all organized! Without further adieu I give you Easter in Eastern Europe.

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This Is What Are Dreams Are Made Of

Time April 13th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

I feel like the past few days have been a dream, they were so surreal and wonderful that I can’t believe they actually happened, but then I flip through the over 300 pictures that I have and I’m right back on the winding streets of Rome with some of my best friends complaining about how much we’ve walked and planning our next gelato stop. Until now, Rome has just sort of been a place that doesn’treally seem real. It’s a place of such immense history and culture you would have to spend years there to really be able to see it all. We had 3 days.

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European Explorer

Time April 6th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

As I’m writing this, I am sat at the Marseille-Provence airport for my second flight of this 3 week European adventure waiting for our boarding call (we were supposed to board like 2 minutes ago and don’t even have a plane yet so we’ll see how this goes). We had a very brief stay in Marseille, and it wasn’t all sun and sea, but it was still a lovely start to a crazy few weeks.

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I See The Sea

Time March 25th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

Time continues to fly by over here, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. On the plus side I’m moving away from schoolwork and towards break, but on the other hand I’m moving closer and closer to having to leave. I’m both extremely excited and incredibly anxious about the next few months so I decided to take it day by day and try not to think too much about what I have coming up.

Since about the time I first decided that I wanted to study in Wales, I’ve been online searching for ways to really see this country and embrace everything it has to offer. During those hours of endless Internet searches I discovered a company called Where When Wales, which is a small tour company operating out of Cardiff that offers affordable tours to amazing places around much of Wales. When I finally got over here I did some more investigating of the tours, and based on suggestions from numerous people, the Gower Explorer tour to the Gower Peninsula was the must-see. Everyone I have ever talked to has said the Gower Peninsula is one of the most beautiful places in Wales so I had to get there.

We booked the tour about a week before we were intending on taking it with no problems at all, and then spent the entire next week patiently awaiting Sunday. I was so excited.

Sunday finally rolled around with an aggressive 7:30 am alarm and a quick breakfast before we set off for our day. One of the best parts about this company, at least for us as Cardiff residents, is that the pick up and drop off location is in front of the National Museum, which is an easy walk for us. Our walk ended up being way faster than we anticipated so we had some time to just sit on the museum steps and watch the city of Cardiff wake up. I realized how little Cardiff feels like a major city, it may have a population of over 300,000, but it still genuinely feels like a smaller city. We still have a lot of the accessibility of a major city, but not so much the overwhelming atmosphere.

At a little before 9am, the WhereWhenWales mini-coach pulled up in front of the museum and we were greeted enthusiastically by Jan, our fearless leader, and her husband John, the courageous driver. There were nine of us (seven American) and from the start, Jan and John spent time getting to know us, so much so that it felt like we had known them for years. They were so incredibly kind and welcoming it made the amazing tour even more fun.

Our first venture brought us to Swansea, the second largest city in Wales, and the National Maritime Museum. We weren’t there long, but we got to see the marina and all the boats in front of the museum before heading inside to check out some of the exhibits. It’s a relatively small museum, but it was recently refurbished so it’s very nice and innovative. There were some really cool transportation vehicles from history, including a two-person bicycle from the Victorian age and a one seated, tiny car that was designed to battle London traffic. After our brief viewing of the museum, we were back on the bus listening to Jan narrate the ride with tons of interesting facts about the area, and Wales as a whole, including making sure we all knew when we were passing Catherine Zeta-Jones’ house. We were finally to the coast and the views.

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We pulled off the road into Langland Bay and I was blown away. This kind of tropical view is probably one of the last things I expected to see in Wales, it’s like the true hidden treasure of this to often overlooked country. It may be one of the rainiest places, but it has incredible tropical beaches with surfers and everything. This stop of the tour allowed time for a walk along the coastal path from Langland Bay to nearby Caswell Bay. I learned that Wales actually has a coastal path that follows the entire perimeter of the country, and is the first country to ever do so. The path we walked along was absolutely breathtaking. It was by far one of the most amazing moments of my entire life. I have never seen anything like it, but it wasn’t just the views, it was the entire atmosphere. It was an absolutely pristine day; sunny and blue skies, and we were surrounded by people who were also out there enjoying the gorgeous environment we were surrounded by. By far my favorite part of the walk was the smell. You always hear about the “fresh ocean smell” and you see it in all sorts of air fresheners and candles, but out there it was real. It was fresh and clean, and it was mixed with the faintly floral smell of the flowers that line the path, and it was amazing.

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After our walk, we set off to Rhossli Bay, which has been voted the #9 best bay in the entire world, and it is much deserved. The bay is immaculate; sandy beaches and limestone cliffs at the base of mountains that we explored for hours. There is an adorable little town at the top of the cliffs where we grabbed some sandwiches before heading down to the beach.

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Down on the sand we wandered for a while, taking in the scenery and just enjoying the weather. It was really cool to be down there because not only is there the ocean, but there is the remains of the shipwreck of the Helvetia, which is kind of surreal to see. I don’t really know anything about the ship (and have forgotten what Jan told usabout it) but it’s very strange to think that the pieces of wood sticking out of the sand used to be a massive ship. To leave the beach, we scaled a small incline and climbed a very steep hill that left us out of breath, so we rewarded ourselves with some delicious Welsh ice cream.

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Helvetia shipwreck.

The rest of our time in Rhossli was spent exploring the path along the cliffs leading out to Worms Head, a very uniquely shaped landmass so named because it looked like a serpent to the people who discovered it (worms head in their native tongue loosely translates to serpent). We tried to make our way down to climb it but unfortunately didn’t really have enough time; I’ll just have to come back some time to try again.

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Our last stop on the tour brought us to a more inland portion of the peninsula to see Arthur’s Rock, a location thought to be a Neolithic burial ground. To get to the rock, we had to walk through a field that just so happened to be the residence of a local herd of wild ponies. It was pretty spectacular to just walk through this herd that remained seemingly unfazed by us.

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The rock itself didn’t really stand out that much (I think after you see Stonehenge any rock is just sort of a rock) until John got to telling us about it’s history. Originally it would have been built like a mound that you could go inside of, but it has since collapsed. Historians thought it might be a burial mound, but as no human remains have yet been discovered, they think it may have just been a ‘mead stone,’ or magical rock worshipped by the pagans. Tradition held that visitors would walk up to it, rub their hands together (‘to get the energy flowing’) and touch it with both hands to absorb the magic, so obviously we did the exact same thing.

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However, this stone may not have just been for magic. John told us that legend has it that this rock was the rock that housed the legendary sword of Excalibur that could only be removed by King Arthur. Sure enough, on the front of the rock is a slit that would have held the sword. I would have never believed it had that slit not been there. Why else would it be there? I am 100% convinced that we touched the rock that Excalibur was embedded in, absolutely surreal to think about.

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Unfortunately, our encounter with a legend was also our last stop and we were then on our way back to Cardiff. I had such an incredible experience that I will no doubt be taking another WhereWhenWales tour. It was completely worth the money to see more of the spectacle that is the country of Wales.

While it was by far the highlight, the tour wasn’t my only adventure this week. As a spontaneous last minute decision, I decided to join some friends on a Wednesday afternoon trip to a different Welsh coastline. We hopped on a train after lectures and made our way to Bridgend, where we grabbed a seat on the bus to Porthcawl. Our afternoon was spent exploring another amazing beach. I have a very strong attachment to seeing the ocean, which is ironic seeing as I have a very strong aversion to the sand that so often comes along with it. For the most part this beach was stone (which I absolutely adored) but there was a bit of sandy portions that I tried my hardest to avoid.

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I don’t know how I’m going to be able to cope with returning to landlocked Minnesota after falling in love with being by the sea. We may be the land of 10,000 lakes, but it’s just not the same. Just add spectacular ocean views to the list of reasons why Wales is amazing.

This Friday is officially my last day of classes before Easter Break, which is also the beginning of my three-week adventure around Europe. That means very limited time and Internet connectivity. My goal is to get a post up about each location we get to so hopefully I’ll find the time to make it work. They’ll all get up eventually, it’s just a matter of when. So hopefully the next time you here from me I’ll be in *drum roll* Marseille, France!

 

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Adventures in Space, Time…and Southern Wales

Time March 18th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

This post is a bit of a conglomeration of a few different adventures because I wanted to keep last week’s post only about Adventure Weekend, as it was a pretty big event. So technically this post is about this week and last week, but rather than make two separate ones I figure why not just write them together and save the extra post for something more productive (I’ve got a couple of ideas brewing for some less narrative posts and more informative/reflective stuff but I’m waiting to find time to sit down and plan them out and unfortunately procrastination keeps rearing it’s ugly head around here).

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Adventures In The North

Time March 11th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

I’m back in Cardiff sat at my desk, alternating between writing this blog, editing an essay I have due Tuesday, filtering through pictures to post, and unpacking my suitcase. Earlier today I spent 5 hours traveling from North Wales, into England, and back to South Wales, even though I wish I could have stayed in Snowdonia for another month. This past weekend was the big IFSA Adventure Weekend, and it was probably one of the most amazing weekends of my entire life.

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No Capes.

Time March 2nd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

I may have already experienced this week, but I still can’t really believe that it happened. I got to experience some incredibly surreal moments, all whilst dealing with being a college student. The study abroad experience offers so many incredible opportunities, that I will likely never have the chance to experience again, and I am so incredibly excited to be here.

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From Tourist to Tour Guide

Time February 23rd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

This week was really exciting because not only was I finishing up my first major assignments and officially checking them off of my to do list, my friend Shelbie was coming to visit for the weekend. I spent so much time last week working on schoolwork I was very excited to get out of my room and not have to worry about word counts or PowerPoint layouts. However I did learn a lesson or two outside the classroom.

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So this isn’t a 5 month vacation?

Time February 18th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | 2 Comments by

So unfortunately this is the first week that I don’t really have any big adventures to report back on. As of today (16/2) I have officially been in the UK for a month, and apparently that’s about when reality sets in and you realize that a semester abroad isn’t all travel and fun.

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Rock ‘n’ Roll

Time February 12th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

It’s been multiple days since this weekend, but I’m still trying to make up all the sleep I’ve missed, all whilst trying to keep up with school (can’t forget the study part of this whole study abroad deal) and I have a paper due next week and a presentation the next. Time management is going to have to become my best friend if I want to try and avoid a full on stress meltdown. Despite the exhaustion and incredibly sore feet, this past weekend is not something I would trade for anything. It was absolutely incredible. Read More »

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Living Like a Tourist

Time February 5th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

About two days ago I was thinking about things, just a jumble of things, and the thought of how long I’ve been in the UK came to mind, and while I was fully convinced I had been here for three weeks, I was later reminded that its really only been two. I’ve only been here for about two weeks but I feel like I’ve done three months worth of living. In 14 days I’ve flown over seas for the first time, discovered one of the World’s biggest cities, and started school in a new country, and while I’m living like a local, I’m still exploring like a tourist.

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The Land of The Castle

Time January 30th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

One thing that makes Wales one of the coolest places around is that it is believed to have more castles per square mile than any other place in the world. I have absolutely no reason to doubt that fact because almost every day, I get to walk passed Cardiff Castle. Where the city has an amazing City Centre and shopping area, there is also a castle planted smack dab in the middle of the city.

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Wale, Wale, Wale(s) What do we have here?

Time January 26th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

What we have here is my first week in CARDIFF! It feels incredibly surreal to finally be here, especially after all of the planning and research time that I’ve put into this trip. Obviously a weekend in London was cool, but I’m finally in the city where I’ll be living for 5 months. Holy cow.

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64,000 Steps

Time January 21st, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

Any iPhone users out there are probably familiar with the Health app that was added in the latest iOS update. For those who may not know what it is, it’s basically an app that can do a number of things, but most notably it acts as a pedometer. Over the course of the past few days we have been watching the number of steps we’ve taken go up and up and up as we continued to progressively adventure further and further into London. We’ve officially left the city, and have reached over 64,000 steps. That’s about 34 miles done solely by walking. But we were in London. It was completely worth it.

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The Packing Chronicles

Time January 15th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | 1 Comment by

In just a little over 24 hours (27 hours and 8 minutes to be exact, but who’s counting) I will be getting on a flight to London to start a semester abroad in Cardiff, Wales. I told myself I was going to study abroad in England over 4 years ago and it’s finally happening.

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