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It’s the End of the World (as bloggers know it)

Time December 14th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

…by which I mean, the Internet is down in my Residence complex. Horror of horrors! Which means I either have to hang out in the library or the Humanities cafe, both of which are a bit of a walk away and aren’t open 24/7, but I don’t really have time for that because I have Welsh to study. Hence the absence of blogging. And I really did want to write another post after my last one which was, admittedly, rather on the depressing side.

So what have I been up to? As much as I’d like to say I was living up my last weekend in Cardiff enjoying all the nightlife/social events on offer and interacting with my lovely fellow students, that would be completely inaccurate. I’ve mainly been sitting at a desk for the past week and a half. No, literally. I just move from desk/table to desk–Humanities Building, Library, Humanities, Library, my flat.

BUT I am more or less delighted to inform you that I have finished all my essays for my modules in the History and Ancient History Departments! As of 26 minutes ago, I have also completed my very last non-Welsh module here. It was a great lecture by the School of Ancient History’s very dynamic and engaging Dr. Evans, on the delightful topic of death in the Ancient Roman world (including a fifteen minute discussion about worms. Delicious).

Another thing to be happy about–the essay I mentioned a few posts back on Ancient Coins that I had such difficulty with and agonized over and thought I would fail–well I did NOT fail, far from it in fact! I was very, very excited about this, as Dr. Evans saw when I picked up my essay from his office yesterday (I think he was amused by my excitement, though).

It’s really amazing. I have learned so much from my modules here, truly; I was so scared when I got that assignment. All I could think was “I don’t know anything! I can’t do this!”…but with many hours of effort, I managed to figure it out all on my own. And I think that’s one of the great things about the academic system here, painful as it is at times–in cases like this, when you are thrust into an academic situation where you are given VERY little guidance at all and know almost NOTHING about the topic, YOU have to go and do the research, starting completely from scratch. I didn’t have any professor here giving me step-by-step instructions as to how to begin evaluating Ancient Coins. I had to figure it out myself.

So I think I get what people mean when they say that the academic system here is much more “self-motivated” than in the United States. And the interesting thing about this process (and probably part of the point) is that because nobody is pointing to reading/sources/etc. and saying “that’s what you need to read/do,” you end up doing a lot of sifting and reading of sources and things that may not be directly relevant, and you learn quite a lot from that in addition to whatever you discover about the topic.

I understand the British academic system! Maybe. Close?

In any case, the countdown to departure is now a mere three (!) days. I still have three Welsh exams, a Welsh writing assignment, and two Welsh lectures to get through, so it’s not over yet! That probably sounds dreadful, but I love Welsh so much, I’m going to try to enjoy it insofar as it is possible to enjoy yourself with your first major oral exam in a crazy foreign language looming.

Many thanks to Anjie, the IFSA Spotlight Blogger studying abroad in Chile, for her comment on my last post; she said “I have a feeling that neither of us are going to lose what we have learned nor who we have become in our semesters abroad” and I think she’s right–thanks, Anjie!

I allowed myself to wallow a little in that post, and I’m sure there will be other times when I want to (and perhaps will let myself) do so (briefly), but I think that what I must do in order to make the transition back to my American life easier is to approach leaving Wales with the attitude I tried to go into it with–a positive one. I have to leave; that is a fact. The only thing I can change is my attitude towards leaving.

I have gained so much out of this experience and I must always keep that in mind–imagine if I HADN’T had to courage to go?! I would have missed out on so much. I wouldn’t have discovered such a wonderful place to which I most dearly hope to return. I don’t know how I will go back, or when, but someday, I will.

So here’s to going out the way I came in–head held high, ready to learn from and take on anything and everything that comes my way. And if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from my semester in Wales, it is that I was living life a bit passively before I came here, and I don’t want to go through life that way ever again–because that’s no way to live at all.

 

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Honesty Hour: 2am Ramblings

Time December 12th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

In exactly one week, I will be back in the United States.

…and my heart is breaking.

I can’t think about this now; I have finals to content with. Essays due in. Welsh exams to revise for.

But it keeps ghosting back into my thoughts.

I Skyped my family tonight. My grandmother is so glad that I am coming home. I wanted to enthuse with her, but instead I just sat, paralyzed at the thought. Not of going home, really; I love my family. Home is home and it always will be, especially at the holidays.

But after that? What will I do then? Who will I be? I don’t want to go back to being the person I was before I came here. But how can I be the person I am here without being here? Without my Wales? My Cardiff? Fy nosbarth Gymraeg?  I have never in my college career been so happy as I am right now, as I have been these last weeks. I don’t dislike my school at home; it is a fine institution. But there was always something that never fully clicked. Something has always been missing. I’ve never felt totally at ease, totally comfortable; there’s always been something niggling at me, a feeling of waiting for something to happen, to find something…just waiting…

I didn’t know this would hurt so much at the end.

“Y drafferth efo breuddwyd, ydy bod chi’n gorfod deffo”
– Pobol y Cwm

“The trouble with dreams is that you have to wake up.”

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No Place London

Time December 9th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I finally got the opporunity to return to London again–I hadn’t gotten to go since IFSA Orientation in September! Due to the amount of course work waiting to be done, I could only afford to go for a single day. But it was a GREAT day, and  I definitely want to return to London again someday.

The night before, that Friday night, I met up with my flatmate Molly in Cardiff City Centre for dinner. Instead of going to a restaurant, we decided to just walk around and get food from one of the stalls at the Christmas market! City Centre is really quite lovely at this time of year; in front of the National Museum there is Winter Wonderland with ice-skating, rides, and games, and then down in the actual center there’s the Christmas market and lights everywhere and small groups of musicians, and just a lot of holiday cheer in general!

 

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We ended up getting something to eat from the German sausage stall!

 

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We didn’t hang around for too long because we knew we’d have to get up early (for uni students) to catch the train in the morning, but it was still quite nice to just walk around and people-watch.

Anyway, we took the train out of Cardiff Central Station a little after 8am the next morning; on our way to the station we noticed that there was a film crew setting up in Bute Park. We’ve actually seen them a few times now, but have yet to figure out what exactly they are filming! In any case, it was an easy two hour train journey to Paddington Station; I’d brought a backpack with all my Welsh work in it, so I passed the time studying. I just love taking the train here; the carriages are so much nicer than the ones I am used to on the train to New York City.The whole time we were on the train I had the song “No Place Like London” from the musical Sweeney Todd stuck in my head.

After arriving in Paddington, we decided to get Single Day Travel Passes for the tube; it was seven pounds for the day, unlimited rides across zones, and included busses! And let me tell you–I love the tube. I just think it’s fantastic. I was really worried about getting lost and confused, but it’s really very clear and easy to follow, and even if you do get on the wrong train, it’s incredibly easy to hop off and just hop back onto the correct one. The circle line was closed for maintenance, so we had to figure out an alternate route, but like I said; clear signage makes a huge difference!

By 11:30 we were at the Tower of London, which was our only solid plan for the day. Given our limited time, we knew we couldn’t do a lot; both Molly and I had visited London previously and taken a walking tour to at least see the big things (Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, 10 Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, etc), so we didn’t feel as though we had to do that. Given my interest in British history and especially Henry VIII and his wives, I knew I couldn’t study abroad here without making it to the Tower. And since Molly wanted to see it, too, that’s just what we decided.

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There was an ice-skating rink set up in the moat! A pretty cool place to be skating, I must say (although perhaps slightly less so when you remember that the moat was actually used as a cesspool for hundreds of years and wasn’t actually drained until Queen Victoria’s time). Atmospheric, none the less.

Molly’s cousin, who lives in London, planned to meet us at the Tower, so while waiting for her we decided to nose around the gift shop for a bit. I was extremely amused by this mug and seriously contemplated the purchase, but I am rather concerned about the amount of space I have in my suitcases and resisted the urge.

 

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Brilliant 😉

By the time we had met up with Molly’s cousin and purchased our tickets (the line was long; there were so many people there!), we were all starving, so we made a beeline for the Tower’s restaurant before even bothering to look at anything. The food there was actually excellent! I’d definitely recommend eating there to anyone visiting; just make sure you go to the one inside the castle grounds.

 

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After lunch we decided to take the hour-long official tour with one of the “Beefeaters,” which gave a nice general overview of the castle; the Guardsman was also hilarious! The only downside to the tour was that there were about fifty other people on it so it was sometimes difficult to catch every word he was saying.

 

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The Thames and London Bridge from the castle.

After taking the Yeoman’s tour, we decided to keep touring around by ourselves, following the path suggested by the Guardsman; basically it starts on the Thames side wall and you walk along the battlements from building to building and explore each one. The whole thing takes quite some time, but it’s all fascinating.

 

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There was an enormous queue to see the Crown Jewels, so that is the only part of the Tower we didn’t do.

And of course, the infamous Tower Green; site of numerous private beheadings, including that of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard (Henry VIII’s wives two and five, respectively). It’s a horrible thing that happened there, really, but I couldn’t help but be excited as we walked around, and I did stop and have a little moment of silence at the Green:

 

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After we’d seen all the outer parts of the castle, we headed for the White Tower in the center of the grounds, which was just as well because it had gotten very cloudy and was quite raw out. The interior of the White Tower is more of a traditional museum, with all sorts of collections, including a really cool one on armour (

 

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We ended up staying at the Tower all afternoon! We left when the guards came round and told us they were closing in 15 minutes, at 5. So we said goodbye to the Tower and headed back to the tube. It was TOTALLY packed at that hour; we were packed like sardines! When we arrived at the stop we needed for Covent Garden the lines for the lifts were so long we decided to walk up the biggest spiral staircase I’ve ever seen in my life. It was super steep and tall, and so many people were having to stop halfway up and rest! It was a workout, but I appreciated all my gym sessions, because Molly & I made it to the top without stopping.

I tried to get some pictures around Covent Garden, which was very festive and buzzing, but alas, it was too dark and they are horribly blurred. We didn’t have a good map of Covent Garden, so we basically just wandered around until we realized we were starving and ended up going to the first restaurant we saw, which was a PizzaExpress. We had a long, leisurely dinner & dessert, and then somehow managed to find our way back to the tube without getting lost, which was rather a miracle given how many turns we’d made down random streets in our Covent Garden wanderings!

When we got on the train in Paddington (note: as soon as the platform number is posted, GO, or else you won’t get a seat!), we were happy to have seats at the back…although we had to share the space with a bunch of men who’d been in for the rugby (I think), and were very boisterous and spent the whole journey drinking more! Their conversations were very interesting (it’s not eavesdropping if the person is talking at the top of their voice a foot from your ear, right?).

Our train was going all the way to Swansea this time, so I was afraid to fall asleep in case we missed our stop! So I stayed awake and studied more Welsh, of course.

We got stuck for a while in Newport, and at around the two-and-a-half hour mark I got a little tired of inundating myself with Welsh vocabulary and took this picture:

 

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So there you have it! One day in London, mostly spent at the Tower of London. There is just so much to see in the city, it was hard to have to pick and choose. But I really enjoyed it, as I said, and am eager to explore London further one day.

It was very interesting; I liked London, but visiting made me really appreciate the smaller size of Cardiff! It was also so weird to see signs without Welsh on them! I’ve gotten so used to seeing that here, it’s kind of a comfort now. In any case, it was really quite easy to get from Cardiff to London and then get around London; I frequently visit New York City when I am at home in the US (the train journey is also a little over two hours), but for some reason traveling felt much easier here, the only exception being that New York City is a lot easier to navigate, street-wise; London is just a big jumble! But charming in that way.

That’s enough for now–I have to go and do some revision for class tomorrow!

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No Ordinary Day – Thanksgiving in Wales!

Time December 7th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Eegads! I’m so behind on blog updates! Sort of. I can’t say I’ve had to much to really share lately–the last few weeks of lectures have been flying by, and because I have to return to my home university and therefore cannot be in Wales for the official exam weeks in January, I am in the midst of completing all my final assessments (= stress). But more about that later. First I need to take you back…back two weeks…to that day most Americans mark with an afternoon of delicious food, family, and tryptophan-induced naps in front of the television…

Thanksgiving, wrth gwrs! I must admit, I was pretty sad to be missing out on Thanksgiving at home. I would’ve liked to see my parents and especially my brother, whom I have not seen since August. But going abroad is a trade-off, and I was willing to settle for a post Thanksgiving dinner Skype call. My fellow American flatmate Molly, however, proposed that we have Thanksgiving dinner with our flat and give our British friends a little bit of an American holiday experience. Sounded good to me! We assigned everybody a food to prepare, and even sent out some silly invitations we found at Tesco. They obviously don’t sell Thanksgiving dinner invitations, here or maybe anywhere, so we got creative and took it upon ourselves to modify some Wedding RSVP cards, which ended up being rather a laugh. In any case, everyone RSVP’d with a “yes,” and we had everything planned.

Of course, we all had a long day of lectures and seminars to get through first!

I started off my day bright and early and met my fellow IFSA Butler-er, Sarah, at a great coffee shop just down the way from my residence to edit our Welsh assignments that were due that afternoon.

 

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Sarah opted to go for the fresh croissants and a mug of cocoa; I was feelin’ something light, so I had a banana and some weird ginger-lemon tea that was good for the first five minutes and far too gingery thereafter. It did, however, wake me up, as advertised.

After our meeting, I went back to my flat to go to the gym and then settle in for another few hours of Welsh study.

 

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Note: The Phantom of the Opera original cast recording is extremely conducive to the study of Welsh (or I might just be weird that way).

And studying Welsh is no joke, man. It’s definitely a process, which for me involves covering every available surface with flashcards and worksheets, along with the infamous sticky notes, which you might notice in the following photo:

 

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Crazy as this sounds, though, concentrated Welsh study sessions put me in a state of mental Nirvana.

Anyway. So, I studied and then I went to Welsh class for two hours…and then it was time for THANKSGIVING!

Here’s Molly, ready to make some “stuffing balls” using her boxed stuffing mix:

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We’d have made real stuffing, but everybody had lectures until 5:30 or 6pm, so we took the easy Uni-student route. We also didn’t dare attempt to roast a turkey…so we substituted with two Tesco rotisserie chickens. 😉

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I suppose you can’t really tell here, but having an entire flat attempt to cook at the same time in one tiny kitchen gets very crazy. But we managed somehow.

 

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And we ended up with a lovely dinner! Overall, it was a really great bonding experience for our flat. It was the first time EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US had gotten together to do something all at once.

It wasn’t over yet though. After dinner, Jenna and I (with Gabriel & Anthony’s help) attacked the pies–one pecan, one pumpkin!

Now let me tell you…finding canned pumpkin in this country definitely presents a “finding a needle in a REALLY REALLY BIG haystack” experience. People don’t really use pumpkin in cooking here! On some nicer restaurant menus you might see pumpkin soup, but that’s about it. None of the Brits in our flat had ever eaten pumpkin before…I also overheard two girls in the School of History & Archaeology that puzzling over how pumpkin could actually be made into a dessert, of all things.

It’s sad, they don’t know what they’re missing! So anyway, finding canned pumpkin in Cardiff–don’t bother with conventional grocery stores and supermarkets, because none of them have it! I literally stumbled across it entirely on accident when I was walking around town with Molly the Sunday before Thanksgiving. We were in one of the older, tucked-away arcades window shopping when we spotted a really cool looking shop/restaurant with imported food from all over Europe. They had all kinds of olives, oils, meats, cheeses, imported cookies, cakes, grains, all sorts of things!

And there, on the very top level of a set of shelves no wider than my body, I saw it: amidst boxes of wildly over-priced PopTarts and tubs of Marshmallow Fluff…LIBBY’S PURE CANNED PUREED PUMPKIN!

It was indeed a Thanksgiving miracle!

 

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Here are the pies in their final state, and here’s one of me very intently arranging pecans for the second pie; yes, I knew that my beautiful pecan placement would soon be ruined by a cascade of sugar syrup. But it was therapeutic!

 

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There were a few minor problems, such as the fire alarm going off four minutes before the pecan pie was supposed to come out, but it all worked out in the end and they tasted delicious!

And thus concluded my Thanksgiving in Wales.

I’d love to continue this post, but I need to go get some studying done first (I have a very scary Welsh aural test tomorrow!). When I next take a break, I’ll write a little post about my trip to London the weekend after Thanksgiving! :)

ps. If you ever do find yourself in Cardiff for Thanksgiving, desperate for a pumpkin pie…just head for Wally’s Delicatassen in the Royal Arcade–American import section, tippity-top shelf!

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The 2/3rds Review (a little late)

Time November 29th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, I just turned in an extremely difficult essay I spent all of last night editing for one of my modules…I don’t feel particularly confident about the score I will get, but I tried and that’s about all one can do. My head is spinning a little and I need to take a break, which means it’s time for a blog post. Therefore, I would very briefly like to comment on my experience abroad in general now that I am 2/3rds of the way through–more than, actually, since I’m writing this about 10 days later than I meant to!

In any case, I want to be completely honest about my experience and what it has been like, and a part of that is me admitting that for all the fun I’ve had and things I’ve learned, there were moments (well, okay, longer than mere ‘moments’; more like days) when I desperately missed my home university and felt completely beyond my comfort zone.

The first month was really hard for me; when my parents visited a month into my stay, I was so happy to see them, because at the time, all I could think was “I don’t really have friends”, “I miss Gettysburg”, “Why did I decide to do this again?” and other such thoughts. I haven’t written about this yet, really, because at the time, I felt just awful for even thinking those things–objectively, I knew I should be so grateful for having this experience at all, and I felt very guilty for not enjoying it more. The fact that I never really felt homesick after moving to a college 6.5 hours away from my home three years ago and was so incredibly excited to visit Wales allowed me to skim over the idea that I might had adjustment problems here . I (naively) expected to just love being abroad instantly, but it was much more challenging than I’d realized. Being in a different country (even one where you speak the language) with a different academic system in a city threw me much further out of my comfort zone than Gettysburg College ever did.

The most important point I would like to press, though, is that you just have to give it time, and furthermore that nothing helps one adjust more than completely throwing one’s self into something. I chose to become involved in some societies, and furthermore vowed that if I learned anything at all here, I would learn the Welsh language. It sounds simple, but setting that one simple goal of really doing well in my Welsh class (not just skating along to get by, as many do in language courses) changed everything for me.

I can say completely confidently that now, two months (and a week, now) into my program, my attitude and feelings towards this experience have gone completely the opposite way and I am absolutely in love with Cardiff; I no longer see the charm in the idea of returning to my home university, and the only thing I am thinking is “Don’t make me leave!”

Funny old world, isn’t it? One month you want nothing more than to go home, the next month you want nothing more than to stay and in spare moments somehow find yourself pondering ways in which you might soon secure a return visit to your adoptive country.

This, I think, is a pretty normal thing for Study Abroad students to feel, the initial excitement, the homesickness, and then finally settling in. I was just a bit arrogant and didn’t think I would experience all three.

I just wanted to make it clear that contrary to what my blog thus far may have suggested, it hasn’t been all butterflies and roses and frolics in the countryside since I arrived in Wales. But I adjusted and settled in and I feel more at home in this city than I ever have anywhere in the US …the unfortunate side of this change is, of course, that I am struck with despair at the idea that I will not be returning to Cardiff after being home for Christmas and the New Year.

So for the moment I’m just going to go on my merry way, doing my assessments in denial until it all comes crashing down about my ears two and a half weeks from now. :)

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An Apology, A Tea Party, and A Day In The Life

Time November 28th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

An Apology:

Now to start off this entry, I must admit that I am a DISGRACE to Classics majors everywhere–my last post should have said “Veni, vidi, vici” in the title, but I made some terrible mistakes there! I have been away from Latin too long…in any case, to every Latin professor I have ever had and the Ancient Gods above, I must say a huge “mea maxima culpa.”

 

Moving on: A Tea Party

 

I believe I left off my last post talking about a tea party, and indeed, last weekend I attended the Tea Party Society’s Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at a lovely cafe/tea room in nearby Roath, just a little bit of a walk outside of the main center of Cardiff. As usual with the Tea Party Society, it was a very relaxing and enjoyable afternoon of tea drinking &  cake consuming.

 

Evidence of a successful tea party:

 

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You can’t tell from this picture, but the Society’s Cake Officer made a cake shaped and amazingly decorated like the Mad Hatter’s hat!

 

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There were also a number of games played for prizes (tea pots!), including the very exciting “How many hats can you stack on your head?” game–the record ended up being 15, I think! Here’s a photo of one of the contestants in the midst of the hat-stacking progress:

 

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I also received my official membership card at the party, pictured here in front of the hat I wore to the party.

 

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The rest of the weekend was spent mainly doing homework, though on Sunday a flatmate and I did walk into the City Centre to have (the most delicious) pies and cider at a pub on the High Street called The Goat Major; I believe I mentioned it in one of my very first blog posts, but if you ever visit Cardiff, you really must go! The pies can’t be beat, especially on a chilly, misty Sunday afternoon!

 

I also snapped this picture of the castle as we passed by:

 

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AND NOW: A Day in the Life of a Cardiff University student in a series of (somewhat boring) photos.

 

I’ve devoted a lot of this blog to talking about the more adventuresome days I’ve spent in Wales, but almost none to the more mundane, day-to-day things. So one day I stuck my camera in my pocket and snapped a few pictures here and there, thinking I would give a bit of an overview of what an average WEEKDAY is like here at the University!

 

So, here we go:

 

Now, in the tradition of the “A Day In My Life” project on LiveJournal, I started off my “ADIML” series by taking a picture of my phone/alarm clock when I finally got out of bed.

 

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9:07am! A little late, that day. I meant to get up and go to the gym at 8, but when my alarm went off I was just too tired and hit snooze…more than once. You can also see part of a Welsh vocab review sheet beneath my phone. I tend to keep a constantly-changing list beside my bed so that before I go to sleep and whenever I wake up I can surprise drill myself on new vocabulary.

 

And then I peeked out the window to check up on the weather before deciding what to wear for the day:

 

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Hmm, overcast. Bit misty? We DO have lovely days here in Cardiff, but a lot of them tend to look like this. While this would drive me crazy in Gettysburg, here I tend to just say “Ah, Wales” and cheerily go on my way despite the leaden sky.

 

I thought I’d snap a picture of my little space here in University accommodation; it’s small, but perfect!

 

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It doesn’t tend to look that neat later in the day. Anyway, then it was off to walk to class:

 

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And then I went to the library to pick up and article I’d reserved for class:

 

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And by that point it was nearing lunchtime, so I headed to the Union to grab some food.

 

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After scarfing down my wrap, I dashed off to pick up groceries before my next class; it made my day a little crazy with the running to-and-fro, but I had somehow let myself run out of food to the point where the only thing I had was two apples and half a cup of oats.

 

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You can only buy what you can carry back! This is probably a good thing, in some ways…The sky started clearing, so I decided to take the scenic route…

 

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I did some reading for class–

 

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And got really excited when there was some Welsh in it…

 

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The sun finally managed to peek out!

 

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And then it was time to go to class again; I thought I’d be late, so I walked there super fast, but when I got there nobody had arrived yet! This is what a typical seminar room looks like, at least for those taking humanities courses.

 

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Unfortunately, the sun was already setting by the time I got out of seminar–the one bad thing about this time of year! It just gets dark too early…

 

The rest of the day was pretty standard and not particularly interesting–I did reading and research for my Life in Ancient Rome module. No interesting pictures there, but here’s me and one of my textbooks:

 

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I took notes and read for the rest of the night.

 

So there you have it, a typical academics-centered day in the life of a student at Cardiff Uni. Nothing too exciting, objectively speaking, but I find that every day is pretty exciting when you’re living in a new country.

 

Upcoming Posts: The 2/3rds Review; Thanksgiving in the UK; Day trip to London

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What’s the Welsh for “veni, vidi, vici”?!

Time November 17th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

…Or is that premature of me to ask? Despite the fact that I have a million essays and assignments to be working on, I am currently floating upon a cloud of happy, triumphant energy. Why, you might ask?

 

Because I just finished my first Welsh exam! Now, I could be wrong here, but I think I did quite well on it! My hours of studying, despite the fact that I devoted my Reading Days to it, totally paid off. Or so I think. A lot of other members of my class were not feeling very confident after the test, thought it was difficult, or were very ambivalent about the whole thing, but I found it to be quite straightforward.

 

Then again, with Welsh it’s always the little details that seem to trip one up.

 

In addition to my fantastic feeling about the Welsh exam, I also got my first Welsh written assignment back and got at 66 on it! Now before you Americans gasp in horrified astonishment at that rather deplorable sounding grade, I should point out that in the Welsh department everything we turn in is marked out of 70, which puts my grade at ~94%! HURRAH!

 

Okay, I think I’ve bragged enough. I don’t mean to sound pompous, I’ve just been working really hard and am very excited.

 

Moving on, I’ll take a step in reverse back to the rest of Reading Week! In my last post I discussed my trip to the Wye Valley. On Wednesday, I spent the morning studying and then spent my afternoon in the stables having a lesson with my riding group in the Cardiff Uni Equestrian Club. It was a pretty miserable day and we had to walk the mile and a half to the stables in the pouring rain, but everyone in the club is pretty nice and friendly, so I had a good time anyway. I rode a 5 year-old Cobb mare in the lesson–she is still rather “green” and didn’t really understand what I was asking her all the time, so it was challenging ride!

 

I wish I were able to take pictures. The problem is that there have been thefts at the stables and I don’t have anywhere safe to put my camera whilst I ride.

 

Thursday and Friday were fairly uneventful days primarily spent studying.

 

Saturday was another great day. In the morning, I met my fellow IFSA Butler Cardiff Uni student, Sarah, to study Welsh! Because we were meeting pretty early, we decided that a breakfast of crepes was definitely in order if we were to get any work done. ;]

 

The place we went is called “The Pancake House” (located in the Old Brewery Quarter, if you are someone planning to visit Cardiff!), and it was absolutely fantastic. I chose the deliciously decadent Nutella & banana crepe:

 

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I feel as though it is necessary for me to mention that we DID in fact get some good Welsh practice in during the hour and a half we spent sitting outside!

 

It had been quite sunny and warm when we arrived at the Pancake House, but after we’d been sitting outside for a while it became very cold and a bit overcast, so we re-located to the warm interior of a nearby Costa and drank glasses of cocoa as we drilled Welsh vocabulary. A lovely morning, all in all! It was also fun to be in City Centre at that time; the Christmas markets have all been set up, stall upon stall of food, hot drinks, Welsh crafts, and other items, and it seemed like the whole world was out and about shopping!

 

After our Welsh study, I headed back to my apartment to do some reading for another class and, you guessed it, study more Welsh, before heading to a pub down the street for dinner with some flatmates.

 

And then I studied MORE!

 

Sunday was similarly great, but in an entirely different way. From 11am-6pm I was off on a hack with the Equestrian Club in the mountains of the Brecon Beacons! We were so lucky that the weather was great–sunny and not too cold. Cantering through Welsh fields on Welsh hills above the most beautiful Welsh valley on a scruffy Welsh horse (named Jaffa Cake!), riding past tiny farms and through twisted hedgerows made me feel absolutely as though I was on a film set or in a fairytale! At the bottom of the valley was a beautiful lake, and as it got closer to 4pm, we could see the sun starting to drift down and set behind the mountains behind the lake.

 

I wish so much that I could have taken some photos, but for safety reasons we weren’t allowed to carrying ANYTHING in our pockets and had to turn our cameras in at the office. :(

 

Though I will say, the one advantage to not having access to a camera is that you can’t be distracted by it, fumbling around trying to get a good shot. You can just focus on enjoying yourself and really experiencing the scenery, and I know I’ll remember that ride for the rest of my life.

 

Monday and Tuesday were a blur of lectures, researching for papers, meetings with professors, and studying for Welsh. I will say, I am becoming quite academically stressed. But I’m trying to stay positive!

 

On Wednesday, my Material Evidence for Ancient Historians class had a seminar on Ancient Greek Numismatics (coins!) in the National Museum, right down the street from the University. The museum is really great, and free for students! I definitely want to go back someday when I have more time to poke around on my own.

 

Anyway, I found the seminar extremely challenging and am somewhat dreading the essay I need to write on it this weekend, HOWEVER, during the seminar we were actually allowed to handle the artifacts and I must say it was pretty darn amazing to be holding such old coins that some ancient Greeks had ACTUALLY handled and used.

 

Here are just a few of the coins we looked at:

 

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And here we are, Thursday evening, and you’ve already heard all about my double-Welsh class today ;]

 

What am I off to do now? Study even more for tomorrow morning’s Welsh class! There isn’t much time to take a breather when you want to stay on top of a new language, BUT I am in love with Welsh, so I can’t say I mind.

 

Coming Up this Weekend:  The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with the Tea Party Society! “Frocks and Hats Required.” Should be a good time, though of course I have heaps of homework and reading to get through! C’est la vie.

 

Until then!

 

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Wythnos Darllen

Time November 16th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Ah, reading week. That glorious time in the semester during which one receives days free from lectures, study abroad students frolic around Europe…etc, etc. If they aren’t heaped with work, that is! While most students, I think, do try and take this week to do some traveling around Europe, I felt as though I really did need the week to catch up on work, especially with Welsh, as I had been very out of it when I was ill and went to lectures in a medicine-induced fog.

 

I know that sounds very boring of me, to spend my reading week studying, but I did manage to get in a few “mini adventures,” we’ll call them.

 

On Tuesday I decided to go on a tour of the Wye Valley, once again with the WhereWhenWales tour company (they are fantastic!). I’d been very lucky weather-wise when it comes to tours, but last week I finally got a taste of the real Welsh November weather–it was grey, rainy, misty, foggy, and quite cold and raw out. Now, one might think this would make for a highly unpleasant touring condition, especially when said tour involves walking around outside, but the thing about Wales is that it manages to enchant even in the most awful of weather. Honestly.

 

Our first stop, in the rain for this one, was to the archaeological site at Caerleon, also known as Usk, where the Roman Second Legion of August was once stationed. We started out visiting the remains of the amphitheater–and boy was I glad I was wearing my Wellies*, as the ground was quite squishy and muddy in places. Anyway–unfortunately there is only so much of the amphitheater left, as much of it was built from wood, so you are forced to use your imagination a bit when trying to envision what it would’ve been like there in the 1st century AD. From afar, it doesn’t look like much, but when you stand in the middle of the arena, it’s not difficult to imagine the stadium seating rising up around you.

 

I’m sorry these pictures don’t really offer any real perspective–an aerial photographs would’ve been much more appropriate!

 

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Next we headed to the Roman Baths, which have been covered over (thankfully, given the weather that day). The museum has added light and sound affects so that when you stand there looking down into the damaged and now-empty pools, you can quite easily imagine them once being full and in use. It was too dark to get a photo of the frigidarium (cold plunge pools) and other small pools, but here is a (pretty dark) photo of the natatio, the main swimming pool. I’ve also included a picture of a small-scale model of what the bath complex would’ve looked like. One really fun, random thing you can see when visiting the baths are boot prints and canine footprints in the concrete from when they were building the complex–pretty neat!

 

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Following the baths, we headed into the Roman Legionary museum. It is pretty small, but has quite an interesting display of artifacts, ranging from funerary monuments to the hoard of gems, dice, hair pins, and other items found in the bath drains. The gems are especially interesting because it’s one of the largest caches to be found ANYWHERE in the Roman world, and because some of the engravings are astonishingly minute, & would have been made without magnification tools as we have today.

 

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The next stop on the tour was…another castle! This time it was Chepstow Castle, situated right on the English/Welsh border. By this point the rain had become a fine mist, but it was very, very chilly (especially at the top of the river cliffs where the castle was) which made me seriously consider whether anyone in their right mind would actually have wanted to live in a castle prior to the modern conveniences of electricity, heating, and warm water taps (the answer? NO).

 

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Even though I was quite freezing, I thoroughly enjoyed the visit. I don’t seem to get tired of visiting castles at all; for the most part, they just push my imagination into hyperdrive and my thoughts are filled with stories who might have lived here and everything those stones have witnessed.

 

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After that, I was very, very ready for a hot lunch! We headed to our next location for lunch–Tintern Abbey. The Abbey itself is in quite an isolated area; there wasn’t much around, BUT there was a very warm and inviting pub on the ground floor of Tintern’s Anchor Hotel, where I had the most marvelous pumpkin soup and some pretty amazing quiche. I had a lovely time warming up and chatting with an older woman who was on the tour as well, visiting from Idaho. She was a very sweet woman and at the end of our meal she gave me a pin in the shape of a potato to remind me to visit her home state someday! It’s just one of those random little things I’ll remember about being abroad; I can be quite shy, and at home it’s probably unlikely that I would sit down and just start talking with a random person from my tour, but these are the things Study Abroad will do for you. :)

 

Here’s a picture of the amazing food!

 

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And now, on to the Abbey itself, of which Wordsworth himself besottedly wrote in some of his poems.

 

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Tintern Abbey is really just staggering. Though it has been reduced to a ruin and shadow of its former self, the ruins are absolutely stunning, made even more so by the misty-fog, which gave it a mystical, mysterious sort of feel. I don’t know if you’re allowed to do this, but it would be and incredible place to have a picnic in the summertime.

 

It’s a difficult place to capture in words and especially in pictures, because you just can’t capture the perspective and the feeling you get standing inside the ruin and being dwarfed by the columns and faced with the ramming of the window tracery. Never the less, here are a few more photos–

 

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Like I said, impossible to really capture with my humble little camera. But I’d definitely put Tintern Abbey on my “must visit” list for anyone headed for Wales.

 

The final location of the tour was Monmouth in the Welsh Marches, where yes, Geoffrey of Monmouth was from! Unfortunately my pictures from this location came out very dark and blurry, so please forgive me for not sharing.

 

Well, I think this post has gotten quite long enough! I’ll write another one this weekend to talk about the rest of Reading Week and what’s been going on in the week since it ended!

 

*An interesting note about Wellies in the UK: Back home in the US, everyone wears rain boots when it’s raining (obviously), but here, at least among University students, it is apparently considered very uncool to do so (unless it is a full-on, practically-a-monsoon, deluge). My fellow American flatmate and I always wear them when it rains to keep our pants (or trousers, as I must say here) and shoes from getting soaked/damaged, but our British & Welsh flatmates are constantly making fun of us for it!

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A litte more catch-up (Gower Peninsula tour et al.)

Time November 7th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Here’s the problem with the idea of catching up on your blog: the longer you leave it, the more you have to catch up on, the less you feel like doing it!

 

I’ve determined that there really isn’t anyway I can catch up on everything that’s happened in the last month in detail. From now on, I will just make more of an effort to post more. School has gotten extremely busy, so I may just need to designate a day and time to do it!

 

I was extremely lucky to have my wonderful parents visit me for a few days in mid-October. It was really nice to see some familiar faces from home! I had a wonderful time showing them Cardiff and doing a little bit of Welsh exploring with them.

 

On the Sunday of their visit, we headed out with the Where When Wales tour company (wonderful, if you ever visit Cardiff, head to the tourism office and ask about them!) on their Gower Explorer tour, which focused on the city of Swansea and the absolutely gorgeous Gower Peninsula.

 

Our first stop on the tour was the Swansea Marina itself, where we visited the National Waterfront Museum and Dylan Thomas Centre.

 

Swansea Harbor

The Dylan Thomas Center

 

While driving through Swansea, we passed actress Catherine Zeta-Jones’ house, and then we had the option of taking a really amazing coastal cliff walk, which we did! We were so lucky that the weather ended up being gorgeous on this day, which made the cliff walk very pleasant.

 

On the cliff walk...

Cliff Walk

 

The beach at the end of the cliff walk.

 

The Welsh coastline is absolutely beautiful. Little did I know, we then headed to Rhossili at the tip of the Gower Peninsula, which is hands down one the most beautiful places I have ever been in my entire life. I have never seen such a wide, sweeping beach anywhere! The coastline in Wales is so lovely and so much less spoiled than in the US. Standing on the end of the peninsula, you really feel as though you are in a fairytale (I think I said this about my last trip, too-but it’s true!).  We had lunch at a bistro overlooking the beach itself, and right above it, there were about twenty people parasailing!

 

The view from our lunch spot, The Bay Bistro! Could you even ask for a better view?!
Mom & I!
Plenty of sheep, of course.
Too beautiful for words.

 

Unfortunately, the pictures can’t really do it justice! After spending a good deal of time at the end of the Gower peninsula, we visited another part of the Gower, a Neolithic burial site known as “Arthur’s Stone” which offers amazing views of the Llanrhidian marsh and Llwchwr estuary below. The walk from the road to Arthur’s Stone was also pretty cool–there were wild ponies everywhere! They didn’t seem to mind us walking right in the middle of them, either. I suppose they must be quite used to people coming and going up there.

 

Arthur's Stone

View of the marsh/estuary from Arthur's Stone.

One of many wild ponies.

 

Unfortunately, my parents were only able to stay in Cardiff a few days, but I was glad to have them there for any length of time. :)

 

The next weekend I had quite a few more adventures–the highlight was my very first Tea Crawl with the Cardiff University Tea Party Society! Almost everyone was dressed in skirts or dresses and suits; we walked into the nearby neighborhood of Roath where we spent nearly 5 hours in three different tea shops, tasting different teas and cakes! We got lucky here too, and got another cool and sunny day, so we were able to spend much of the morning and afternoon sitting in outdoor tea gardens, sipping and chatting away. It was a wonderful, low-key, relaxing way to get to know a few more people. I very much hope there will be another tea crawl soon!
Coffee-Walnut cake from
This picture pretty much sums up the day. This particular piece of cake (coffee-walnut!) was from a fantastically homey little place called the Coffi House.

 

After the tea crawl, I decided to visit Cardiff Castle. I had been there previously, but never for the tour inside the house itself, so I did that right at sunset, which was lovely! Unfortunately, it was too dark for pictures, but my dad sent me some of his from my parents’ visit while I was in class the week before.

 

 

The rooftop garden. Back in the day, it would have been entirely full of various exotic plants!

 

 

Aside from that, there isn’t too much especially interesting I can report. My week days are pretty standard–due to the amounts of reading and studying I need to do, mid-week adventures have diminished somewhat. I was, however, able to attend the IFSA Butler lunch at PizzaExpress, hosted by our IFSA program representative from the London office, Andrew! It was a really good time and nice to see the other two students in the program, as I don’t see them too much around campus!

 

Sadly, last weekend was a major bust–I have been fighting a very unfriendly cold for the past week, and last weekend was accompanied by a fever as well, so I spent the entirety of it in my room drinking tea and trying to get through all my homework in preparation for the FOUR additional seminars I had this week! I’m not entirely recovered yet, so this weekend has been spent going out to lunch in City Center with my super-cool flatmates and doing essential errands-and that ever important task, LAUNDRY!

 

Until next time! It is currently Reading Week in my department, so I will be spending most of this week study for my Welsh exam next week and working on an essay for my Material Evidence for Ancient Historians course, but on Tuesday I will be going on a tour of the Wye Valley, so I will post pictures of that!

 

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Catching Up (Brecon Beacons/Valleys Tour)

Time October 21st, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I have updated this blog.  I guess I understand what it’s really like now trying to keep up with one while being abroad–you don’t want to be inside on your computer, you just want to be out and about doing things!

 

So I guess I’ll be playing catch up a little with the next couple of posts. :)

 

First order of business–

 

I guess the busiest part of the last nearly three weeks has been…CLASSES. I have a lot less free exploring time now that classes have started. I could give you an in depth explanation of each of my modules and what they are like, but I think I will spare everyone that joy. I will touch on this though–the academic system here is quite different, as I said before, and I’m still not quite sure I’ve gotten the hang of it. I’m just doing the best I can!

 

But absolutely, without a doubt, my FAVORITE class here (so far) is Welsh I. It’s the least practically useful of all the classes I am taking in terms of my degree progress, but I am so happy that I stuck to my guns and decided to take Welsh anyway. It’s a pretty small class (and about 1/3 International students at that) and the professor is pretty cool. Unlike most language classes I’ve taken, there isn’t a lot of pressure when we do oral exercises and stuff like that; it just feels less intimidating, I guess because we all really have no idea what we’re doing! Welsh is so different from the languages most of us have studied, we’re all kind of starting at the beginning. It’s hard to describe, but usually I feel so nervous and anxious, but in this class, it really does feel like it’s okay to get things wrong and nobody will judge you for that. Which  makes the environment of the class very conducive to language learning, I think. But enough about Welsh for the moment!

 

So I have yet to actually be in Cardiff for a weekend. The last couple have been just crazy! In my last post I talked about my trip to Big Pit and St. Fagan’s; the weekend before last, I went on another tour with a company called Where When Wales, called the”Valleys Heritage” tour. This is a great little tour company run by a lovely Welsh woman named Jan and her husband, John. John drives the mini-bus to the many tour locations while Jan acts as guides, and they are really some of the loveliest, nicest people you could meet! One of my flatmates, Anthony, came along on the tour with me, and aside from the two of us there were only two other people on the tour, so it was a very personal experience.

 

The tour was pretty jam packed with stops! We started off by stopping briefly at Castell Coch (= Red Castle), a pretty small but very pretty castle just outside of Cardiff. We didn’t get to go inside, but it was really lovely just to stand outside it, all tucked away in the woods.

 

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From there, we drove about an hour away (Jan telling us all about Wales while we drove!) to the town of Caerphilly, to visit Caerphilly Castle. Caerphilly is absolutely GORGEOUS and it is the second largest castle in Britain (Windsor being the first), with a well planned line of defenses that served it well back in the days when it was being stormed–no one ever managed to breach the castle itself! Pretty impressive.

 

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A number of TV shows and films have shot at the castle grounds, particularly in the Great Hall (which you can also rent out for weddings and events!), and it’s easy to see why, because they are just beautiful. I honestly felt as though I was in some sort of dream or novel (Game of Thrones, anyone?) as I explored the grounds. We also got extremely lucky, because the sun came out and the sky cleared a bit just as we arrived in Caerphilly, and stayed out for the duration of our time there!

 

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After a thorough exploration of the Caerphilly Castle grounds, we headed for the Brecon Beacons National Park, where we spent hours driving through the hills, valleys, and mountains–primarily populated by sheep and wild ponies! Unfortunately it got cloudy, windy, and a bit misty/rainy as we entered the mountains, but it was still beautiful. We stopped early in the afternoon in the town of Brecon for lunch and a quick visit to the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal along with the Brecon Cathedral, which had some grave stones from the 11th century (used later to pave the floor)! Amazing!

 

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After lunch we drove around the Brecon Beacons some more, with some stops at the Libanus Visitors’ Centre near the highest mountain in South Britain, Pen-y-fan. Unfortunately, the misty weather and low clouds greatly reduced visibility and the peak wasn’t actually visible, but the Visitors Centre was still cute. And I did buy some delicious Welsh mustard there!

 

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Sheep Invasions-Always a danger in the Beacons!

 

The drive back through the Beacons and small valleys was quite lovely, and a nice way to end a long day of adventuring!

 

Well, I think this is long enough for one post…I need to go study some Welsh.

 

Me and my new best friend…the English-Welsh dictionary.
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Next post: last weekend’s adventures in Swansea and at the Gower Peninsula!

 

 

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South Wales Adventures & The First Day of Classes

Time October 4th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

SUNDAY, 2 OCTOBER:

 

What a great Sunday it has been!  Today I went on the Coach Tour of South Wales offered by the Cardiff University International Office. There were two options for the trip, both of which included a trip to St. Fagan’s National History museum; when I purchased my ticked, I had a choice between the Big Pit National Coal Museum or Caerphilly Castle. I decided to pick the Big Pit National Coal Museum for a few main reasons: firstly, because it is further afield than Caerphilly, and secondly because my parents are visiting me in October and I thought that they might prefer to visit Caerphilly rather than spending an hour down a mine shaft. And thirdly, while I don’t know much about Welsh history, one thing I was aware of is that the mining industry was extremely important to the development of Wales and really helped shape modern Wales, so I felt like this could be a more unique learning experience.

 

In any case, I am very happy to say that I am VERY glad I made the choice that I did and I had a marvelous time on the trip! We left Uni at 8:30am for Big Pit in Blaenafon, about an hour away from Cardiff near Abergavenny. It was another gorgeous sunny day, but again, quite hot once the sun was up!

 

The first part of our trip to the museum was to go on an underground tour–WHICH WAS TOTALLY AWESOME. The idea of spending an hour down a coal mine might sound boring to some, but I found it extremely fascinating and quite a unique experience. When we got there, we had to hand over all our watches/cameras/phones, etc, because anything with a battery is dangerous in a mine shaft. The miners working there then kitted us up with hardhats, headlamps, and waist belts weighing about 5 kilos (~11lbs) containing a battery pack and a special type of gas mask. Once we were all prepared for our excursion, our miner guide took us to the cage lift and we descended into the mine itself! Our guide was a very good-natured and extremely funny Welshman. Like nearly every Welsh person I have met so far, he was very friendly, very proud of his Welsh heritage, and just seemed very genuine. I don’t want to make any assumptions based on my brief experiences thus far, but my initial impression of the Welsh people is that they’re a very spirited, good, honest people.

 

Anyway, so we headed down into the mine and began our tour, which took us down many dark and winding tunnels, walking even deeper into the mine. It was quite a surreal experience–there were a few moments when I was having difficulty believing that I was really deep beneath the earth, in an actual coal mine. But hearing the stories of the mine’s history and learning about the dangers of mining emphasized the seriousness and reality of the trade, and was rather sobering, in a way–it’s easy to feel, as you descend through these tunnels and see the carts and gaze around you, that you’re in some kind of adventure film, like Indiana Jones or some such figure. But, as our tour-guide who came with us from Cardiff put it, the wonderful thing about Big Pit as a museum is that it is so “real”–it hasn’t been “Disneyfied.” Nothing about the mine or the village has been changed to try and soften it, or to gloss over the realities of mining in Wales. It might sound rather dramatic, but I really felt like I was having a very peculiar and vey heightened experience. There was something that felt so unnatural about being down in the mine that made it an almost mystical, supernatural journey; the entire time we were below, I felt as though I was intruding on something, in some odd way. And it really is rather spooky down there, especially when our guide had us extinguish all of our lights!  The cold (it was around 52*F in the mine, while it was around 73*F at the surface) and the utter silence and stillness, and that little sense that you are far below where humans are meant to reside and that being in a mine is inherently dangerous can really get to you.

 

All I can say is, the men who worked those mines were incredibly, incredibly brave. Our guide told us one story, about how boys around 10 years old would work down in the mine listening for the carts of coal coming, to open and shut the ventilation doors at the right times, and how they would be forced to work in complete darkness for 12 hours a day, because their candles wouldn’t stay lit due to the ventilation. It’s just insane to imagine. Another aspect of mining that I found particularly interesting was the way they used horses; being a horsewoman myself, that sort of thing always interests me. Horses were used to pull the carts and such down in the mine, but the interesting thing is that most of them were brought down at the age of 4 and then resided there permanently, never coming up to the sun light ever again.  In later years, practices were changed and they would be brought up perhaps twice a year to have some time at the surface, but as our guide explained, they’d often go a bit loco when reaching the top, and would need many hours to calm down. We got to see the actual stables in the mine where the horses were kept, their nameplates still there–in some places in Britain, horses were actually used in the mines until the 90s! Very interesting. Our guide also explained that while the horses were obviously useful, they were also incredibly dangerous–in Big Pit, a horse snapped one day and killed a man, and they would frequently pin miners to the wall if irritated. The manure also posed a serious safety hazard, due to the accompanying methane gas, so little boys would also work down in the mines specifically to clean up the manure and get it to the surface right away. The horses, however, were generally well-loved and extremely well cared for by the miners, as they provided a sort of comfort and company to the men below. More facts about animals in the mines: rats would often be attracted to the horse feed, so terriers would be brought down to scare them off/catch them; canaries were used to detect dangerous gasses–for every one breath a human takes, canaries take seven, so the canary would be the first to go if poisonous gasses were in the air…

 

Anyway! So after an hour spent down in the mine, we headed back to the surface, after which we checked out the 1920s (or was it 30s?) miners’ showers, which sounds a bit weird, but was actually incredibly important to the miners and their wives–up until that point, miners would typically exit the mine and have to walk home, dirty and drenched (mines are very wet places, as we learned), and would often catch cold or get pneumonia from the exposure. The showers thus allowed the men to bring fresh clothes to the mine, shower immediately after exiting, and thus walk home clean and dry, reducing the occurrence of illness. In addition to the showers, there was a small museum containing artifacts from throughout the mine’s history.

 

Big Pit: National Coal Museum

 

After spending a few hours at Big Pit, we all hopped back on the coach, where we ate our lunches, and then spent a few hours at St. Fagan’s Open-Air National History Museum. The cool thing about St. Fagan’s is that they have taken buildings from quite literally all over Wales, disassembled them, and then re-assembled them on the museum property. There are all sorts of buildings; general stores, a post office, a bakery, cottages, farm houses, barns, a manor house, etc., some of which were originally built as far back as the 1500s! It was very enjoyable visiting all the buildings and wandering the gorgeous grounds on such a sunny day. Some of those farm houses are really amazing–many of them only had two rooms, and would have housed anywhere from 4-14 people! The manor house on the property was very beautiful, especially outside, where it had many landscaped gardens for visitors to stroll through. There was also an indoor, more traditional museum on the property–my favorite part was the section on Welsh fashion through the years, which included some traditional Welsh dress.

 

Cottage at St. Fagan's Open-Air Museum

Manor House at St. Fagan's

 

Following St. Fagan’s, we very briefly popped down to Cardiff Bay. It was really just a taste of the Bay–we got to see the Welsh National Assembly, the Millenium Centre, and the Tower from the BBC show Torchwood (any Dr. Who fans out there?), but there is so much there, I definitely plan to head down there and see everything on another nice day.

 

Outside the Wales Millenium Centre

 

MONDAY, 3 OCTOBER:

 

Today was a very important one–the first day of classes! I had two today. My first one at 10am this morning was Early Modern England & Wales 1500-1700, which I think will be a very interesting class. Today was really just an introduction, so our first real lecture will be next week. After class I walked down into City Center by myself to pick something up from Boots, one of the pharmacies here, and spent some time just walking around. There are always so many people down in City Center it is a lively place and great for people watching at all times! I started to get pretty hungry and decided to eat lunch back at my flat today, so I headed there and picked up my parcel containing my Welsh textbooks on the way. I flipped through the grammar book and am now a little scared, but that’s pretty much how I feel every time I start learning a new language.

 

After lunch I spent a few hours getting my school things organized, reading course guides, and filling out departmental forms. At 4 o’clock I headed off for my second lecture of the day, Material Evidence for Ancient Historians. I am pretty excited about this class, as it is all about, as the title suggests, how to interpret ancient artifacts and use them in conjunction with literary evidence. Most of my Classics background back home at Gettysburg has dealt almost exclusively with ancient literature, so this will be very educational. We also get to go on two field trips–one to the Roman settlement at Caerleon, currently being excavated, which I am very excited about because it was an article about this very archaeological site that directed me to Cardiff University in the first place! We’ll also have one class right here in Cardiff at the National Museum. So that should be fun! The only thing about the class is that because it is an upper level module, everyone in it already knows one another. That is okay, though. I am sure it will be fine and I will meet people in tutorials.

 

Even though it’s only the first day, I decided to head to the library after class ended and get a jump-start on my reading for Early Modern England & Wales. When I exited the library, I got my first true taste of Welsh weather! While it had been boiling hot and sunny earlier, when I left the library at around 6:30 the sky had gotten dark, the temperature had dropped, and it was windy and misting!

 

Tomorrow will be exciting as well–I have one lecture in the morning, “Gods & the Polis,” and then in the evening I am planning to attend a fitness class and also the first meeting of the Harry Potter Society! Wednesday I start “Life in Ancient Rome” and then Thursday and Friday I will be having my first Welsh classes.

 

The first week of school is always so exciting. I am rather nervous, though, if I am being honest. The academic system here is radically different from the system we use in America. Here, there are no specific homework assignments–there might be one or two “essential readings” for seminar, but other than that you are given an ENORMOUS list of starter sources and are basically expected to do your own research on the topics being covered in order to prepare for class and write papers.

 

I feel as though I’m starting college all over again! It’ll be a bit of an adjustment. Fingers crossed I’ll get the hang out it quickly!

*EDIT* Yay for finally figuring out how to add pictures to my posts!

 

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Slow down!

Time September 30th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Whoa whoa whoa. There is so much going on every day, if I skip posting on one I tend to forget what’s been going on when! Sometimes I wish I could press a big pause button on life (don’t we all?).

Yesterday! Crazy! I woke up early to go to the Welsh department in order to enroll in Welsh I for the semester. As I was sitting in the “enrollment greenroom,” I heard the receptionist chatting away to some of the students in Welsh. It was quite incredible to listen to, it is such an interesting sounding language, but it also sounds like absolute gobbledegook! People keep telling me I’m a little crazy to take on a new language, particularly Welsh, but I feel as though if I don’t give it a go while I am here, I will regret it later. Plus, every time I see a sign or a brochure in Welsh, it’s like a very tantalizing puzzle I am just desperate to learn to solve! We’ll see how it goes. I am worried about the grade, because I want to keep my Gettysburg GPA up, but at the same time, when it comes down to it, it’s the learning experience that matters much more than the grade.

After I spoke to a professor in the Welsh department, I raced off to another International Students Event called Discover Cardiff. We split into teams and basically did a 3 hour walking tour scavenger hunt all across the city, and I do mean ALL ACROSS. It really was 3 hours of finding all different places and taking photos there and answering questions, but it was fun and I did learn where a number of places I hadn’t found yet happen to be. At the end they had tea and Welsh cakes waiting for us. For the record, I am rather in love with Welsh cakes.

Following this, I headed back to the Students’ Union for the Sports Fair, where I got some information about the Riding Club. I brought my helmet, breeches, and half-chaps all the way across the Atlantic, so you can bet I’m going to do everything in my power to ride! It is significantly cheaper to ride here than it is in Connecticut, which is another bonus.

Today was also fairly busy. I slept in a bit, then went to the School of Archaeology and Religion to fill out my seminar form. After that, I went to the International Office, where I finally, OFFICIALLY enrolled in my courses! It was a rather complicated task, but after the better part of an hour it was sorted out. Fingers crossed, but this semester I should be taking Welsh I, Early Modern England & Wales, Material Evidence for Ancient History, Gods and the Polis, and Life in Ancient Rome. I’m a little nervous because the three Ancient History courses are 3rd year courses, the highest level class one may take here, but I think I will learn a lot and the descriptions sound really interesting.

My flatmate Molly and I then walked into City Center to find an ATM that accepts American cards (we were successful), stopped off at the tourism office for some brochures, and then to find lunch, as we were both quite ravenous. We decided to stop at a little place called the Cornish Bakehouse, which specialized in pasties–sort of like a turnover or even a calzone (but with semi-flaky pastry) with a thick crimped crust and hot filling. It is a pretty traditional food in Wales as well as Cornwall, because it used to be a popular lunch for the miners–they would use the thick crimped crust as a hand-hold for the pasty so as not to get their dirty fingers all over the food, eat the middle, and then discard the crust! This particular shop had many different types of pasties, everything from lamb and mint to veggie curry, but we decided to try the traditional Cornish pasties for our first trip–a golden baked pasty filled with chunks of beef, potato, and onion in a slightly peppery sauce, served piping hot. Let me tell you, that was one good pasty. It was absolutely delicious, a very comforting sort of food, and it was also only £2.50 for a medium-sized pasty (definitely enough for lunch!). The pasty held me for hours, so I think this is definitely a place I will frequent for lunch in between classes, especially once it gets cold out and I need something to warm me up!

I whiled away most of the afternoon by doing laundry here for the first time, and it seemed like everybody else had the same idea! The washroom was completely insane! Luckily I managed to snag one of the last washers and dryers. On a related note, laundry is quite expensive here, at least compared to what I pay back home at Gettysburg. It is £2.00 for a wash cycle and £1 for a dry cycle, which is nearly double what I pay at home. But what are you gonna do? Laundry is a necessity! I must try to find and obscure time to do my washing when there are a million people there, however.

Tonight I actually cooked something for myself for real instead of eating yogurt and muesli or peanut butter toast, so I felt accomplished. I made braised cabbage with apples and cumin seeds, very basic, but yummy. Today (well, yesterday, at this point!) was one of my flatmate’s birthdays, so most of my flat walked into town to find a pub where we bought him a drink and shared some dessert. We originally wanted to go to a pub quiz at a nearby place, but it was full up when we arrived, so we ended up walking very far into the City Center and decided to grab a cab back to our residence. From there we went to the Social Center for our housing complex, where we played pool and chess until around 11pm, at which point we were all tired and disbanded. We had a really good time together, very relaxed and fun, and I can say 100% honestly that I do really like my flatmates.

The past few days have been interesting emotionally. There was one night when I was up alone by myself quite late and I had no one to talk to and nothing to do, really, so I started to feel a bit lonely. But the feeling was gone by morning. Some of my flatmates who are freshman here are experiencing pretty bad homesickness. I can understand that perfectly. It’s hard being in such a new and different environment.

Today was a lot better, though. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, couldn’t have asked for better–cloudless blue sky, 76 degrees, bright sunshine. The kind of day that makes a person feel alive and invigorated. I am very happy to be here, but I don’t think I’ve totally adjusted yet–it’s a bit weird not having had classes and thus been able to establish a routine. It’s also just a strange reality to deal with–I’ve dreamt about this place, about coming to this country for so long, it’s very overwhelming to finally be here, you know? I remember staying up late at nights reading blogs about Cardiff and reviews and studying maps of the city. It’s hard for me to explain my feelings to other people. I am one of the only study abroad students here, from the ones I have met, who actually did any measure of research before arriving. Everyone is always surprised about how much I looked into things about the city–things to do, restaurants, just stuff like that. But I guess a lot of people just came here not really knowing much about Cardiff, so they didn’t have much of an idea about the place or sense of it before coming.

Well, anyway. Let’s just say that study abroad is very unique experience of its own, really different from anything you experience at college back at home.

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Confusion All Around

Time September 28th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, the Welcome Party ended up being really fun! Everyone was dressed in their residence hall’s color and very spirited about it, I must say. My flatmates and I went and danced around together for about three hours until 2am–loads of fun, but very tiring! As a result, yesterday was mainly a catch up and chill sort of day. We all slept really late and then a few of us went down to the Societies Fair and then on to Tesco to buy more food for the week. It seems like we are going to Tesco nearly every day for one thing or another!

We all stayed in last night (and tonight), too. I think everyone has needed a break, especially the “freshers,” as they are called–a lot of them, being away from home for the first time and having free reign, have participated quite enthusiastically and gone out every single night. So now there is quite a lot of “Freshers Flu” going around! Eep, better make sure I am eating my fruits and veggies!

Today began the madness of enrolling in courses–and as a study abroad student, it is not easy here. This is mainly due to a major difference in our academic systems–students here only take subjects in their chosen course of study, and that is all, unlike in America where we tend to take classes both within and outside of our chosen majors. Here, enrollment for classes is not done through an online system, and the timetables of when classes are offered aren’t online! This isn’t a problem if you are taking courses within a single department, because they are all scheduled so as not to conflict and you don’t need to worry. But if you’re taking courses in multiple departments, essentially you must run around from department to department, getting signatures from staff members to approve the course and cross-checking when the courses are scheduled for! It is very maddening.

I’ve gotten all my courses in History and Ancient History approved-tomorrow morning I have to meet with the Welsh department bright and early, and then I should be able to take my form to the International Office and enroll online and know my final schedule!

To unwind after the crazy afternoon sorting out classes, my flatmate Molly and I made dinner and then attended International Students Quiz Night, like a pub quiz essentially, where we were grouped with four other students–two from India, a boy from France, and a girl from Germany. Our team, named “Team Cwtch” (cwtch is a Welsh word that means a cuddle or a warm, safe place), came in third overall, and also won the award for having the best team name! As a prize we each received a voucher for a free pizza of any size, so I think I see a flat pizza party in our future…

Tomorrow there is quite a lot going on–course registration, a 2-3 hour Scavenger Hunt across the city for International Students, the Sports Fair, and the National Companies Fair. I also have a number of chores to do and errands to run, so this week is really going to fly by! And then we begin classes on Monday…how scary/exciting!

A final word–one thing that has been driving me rather bonkers here in the UK is the way the taps for hot and cold water are entirely separate. Because of this, it is extremely difficult to get warm water, and more often than not one ends up getting burnt because the hot water tap runs too hot and the cold water tap very cold, and they are too far apart to easily mix!

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London Orienation

Time September 26th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

What a whirlwind it has been since I arrived in London and now Cardiff! I’ll try my best to give a good recap in this post and the next. A lazy (/busy) reader’s summary of this post can be found at the very bottom. Cheers.

 

IFSA Butler Orientation, London: DAY 1

 

I was lucky on the flight to London in two ways: firstly, I happened to be seated next to another girl who was going abroad to the UK through IFSA Butler, and secondly because we had a very strong tail-wind and got to the UK in only 6 hours! This was especially great because our flight was delayed, but in the end we made up the time so it didn’t matter so much. The flight itself was pretty standard. I dozed in my seat, watched TV shows, and listened to the entirety of the Sweeney Todd Original Broadway soundtrack on my iPod.

 

When we arrived in London, we waited a bit for our luggage, then breezed through customs and were greeted just beyond by a lovely jolly man named Rob, who was holding an IFSA Butler sign. He took us by coach right to our hotel in London, where Cambria from the IFSA staff met us, and gave us our IFSA Orientation info packets.

 

My London roommates and I, as well as the girls from another room, immediately went out into London in search of mobile phones–we found a shop fairly quickly and all purchased pay-as-you-go mobiles. I chose to go with Lebara because calls and texts to the US were the cheapest of any of the carriers, and calls/texts within the UK were about the same/a little less than the other carriers. Thus far it has worked out very well!  Following the phone purchasing we realized we were all absolutely starving, as it was about 3pm by this point and none of us had really had a proper breakfast (or any at all), so we stopped in a little place called Cafe Aphrodite where we had some very delicious sandwiches–fresh tomato and crumbly, salty feta cheese on hot crusty bread for me.

 

After our tasty lunch, we headed back to the hotel where my roommates and I took brief naps and freshened up, because that night the IFSA Butler staff took us out to dinner at a dim sum restaurant called Ping Pong! It was such a lovely dinner. The IFSA staff members were so nice and the food was very good! Following that, a small group of us went off to a pub, The Walmer Castle, where we were told Jude Law sometimes goes (though sadly Mr. Law was nowhere in sight during our visit). It was still quite early for pub-going, but we were all pretty jet lagged and after going for a bit of a walk for an hour we headed back to the hotel and turned in. Thus concluded Day 1 of IFSA Butler London Orientation. I should also note that the weather was absolutely beautiful when we arrived–sunny and cool! No rain!

 

IFSA Orientation, London: DAY 2

 

Ah, Day 2! What a day it was. This was a rather grey day, but that was to be expected really. At least it didn’t rain! We spent the morning through mid-afternoon at the IFSA Butler office in Notting Hill Gate getting briefed on various aspects of studying abroad–differences in the US and UK academic systems, traveling information, that sort of this. We had a discussion about personal safety with a very interesting man who used to be a cop-he was very informative but also quite funny, and looked rather like a film character when he put on his trench coat and fedora-like hat to leave. Our last speaker of the day was Lord Dick Taverne, a member of the House of Lords, who talked to us about current political, social, and economic concerns in the UK; that, too, was a very interesting talk. While it may sound like spending all day until 4pm cooped up in meetings would be boring, every one of the meetings we had at the IFSA Butler offices was both extremely helpful AND interesting.

 

That afternoon, we got to go on a walking tour of London! Although we didn’t go into most of these places, we at least got to see and hear a bit about Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, 10 Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, and the Strand, and it was really cool to just be out and about getting to experience the city. The tour also involved my very first trip on the London Underground! Sadly my camera died halfway through the tour, however, so I am without many pictures to show for it. After a quick dinner at Pizza Express, we all hopped over to the Vaudeville Theatre where we saw a play called Broken Glass (by Arthur Miller), which was quite an intense drama about a Brooklyn couple involving issues of race, personal identity, love, tragedy, and issues surrounding Kristallnacht in Germany. All in all, it was quite a fun time, though I was very eager to get to Cardiff! I definitely would like to spend some more time and London and see/do more.

 

And that was pretty much it for IFSA Butler London Orientation! The next morning we all departed for our respective host universities, each escorted by a member (or two) of the IFSA Butler staff. While I know I could’ve gone abroad without being in a program like this one, I really think it was a good idea to go through a program. Being picked up right at the airport, informed about issues such as safety/security/travel, and being escorted directly to my host University by a knowledgable person made arriving in a new country much less stressful than it could have been, and everyone at IFSA has been so kind and willing to help. It’s nice having that “safety net.”

 

As it is now getting quite late here I think I must end this post for now. Tomorrow I will try to write another one and talk about what I have been doing during my first three days at Cardiff! Until then!

 

Lazy Reader Summary (LRS): IFSA Butler made arriving in a foreign country very easy. I had some very good food, met some great people, and learned & saw quite a lot within a very short space of time. I must return to London. Up Next: Cardiff, the first three days.

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What’s not to love about a castle full of cheese?

Time September 26th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

CARDIFF: Day 1, Wednesday

 

Those of us going to Cardiff Uni took the train to Cardiff out of Paddington Station on Wednesday morning along with Andrew from the IFSA London office and it was really a very nice journey-the train was so much nicer than any I have traveled on in the US. Along the way we saw many fields, horses, and sheep. I’ve never seen such green grass in my life! After about an hour and forty-five minutes we arrived in Cardiff and took taxis to the University, where Andrew dropped us off to check in and then said goodbye.

 

University staff members helped check us in and then took us and our luggage to our residences to get our keys. Once I’d gotten my key, two very nice girls, students helping out for “Welcome Week,” helped me carry my bags up to my flat. It seemed like I had a lot of luggage when I was dragging it through airports and train stations, but it took all of ten minutes to unpack and it really made me think how little you can take with you!

 

I knew I needed to go to Tesco to buy some essentials and wasn’t sure where it was, but lucky for me those two girls appeared at the door to my flat and said they’d show me the way to Tesco and help me carry things back, which was so very nice of them! It was also nice to have some company since there was nobody else in my flat when I arrived. So anyway, I went to Tesco with the girls and got sheets/pillows/towels/duvet and some basic kitchen things. The room was a lot homier once I’d gotten that stuff!

 

I actually ended up going back to Tesco twice more that day with other people-another girl from the IFSA program and also another boy in my flat. It isn’t a particularly far walk to Tesco, but you can only carry so much back and forth! What’s interesting is that you also have to pay to use a grocery cart in the store (you get the pound back when you leave), because they are trying to deter students from the University from pushing the carts all the way back to their residences!

 

The rest of the day was spent just getting settled, getting the Internet to work, and meeting the other three flatmates that moved in-a boy from New York and two girls from Wales. The girls asked me if I wanted to go out with them that night, but I was still way too tired and hadn’t quite adjusted to the time change!

 

CARDIFF: Day 2, Thursday

 

When I woke up the next day nobody else was awake, so my IFSA friend and I went to the Students’ Union with our passports to get our ID cards made-the queue was so long, it took quite a while! We were rather hungry by the time we got out of the line, so we walked into the City Center and found a pub that I’d read about in a guidebook to have lunch at, called The Goat Major. Their specialty was British pies, so we each got a different pie to try–I got chicken, leek, & potato pie, which came served with peas and chips (they seem to be very into chips, aka French fries, here and serve them with everything), and it was very delicious!

 

After lunch we just wandered around the City Center, checking out the various shops. I needed to buy rain boots, so I did that, and we also stopped by a little Farmer’s Market right by Cardiff Castle that was selling all kinds of food–I definitely would like to go back one week for lunch. In the center of Cardiff there is also the Central Market, where you can buy all sorts of things such as fruit, vegetables, fresh meat, fish, records, books, bags, even small pet animals! It was a very interesting place to walk around, and I also go to try a miniature Welsh cake (baked on a Welsh baking stone), warm off the stone, which was delicious! It was rather similar to a good scone in flavor, though perhaps a bit less dry. Mine had raisins in it and cinnamon/sugar sprinkled on top.

 

By the time we walked back to our residence, we’d been out and about for almost 6 hours! The rest of my flatmate had moved in by then, so we now had 8 total-4 boys, 4 girls. That night most of the “natives” went out with friends they already knew, so the three Americans in my flat stopped by our residence’s “Social Center,” where a lot of people were drinking. Once again, though, we were all pretty tired so we turned in quite early.

 

CARDIFF: Day 3, Friday

 

Another busy, busy day! On Friday there was an International Students’ Fair as well as walking tours of the Cathays Park campus, where all my classes will be, so I did both of those things along with my flatmate Molly, which took up most of the morning and early afternoon. At 3 o’clock there was a meeting for new International students in my school at Cardiff, the School of History, Archaeology, and Religion, so I went to that and got to me students from the US, France, the Philippines, Switzerland, and some current Cardiff students in those departments. We also had a tour of the building, classrooms, cafe, library, etc., all very helpful for when classes begin in a week!

 

Friday night there was another event for International students–“Twmpath,” where we learned traditional Welsh folk dancing! It was so much fun, and because you changed partners a lot during the dances, I got to meet a lot of other new students, if only briefly. Some of the dances were more challenging than others, but I think I did pretty well. I went to a Civil War Ball at my home university once where I learned to do 1860s dances, and a lot of the ones I learned here were quite similar, so I had a bit of an advantage. In any case, it was a great event!

 

CARDIFF: Day 4, Saturday

 

More fun in Cardiff! On Saturday the other two Americans in my flat and I once again were up early, before our other flatmates (I think they were all recovering from their night’s out!), so after filling out and turning in some forms required by the University, we walked down to the City Center again to attend the Great British Cheese Festival inside Cardiff Castle! It cost about 7 pounds to get in, but it was a lot of fun. There were hundreds of types of cheeses to sample from creameries and dairies all over Wales, everything from mild cheddars to super stinky aged blue cheeses. It was really quite an experience-if you happen to think that the British are unfailingly polite, you haven’t seen them at a cheese festival!!

 

In addition to the cheese there were also European wine samplings, and many stalls selling traditional food as well as Welsh ciders. We tried the Welsh Pear Cider, which was amazing! After making it through the first circuit of the cheese tasting tent, we decided we needed a cheese break, so we spent some time watching the World Cheese Tossing Championships-yes, cheese tossing. Pretty fantastic. While the main living quarters of the castle, the Victorian part, was not open, we did get to go inside the “inner ward,” the tower on top of the motte, which, after climbing an extremely steep twisty staircase, afforded a full view of most of the city to the surrounding countryside.

 

After climbing up and down all those stairs we decided we were ready for some more cheese, so we then went to the second circuit of cheese tasting! Good thing we’d chosen to have super light lunches!

 

Finally on Saturday night most of my flat got together to go have a few drinks and listen to some live music at a place called the Live Lounge in the  City Center. It was a lot of fun just hanging out and getting to know one another. Everyone in my flat seems very nice and I don’t think we’ll have too many problems living with one another!

CARDIFF: Day 4, Sunday

Today has been pretty low-key so far. We all decided to sleep in today and nobody was really up and moving until around 1 or 2pm! Most of my flat then walked down to the City Center to buy some cheap shirts for the Welcome Party tonight-everyone is supposed to wear a color assigned to their residence and our color is yellow!

 

Some other random thoughts:

 

At Cardiff Uni, everyone gets a single room, and 75% of residences have en-suite private bathrooms, including my residence, which is really nice. On the downside, they have what is called a “wet shower”, meaning the spigot is basically just sticking out of the wall right between the sink and toilet, so EVERYTHING gets wet when you take a shower! Oh, well.

 

It’s been a really interesting first few days in Wales. So far, I really like it. Everyone I have met, either at school or in shops or pubs, has been extremely nice and willing to help with any questions/confusion. It’s a big change for me, going from a school with 2,500 students in a pretty rural area to as school of 27,000 in a city (even if it’s a small one). There are just people everywhere all the time! Also, there is a very distinct drinking culture here which is very different from the US. There is no stigma associated with drinking and as most people know, the drinking age is lower here. From what I’ve seen, students tend to drink better quality alcohol, and while they do drink a lot and there are always those people who get extremely drunk and make a scene, drinking generally seems to just be more of a social thing here–you just go out with your friends and dance and have a drink and it really isn’t a big deal. I am not much of a drinker at all, and sometimes at home I felt like people really pressured me or judged me for not drinking, but here I have not felt that at all. People really don’t care if you just order a glass of water or a diet Coke, or just stick to a half pint of something. Nobody questions you about it, which I must say, is a nice change.

 

We have also been extremely lucky with the weather so far! It did rain last night, but most of it was between 3 am and noon today, and this afternoon it was very sunny and warm! The temperature has been staying mainly between 55-65 degrees during the day, though when they say about the weather being very…mercurial here is absolutely true. One minute is bright and sunny, then it’s quite grey and cloudy, then sunny, then sprinkling rain, then back again. As the girls told me on my first day here, “just make sure you always have sunglasses and an umbrella with you and you’ll be fine!”

 

In other news, with the exception of when I visited Greece, I have never walked so much on a daily basis, as a matter of routine, in my life! You really must be very sensible about what shoes you choose to bring here–if they’re comfortable in the US, try walking 6 miles in them one day and see how they feel! Even my blisters have blisters and I’m running through bandaids like crazy!

 

 

I apologize for the multiple, super-long text posts! Now that I am settled in here with reliable internet access, I should be able to post more frequently!

 

 

 

 

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Excitement! Nervousness! I don’t know what to title my pre-departure post!

Time September 19th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Written Thursday, September 15th, 2011: 11:45 pm

 

I suppose as I am leaving in a mere two and a half days, now is the time for me to write a pre-departure blog post and get the proverbial ball rolling!

 

Hello! For anyone reading this who does not know me personally (Hi, Mom & Dad!), I’m currently 21 years old and a senior Classics major at Gettysburg College, which you may have missed (or not) over in the left side-bar of this page. I really wanted to write a blog for IFSA Butler not only to document my own journey, but hopefully to give anyone interested in studying abroad, particularly in Wales, a real idea of what it’s like to attend Cardiff University and live in Wales as an IFSA Butler study abroad student. I stalked read a number of study abroad blogs when I was planning my semester abroad, but found many of them disappointing because I wanted to know so much and they shared much less than I expected. Perhaps I will have to eat my words later when I discover that I am much busier/distracted than anticipated, but right now I plan to post blog entries as often as I can once I have reliable internet access.

 

And now, on to the pre-departure thoughts of the evening– 

 

It’s been a very disjointed few weeks leading up to departure. I feel as though I’ve been in an odd sort of limbo because all my friends are at school working away, my job ended in August, and I’ve just been in in-between land! Not at school, not working, not yet finished with my undergraduate career…so it’s nice to feel as though I have some purpose again in going to school soon, but at the same time I feel oddly disconnected from what is going on. I remember writing a blog post ages ago back at the beginning of February when I was just starting my study abroad applications about how much I wanted to go to Cardiff and how exciting it all was to think about it, but I really am having a hard time digesting the fact that it is here! I’m going! I suppose it will all hit me on Sunday afternoon when I am at the airport…

 

…most likely when I am attempting to navigate the security line and manage the bins I will have to fill with my carry-on bag, laptop, boots, and my long wool coat (I don’t want to waste space in my checked luggage packing them!) whilst feeling rushed and trying not to hold the line up too much. Oh, the joys of air travel.

 

Until next time!

 

*UPDATE: Sunday September 18, 2011: 12:24am* 

 

Well, nearly everything is packed, and many thanks to my mother, who rather expertly manage to fit all my things in my case, whilst I generally stood next to it moaning, “Oh, I don’t think this will all fit. How can this possibly all fit in there? You know, that suitcase looks a lot bigger from the outside…“. I have ended up requiring two suitcases, one big one and one medium sized one. I have just accepted the fact that “pack light” isn’t really in my personal vocabulary and excess baggage fees will just be a part of my life. Granted, the bags are maybe 55lbs total; so theoretically I probably could’ve gotten away with one really big 50lb suitcase, as that’s the weight limit, but I thought it would be too difficult to manage a single suitcase with that much stuff in it. I certainly could have packed much more than I did; the problem I’ve run into really is, of course, the fact that the fall and winter generally involve tricky seasonal transitions clothes-wise; this is made doubly difficult when one is traveling to a foreign country and unsure of the weather.

We’ll see how it goes–I am fully aware that I may encounter staircases and need to lug my bags up and down, but I will do so for the sake of my horseback riding apparel and various types of shoes!

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