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

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

The whole adventure from London to Cardiff was very exciting to me, especially considering that Monday (the day we made the journey here) was my 20th birthday. I don’t know that I’ll ever again get to say that I had such a landmark trip happen on my birthday. Sadly, we did have to leave London, but we were off to a city that, in my opinion, is arguably just as cool.

The trip to Cardiff involved two taxis, a train, a mini bus, and some walking, but my favorite part was definitely the train. I had never been on a real train (other than like metro transport in the city) before so I was very excited to experience my first train ride through the English countryside. The whole way there was really, really cool. There were farms, cities, towns, and tunnels and I loved [almost] every minute of it (the tunnels are quite strange on the ears if I’m honest). We arrived in Cardiff at about noon and were met by a mini-bus that took us to our residences. The bus ride was just a brief sampling of what Cardiff has to offer, but considering that sample included being right up next to a castle, I think the city is going to be very exciting.

We arrived at our housing area and were welcomed with some paperwork and lunch (very much needed at this point) and listened to a little bit of odds and ends info before we walked over to our houses. The whole Talybont South area is full of houses for just students and it’s a really cool place. I’m in house #6 on the second floor (third American floor, that’s one thing I’m not sure I’m ever going to adjust to) and my room is awesome. I think that American universities should definitely reconsider their housing situation because if a school of 28,000+ can provide individual rooms and en suite bathrooms for its students, much smaller American universities should be able to as well. Having my own bathroom is probably the greatest accomplishment of this entire trip. I’m pretty sure I’ve met all of my flatmates and they are all super nice so the whole living situation seems very promising.

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My own room. Kind of small but pretty perfect if you ask me.

The rest of Monday was spent (finally) unpacking my suitcases and making multiple trips to Tesco (sort of like Super Target or Wal-Mart) to buy all of the bedding and towels and things that we needed to survive. For dinner we opted for a cute little tavern down the street from our housing that turned out to be wonderful. If you’re ever in Cardiff, check out the Blackweir Tavern, they have great deals on meals, delicious food, and free wifi.

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Macaroni and cheese at Blackweir Tavern. Delicious.

The global opportunities office here at Cardiff has our week jam-packed with scheduled events to help better acquaint us with the area and the university. There were a series of talks on Tuesday morning about necessary school stuff before a tour of the city. I was really looking forward to the tour, but in a true Welsh tradition, it was raining the entire time. LTT #5: Never underestimate the Welsh rain. Just when you think you are about to see all of the sights of the area, you will be caught in the middle of an awkward half-sprinkle that isn’t enough to forget your plans, but is just enough to make everything very uncomfortable. Especially when you opted to just bring your purse, and not the backpack you had ready to go with your umbrella tucked neatly in the front pocket.

Even though I was slowly being drenched by the rain, I was still really excited to see the sights in the area. We walked around and saw the castle and the Millenium Stadium (which is absolutely massive, I have to see some kind of event in there this semester just so I can see inside) and made our way to city centre, which has AWESOME shopping. I am so excited to check everything out (mom seriously you’re missing out).

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The tour was cut slightly short because of the rain, but that was ok with me considering I needed to make another trip to Tesco (which has sort of become a daily thing) and I was very cold. Tuesday night was the first semblance of free time I have had in the past week so I took full advantage of it and just tried to relax and rest my feet for the night. Unfortunately, things can’t go that smoothly, so just when I was about to get in the shower, the fire alarm started going off. My first thought was how informative the alarm was; instead of just the ringing of the alarm, it talks to you and tells you that “this is the fire alarm, please exit the building,” which I had to do quickly and after I threw my clothes back on. It was back out into the rain for us while we waited for a couple of dudes to check out the building and make sure there wasn’t a fire. I think it was just someone cooking but they didn’t really tell us anything. We weren’t out there long though, so I got back in the building, took my shower, and finally got to lay in bed and do nothing.

Wednesday was a big day as far as school things go and it involved a number of different appointments with different professors and people in the international office. We had enrolment and registration stuff in the morning to finally get our schedules figured out. It was in a building called the Glamorgan Building, which is insanely cool. The room we waited in had paintings and columns and statues and felt like an ancient courtroom. Back home I go to school in classrooms, here it feels like I’m in a castle all the time. After talking to a bunch of different professors and aggressively making sure my timetable (American translation: schedule) doesn’t overlap, I have everything almost entirely finished. It needs to be finalized but I think I’m good to go. This semester I will be taking:

Special Senses

Microbial Diversity

Wales and The Welsh Language

A History of Popular Music

21st Century British Television: Industry, Form, and Audiences

I’m taking a class on British television. My addiction to random British TV shows is finally going to be helpful. The whole class registration process is slightly more complicated for us international students because here, students only take classes related to their degrees, where most of us are taking classes in multiple different disciplines. Things are also done mostly via physical copies of timetables rather than online like at home, which slows things down, and leaves room for possible overlooked time overlaps. I’m hoping that everything I have is ok because I’m pretty happy with my classes.

Later in the day we got our student IDs printed out and then ventured down to City Centre to get some food and do some shopping (I really needed a blanket). The area has almost anything you could ask for and I can picture myself spending hours upon hours down there. We finished our shopping and eating and had a brief mishap with an ATM that resulted in a number of visits to the bank before we finally made our way back to our houses for the night. My nights have been incredibly laid back but after the intensity of the past week I can’t say I’d rather do anything other than watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine in bed.

Thursday has probably been my favorite day of the entire week in Cardiff so far, even if it involved actually going to class. We had a tour of the Cardiff Uni campus, and it wasn’t raining so the tour was actually enjoyable. Throughout the tour we got to hear tidbits about where Doctor Who and Sherlock have filmed and how it’s not uncommon to come across them filming in the middle of campus (IT’S ALL I WANT IN THE WORLD TO SEE THEM FILMING WHILE I’M HERE). The main building is probably the coolest building we’ve seen so far. It has recoil damage on the outside from being bombed in the war and just looks like a massive palace.

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You’re not really a student until you have a university hoodie.

Before we could go to our fun night in the student’s union, I had to go to my first introduction to Welsh class, which is actually the start of learning Welsh. I didn’t realize that we were actually going to be learning the language so early on but we spent two full hours learning the basics. If you’ve ever seen anything written in Welsh you know how crazy it looks, and let me tell you it’s just as crazy to speak. I don’t think I can even physically make some of the noises needed in this alphabet. High school Spanish has not prepared me for this.

After class and dinner and everything else we had to do today we finally met up to go to Great British Quiz Night at the student union for the international students. All of us IFSA kids teamed up and we became Sherlock and His Holmies (I am very proud of that name) and we were dead set on not leaving that quiz empty handed. There were like 8 rounds of questions and they ranged from “duh obviously you should know this” to “how can anybody have any idea what that answer is” but it was fun the entire way through. We did all right on most of it, destroyed the Food and Drink round and did really well on Music. In the end, we got 4th place overall and anxiously waited for our turn to pick our prize. We were ecstatic when the Cardiff City Football jerseys were still there for us to claim. Technically, I think we won the best team name, but because we had already won a prize, they gave another team the win. I didn’t really care because we got awesome football jerseys. Now we’ll have to find a game to wear them to.

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Finally I have reached Friday. The first day I’ve gotten to sleep in since last Wednesday. All I really had to do today was another Introduction to Welsh class and buy some note cards so that I could try and start learning all of the Welsh vocab we’ve gone over (we’ll see how that goes). The first few days in Cardiff have been an absolute whirlwind of what seems like non-stop walking and necessary school things but I am very excited for this weekend, hopefully we’ll be able to do some more exploring (fingers crossed we get to Cardiff Bay, I can’t wait to see the ocean) and perhaps the castle when it’s not raining. So far the city has been amazing, I can’t wait to see what else it throws at us.

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