The Final Countdown
Finally a new post! This has probably been the longest break between posts since I started writing this blog back in January and that is 100% a result of being very overwhelmed with exams. But here I am, the beginning of June, and approaching the end of my semester abroad, completely finished with my exams. This probably won’t get posted until I’m already home, but I am writing this still in Cardiff so my trip isn’t technically over yet, but the end is quickly approaching.
So, exams. I can’t say I was expecting to get so caught up in studying and taking the exams, but the whole exam period was a lot more overwhelming than I thought. It’s surprising to me that things got so stressful considering back home I’m used to taking all of my finals in one week, and here the exam period was 6 weeks, but alongside studying and writing papers, I was still trying to make the most of my last few weeks abroad. My schedule involved 5 exams and a paper, spread out over the course of the month of May and the start of June, and I found myself holed up in my room for the majority of it trying to learn a semester’s worth of material for these exams that I knew nothing about.
The exams here are a lot more vague as far as the tested material goes so you never really know what you’re going to be asked. For example, one of my classes was on the Special Senses, so we spent the term learning about hearing, sight, taste, and smell, but then when it came to the exam, smell wasn’t even mentioned. There are a lot of gaps in what you study and what is on the exam, which I found slightly frustrating. Exams are also a lot more regulated here. There is a whole list of rules you have to follow and there are always a bunch of invigilators in the room making sure that you follow every one to a t. In one of mine, I had taken my jacket off during the exam and it was on the back of my chair, which apparently is not allowed as an invigilator was quickly removing it and putting it on the floor. I can’t say I really understand the necessity of how strict it all was, but hey I survived.
But, fortunately the last month hasn’t been just studying. I got to visit London one last time, where we had a wonderful day wandering various parts of the city. I got to go back to Camden Market, which I am obsessed with, we explored Kensington, and were stereotypical tourists at Abbey Road. It was an extremely long and exhausting day, but it was a wonderful way to leave London. Camden Market is probably one of my favorite places that I’ve visited throughout my entire trip. They have an amazing open-air food market, where you can get some of the best mac and cheese that I have ever tasted. The market continues on and winds through the Camden Stables for what feels like miles. It’s filled with little stalls selling an assortment of clothing, jewelry, house decor, records, and shoes. You name it, there is probably someone selling it in Camden. There are a ton of awesome vintage and antique stores where you can try on a jacket from the 70s, or flip through an assortment of records from the past 50 years.
Abbey Road was a pretty amazing sight to see, if not for the historical resonance of the studio that originates with the Beatles’ 1969 Abbey Road album, then simply for the entertainment value of watching the tourists try to battle oncoming traffic to try and get the perfect Abbey Road Zebra Crossing photo. In my music class this semester we spent a lot of time learning about The Beatles so it was cool to take some of that knowledge to such an important site, but I was also excited to see the studio because of how much other incredible music has been created there. Countless incredible film scores, including multiple Harry Potter films, have been recorded there as well as so much other amazing music continues to be created there that it was pretty amazing to get to see. And we also made sure to be the best tourists we could be and we took our own zebra crossing photo. I only almost got hit by a car twice.
Abbey Road Studios
We’re basically The Beatles right?
This is us on the official Abbey Road camera.
Unfortunately, that trip to London was my last real trip of the semester so I was pretty sad to leave, but I still had a few weeks left to enjoy in Wales. Originally, we were supposed to go on a tour of Pembrokeshire, but unfortunately there was a problem with the bus so the tour was cancelled. To try and make up for missing that, I spent a lot of time wandering the city, enjoying the warm weather, and just taking in the last few weeks of being in Cardiff. I even ended up running into Doctor Who filming, so we made a night of it and had a picnic while watching the show film, which was really cool. I can’t wait to watch the new series in the fall and get to see the scenes that we watched get made.
We also finally made time to make our hike to Castell Coch in Cardiff, a trek we’ve been telling ourselves we were going to make since we first got here. It was a 4 mile walk up the Taff Trail from where we live to a beautiful fantasy castle perched on the side of a hill. The walk was slightly intimidating as it was over 4 miles long, but it was along the river and very lovely. In the end I think each way ended up being about an hour and a half long, but it was a really nice way to see the city and the river, and the castle was fantastic. It truly felt like a fairytale castle, and there was a free audio tour that was really cool and interesting. At this point, I have seen castles across the country; some were in ruins and some were in perfect condition, and they were all incredible to see. Wales truly is the land of the castle.
Along the Taff Trail
The rest of the last few weeks were spent just enjoying life in Cardiff. We had a lot of fun just hanging out around Taly, getting dinner at our favorite restaurant, and baking up a ton of cookies and pancakes. I can’t say we were the healthiest cooks, but hey we had fun. Then as one last hurrah I bought myself a ticket to the One Direction concert here in Cardiff, which just happened to be the same day as my last exam. I took my exam in the morning, and that night I had a blast at the show. Was I surrounded by pre-teens and their parents? Absolutely. But I still had an awesome time. It was an excellent way to unwind after a week purely devoted to studying.
But now, here I am in my last few days trying to force as many of my things into my two suitcases as physically possible, and trying to find places to donate everything else that I can’t bring with me. At this point that overweight baggage fee is inevitable so I might as well get my moneys worth. I came into the semester knowing that I needed to be careful about how much stuff I purchased because I had to be able to get it all home, but here I am up 5 sweatshirts and 5 books from what I came with seriously questioning my decision making skills.
My time in Wales is slowing coming to a close, as will this blog, but I should have at least one more post coming before I say any official goodbyes.