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.