Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Pre-Departure Advice… For Myself

Time January 10th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

Hello, and welcome to my little blog of adventures. My name is Alex and I’m a sophomore from Drake University studying abroad in Cardiff, Wales. I leave in two days but that hasn’t really sunk in. I’ve started to say goodbyes, I’ve begun packing, and I’ve also managed to come down with a horrible cold (great timing, too). And although this week feels like every other week, I am about to embark on a journey that will change my life in a profound way that I won’t be able to understand until it has already happened. I think that’s pretty neat.

The past days, weeks, and months have been filled with preparation. But one thing that every student about to go abroad gets lots of is advice. Those who have studied abroad before you will tell you about how incredible their experience was, what you should do when you’re abroad, and of course where you MUST visit. I love hearing what everyone has to say about traveling—I’m a sponge when it comes to taking in travelling tips and knowledge. But I also want to go into this experience with my own goals and some pieces of advice for myself. So here is what I have to say to the future me that’s about to board a plane into five months of uncertainty and excitement:

It’s okay to cry at the airport when you leave your family, just for the love of God make sure you’re wearing waterproof mascara.

Be frugal and wise with budgeting but don’t freak out about money the whole time. It’ll work out just fine.

Take that trip to Greece that you keep saying you will. You packed that swimsuit for something and it’s not just to take up space in your suitcase.

Drink good wine. Eat good cheese. And bread. And pasta.

Try weird local foods that you probably won’t love but it’s all about the experience amiright?

Do something crazy like bungee jumping or cliff jumping, just don’t tell your parents until after you’ve done it and survived (sorry mom and dad).

Speaking of mom and dad, give them a call every once in a while to make sure they know you’re alive.

Buy little souvenirs for yourself and loved ones.

Visit friends who are abroad in different countries, even if you only get the chance to meet up for lunch.

Take pictures. You suck at this. You brought a camera for a reason. USE IT.

Write down things in a journal because no matter how memorable an experience feels, details will become blurry once you’ve been traveling for five months.

Make friends with people from other countries!

And finally, have a blast because you’re only 20 years old in Europe once ya crazy kid.

This post marks the very beginning of a life changing, comfort-zone pushing, and challenging experience. I have no idea what my life is going to look like in a few days–your guess is probably just as good as mine. I hope you stick around to see how it all plays out, it should be an interesting few months!

Share

Casey in Cymru

Time September 12th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

That’s right, folks; this girl is leaving the country in two days. Not for good or anything (although, with the upcoming election, I might stay a little longer than planned…). The fall semester of my junior year in college will be spent abroad. For three months, I will be studying at Cardiff University, which is located in Cardiff, Wales. Before you open a new tab and type “Where is Wales?” into your favorite search engine, let me try to help you out a bit…

​Wales is a country in the U.K. North of Wales lies Scotland, England can be found to the right, and Ireland and Northern Ireland are just across the pond to the left. People in Wales speak English, but some also speak Welsh. Welsh is full of cool words like CymraegCymraeg is the word in Welsh for Welsh. Cymru is the word for Wales, the country. Cwn is valley. And my personal favorite: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is the name of a small town. It translates to “St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St .Tysilio near the red cave.” Want to know how to pronounce that one? Watch this weatherman nail it! Another neat thing about Wales is that the Welsh national flag has a giant red dragon on it. Wales is looking pretty awesome right about now, isn’t it??

While I’m going to be studying abroad in Wales for the next three months, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stay in Wales and only Wales. I plan on traveling everywhere I possible can while in Europe. Traveling is slowly becoming a passion of mine. I love getting to experience new cultures, learn about their traditions, each place’s history, try their foods, etc. Right now, I have a growing list of places I want to visit, things I want to see, and people I can’t wait to meet while abroad.

Along with that list, I’ve been adding to another list of my own every time I talk to someone about my upcoming semester abroad. I’ve formed a list of advice I’ve been given and would like to share it with you all. Some of you reading this might even see something familiar!

Advice for Casey, provided by many.

  • Be safe.
  • Buy a sleeping bag/sleeping pad to sleep on in hostels. You don’t want to sleep in those sheets! 
  • Hostels are awesome–take advantage of them. And their free books! 
  • Take a suitcase with wheels. 
  • Do you play sports? Doesn’t matter. Tryout for a team anyway. 
  • Drink it all in–literally, you’ll be of age. 
  • Don’t pay for an international phone plan. 
  • Pay for an international phone plan. 
  • Don’t forget your passport.
  • Travel everywhere. 
  • Bring a frisbee. It’s a great tool for meeting new people. Everyone loves frisbee!
  • Have a glass/can of lemonade. It’ll be the best tasting lemonade you’ve ever had. 
  • Buy your Christmas presents while abroad.
  • Take the train. 
  • Join every club/society you can. 
  • Don’t take more than one suitcase. 
  • Take pepper spray everywhere you go. 
  • Save all of your receipts. They’re good souvenirs for people you forget to buy souvenirs for. 
  • Meet up with my cousin/mum/uncle/dogsitter’s boyfriend/etc. 
  • Go shopping on Oxford Street in London. 
  • Buy an actual map. Don’t rely on that stupid GPS thing. Siri can and will be wrong and you’ll wind up in the middle of a sheep farm. 
  • Learn the name Gareth Bale. Period. 
  • Buy a bike. 
  • Don’t leave your luggage to pee, even if you’ve just had two large Mountain Dews, a cup of coffee, and a full Nalgene water bottle. 
  • Go to class. 
  • Skip out on class. 
  • If you feel safe, go on trips alone–gives you a sense of independence and freedom when you’re tired of your flatmates and missing home. 
  • Take pictures of everything.
  • Visit [insert place in Europe here]. It’s the coolest place in the world!

 

As you can see, I’ve been given all kinds of advice (and too many places to visit to list them all). Will I follow all of it? Probably not. Will I try? Probably. What I am going to promise to do, though, is compile a list of advice based off this list given to me and my experiences while abroad to share with others wanting to spend a semester abroad.

As my friends who are also studying abroad either settle in to their cosy new beds for the semester or settle into their not-so-cosy plane seats for the next 8-12 hours, I will continue to cherish my last couple days in the good ‘ole U.S. of A., sipping on a smoothie, snacking on leftover Chinese take-out, and watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix.Until then, see you soon, Cymru!

P.S. Keep the advice coming! I love all of it, even if it’s something I’ve been told a million a one times! I want to know all our your suggestions, too! Thanks!

Want to know more about me? More about my adventure? More in general? Check out my travel blog “Casey in Cardiff” by clicking here or typing the following into your browser: www.caseyincardiff.weebly.com
Share

So this isn’t a 5 month vacation?

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

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

Read More »

Share

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.

 

Share