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

The Finale (Part Two)

Time May 11th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

I’m home! I’m surrounded by American accents and cars that drive on the right side of the road and boy does that feel weird. I’m out of money, finishing my last few papers, and sleeping in my own bed. I did it! I made it a semester abroad, with getting barely any bumps and bruises along the way. Here are a few things I’m feeling.

Sad. A place that once felt so strange became home and just as I got my feet wet in Cardiff I was shipped back to the U.S. My epic, European adventure has come to an end.

Culture shock. I remember attending my home university’s pre-departure meeting where they told me that I would experience reverse culture shock upon my return to the United States. I brushed that off, not thinking that I’d feel much different or have a difficult time adjusting back. But holy cow does it feel weird to be home. Everything’s the same, but it’s also different in the sense that everyone I left behind at home kept living their lives and whatnot, which sounds like an obvious thing but walking into it after four months of being away, is a lot to take in.

Happy. I am so glad to be home. I’ve missed my family and friends so much, and while I’ve kept in touch through Facetime, there’s nothing like hugging your parents after months without seeing them. In a few days I’ll head to Des Moines to see all of my college friends, so the happy reunions keep coming!

And finally, satisfaction. I’ve gotten most of my travel bug out (for now), and I’ve experienced so many things that I never dreamed that I would. Before I left I set out a list of advice for myself, and looking back at it now I smile knowing that I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. I took pictures, even though I’m usually so bad at remembering to. I drank good wine and ate (probably too much) good cheese, bread, and pasta. I called my parents, bought a few souvenirs, and wrote things down in a journal. I visited friends abroad in other countries, and did one or two crazy things that I told my parents about (after, of course). I went to Greece like I kept saying I would, because after all I did pack that swimsuit for something.

This semester I learned how to navigate countries where I don’t speak the native language, I learned how to use public transportation in cities I had never been to before, I learned how to make strangers into friends within one conversation, and I learned that the world has so much more to offer than I thought was possible. I knocked off a lot of countries off of my to-visit list this semester, but as I traveled and heard other peoples’ experiences in other places my to-visit list kept getting longer.

This post marks the end of a life changing, comfort-zone pushing, and challenging experience. I had no idea what life was going to look like once I stepped off of the plane in London a few months back, but I sure am happy I stuck around to find out.

I’m officially signing off, but this isn’t the end of my adventures, that’s for sure.

Cheers,

Alex

 

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The Finale

Time May 5th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | 1 Comment by

Twelve days left in Cardiff suddenly turned into three. It’s Friday afternoon, and on Monday at approximately 3 AM I will be leaving Cardiff to get to the airport to fly home. Instead of telling you all how incredibly sad that makes me, I’m going to reflect on some of my favorite things about Cardiff, Wales, and being abroad.

OH, Cardiff. Where do I begin?

Bute park, obviously. This park is just a few minutes walk from my flat, and has kept me sane all semester. It’s green, has trails all through it, has a river, is filled with flowers, and is just beautiful. It’s where I go on runs, where I walk through to get to the city center, and where I go to when I need a little bit of a break from my little room in my flat. In March it was covered in daffodils, and now the leaves are so full and green that it’s like an entirely new place. Oh, and there’s a castle that’s casually on the edge of it.

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Oh, Europe–I love you so!

Time May 5th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

It’s May. In one week from today I will be on a plane back to the states. I have papers and projects to do this week. There are a few things about this picture that really aren’t quite right.

This post is about what I did over Easter break, but before I get to that I need to just acknowledge how crazy it is that I’ve already gotten to the point in my semester where I’m writing this. January was spent getting my feet on the ground and adjusting. April was spent travelling. February and March, however, seemed like endless hours spent planning my Easter break endeavors. And now they’re done—the trips have been taken, experiences have been made, and lessons have been learned.

On Wednesday, April 12th I left Cardiff early in the morning and walked to the Sophia Gardens bus station where I departed for Birmingham airport. I spent most of the day travelling, but by 7 PM I was standing outside of the Barcelona airport, suddenly much too warm for my jacket. Now I won’t bore you with the day-to-day itinerary of what I did, but there are a few moments I experienced throughout the few days I was there that were pretty magnificent. First, walking through the city itself is kind of magical. The trees, buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí everywhere, the sun, and just the feeling of the city had an energy that was contagious. Another part of Barcelona I loved was Bunker Hill. It was an old Spanish Civil War bunker that sat on a massive hill overlooking the city, and the view was incredible. It was the city, the ocean, and the sunset, all in one beautiful picture. It was profound and magical and worth running up a large hill for. Later that night we went to a Spanish club—my last highlight of Barcelona. It was a city that made you want to dance and that night we all danced and laughed and tried to ignore the fact that we all had flights the next day taking us away from the beautiful city. Read More »

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Bonsoir and Happy Days

Time April 11th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

After a jam packed month filled with many weekends away, I concluded my March trips with a quick stop in Paris where I met up with my sister Hailey and my cousin Erin as they were passing through on their travels. Writing that sounds crazy, that we just “met up in Paris for the weekend,” because how often does that happen? Life is pretty cool.

Throughout the weekend we did the typical Parisian tourist activities; we walked through the Notre Dame, strolled down the Champs-Élysées, ate crepes and macaroons and drank good wine, and we saw the Eiffel tower. But I think my favorite part was just being with family. At night in our AirBnB we would play cards and chat just like we would any other time back at home, and after a few months away from home those moments meant so much.

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And as for the city and Parisians, they’re a lot nicer than the stereotype suggests. We shopped at a French market one morning and all of the vendors were so kind to us. The city is dirty, as they say, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. To be honest, Cardiff is a dirtier city than Paris. Regardless, I recommend spending some time in Paris if you get the chance. There is literally nothing happier than eating a banana and nutella crepe while strolling through the Luxembourg Gardens. Although as hard as it was to say “au revoir” to the city, it was even harder to say goodbye to Hailey and Erin

Another glimpse of home I got recently was a visit from Joe—something I had been counting down the days for. On Wednesday at 2 AM I left my flat for the early bus to London, where I took a second bus to Gatwick airport. After waiting the longest 30 minutes I think I’ve ever waited, I saw Joe coming out of Arrivals and we got our movie like airport reunion. Okay that may be a little dramatic but it was so nice to see him after so long. We took a bus into the city and spent the afternoon in London. Read More »

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Trains, Planes, and Buses that Depart at 2 AM

Time March 29th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | 1 Comment by

Spring has sprung! And Cardiff is filled with blooming daffodils that are literally everywhere. Each day that I run through Bute Park (gotta counteract all of those Welsh cakes) brings more and more of the bright yellow flowers that are sprouting up everywhere. I’m pretty convinced that by the end of the month I won’t be able to see grass anymore, just daffodils. Speaking of the end of the month, it’s March. Who would have though I’d have made it this far?

Anyways; it’s March, my hair has gotten longer, I’ve turned in three essays, I’ve learned how to make a proper meal, and I’ve gotten to season six of Gilmore Girls. And if you have any intentions of watching Gilmore Girls sans spoilers I suggest that you stop reading this now because I am about to spoil the ending of season five, and I’m deeply sorry for any pain this may cause. Rory is leaving Yale. She’s dropping out. She’s having an existential crisis, doesn’t know what she wants out of life, and is making rash decisions that will have pretty big repercussions in her life.

So you’re probably thinking, Alex, why are you writing about Gilmore Girls? Well I’ll tell you: watching her make these big, monumental decisions made me feel some sort of solidarity with her. Not that I’m dropping out of Drake, or Cardiff, or moving into my grandparents’ pool house, but I’m reaching the point in my semester where I’m questioning what I want out of my time here, and if I’m getting it. I’ve blinked and suddenly I’m halfway done with my time here. I don’t know how it happened, but I’m realizing one distinct fact: four months is not enough time abroad.

I remember my first week here—I was so sick, which made me homesick, which made me wonder what I had gotten myself into. I remember talking to my mom about how many of my friends who went abroad for j-term were just getting home and getting ready to go back to Drake for the semester. I asked her, “Should I have just done that?” She told me no, I’d be mad at myself if I didn’t have a whole semester.

Mom, I know you’re reading this and so I’m just going to encourage you to refrain from jumping up and down with glee as I write these three words: you were right. A j-term simply wouldn’t have been enough time. It wouldn’t have given me a chance to get homesick every now and again, to struggle through the tough days where everything seems unfamiliar, and to learn how to be on my own. All of which aren’t always pleasant experiences, but what self-growth comes from easy days and familiarity? A j-term also wouldn’t have been enough time to travel everywhere I want, to see all of the sights that are on my bucket list (which seems to get longer and longer every time I go to cross something off), and to make the friendships that I’m finding myself surrounded by. I’m not even sure four months is enough for all of those things even with every weekend jam-packed with travelling like mine have been, which I will now segue into describing.

The other weekend I left my cozy room in Cardiff to head to the lovely town of Lucerne, Switzerland—a place I fell in love with completely. It was one of those places that make you say “I have to come back here someday.” It had all of my favorite things—mountains, a lake, and really great cheese. The weekend was magical for many reasons, but there are two things in particular that I will probably always think back on with a smile when I reminisce on my trip to Switz: Fasnacht and Mount Rigi.

Fasnacht taught me something about the Swiss people—they are doing something right. It’s a carnival that runs from Thursday to Tuesday right before Ash Wednesday that’s dedicated to eating, drinking, and dressing up in elaborate costumes that put my 20 years of Halloween outfits to shame. Confetti covers the streets where marching bands parade up and down playing music all throughout the night (and at 5:30 on Monday morning because apparently that’s part of the tradition too). Food trucks are everywhere with grilled sausages, raclette cheese, and warm wine. There were people of all ages, all adorned in costumes, and all seemingly having a wonderful time. It was amazing. It was filled with joy, and I consider myself to be so incredibly lucky that my one weekend in Switzerland fell over this carnival.

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But it gets better. Ever heard of the Swiss Alps? That was a joke I’m sure you have. Have you ever seen them from across a sparkling lake on a sunny day? I’m bragging now but Katie, Annelise, and I hiked up Mount Rigi and had lunch on a grassy hill with a view that can only be described as a glimpse of heaven. I’m pretty sure I heard the hallelujah chorus to Handel’s “Messiah” as I took a bite out of my prosciutto sandwich.

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My final note on Switzerland is the inspiration for this blogs title “Trains, Planes, and Buses that Depart at 2 AM.” I’ve decided that when I’m old and rich and much less spry I am always going to get the most direct mode of transportation everywhere I go. And I say this because Katie and I left our flats at 2 AM to catch our first bus, which took us to London. After, we took a second bus to get us to the airport. We flew. We landed in Zurich, late, and had to find our way through a Swiss train station and figure out how on earth to get to Lucerne. Our trip took 15 hours. That’s all that needs to be said on that.

Another trip that took half a day (literally 12 hours on a bus) was my journey to Scotland. Riley and I left our flat at 6:30 AM and were on a bus for pretty much the rest of the day. We ate dinner that night at a place called “The Boozy Cow” and were so hungry I think we both finished our burgers in under four minutes. On Saturday we went on an all day tour through the highlands, saw loch ness (the lake not the monster), and met a few other girls who were also travelling. We went out with them that night and on a walking tour through Edinburgh with them the following day. Then it was back on a bus for 12 hours, but Scotland was beautiful and the trip was so worth it.

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In between Scotland and Switzerland was a weekend trip to Lake District, England planned by IFSA-Butler. The food was delicious, there were mountains abound, we went Ghyll Scrambling, and most of all: it was a trip that I didn’t have to plan a single thing for. I was told when and where to be places and all I had to do was show up and enjoy the weekend, which feels like paradise after a weekend of navigating a 15-hour long puzzle of transportation.

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So I’m at this point in the semester where I’m halfway through and I’m wondering what I want out of my time here, and if I’m getting it. And here’s the answer: I don’t know what I want out of it anymore, but I’m getting something. When I first signed up to come abroad I thought it was going to be all adventures and wild stories but I’m finding it to be more of an educational experience than anything. I’m learning how to travel, how to interact with people who have had completely different upbringings than myself, and I’m learning what I like and what I don’t like. I’ve learned how to travel independently, how to cook a meal, and, thanks to my flat mate Katie, how to say the longest Welsh city, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

So you stuck with me through this odyssey of a post and another small glimpse of my time abroad. Enough realizations about life and such for now—I’m off to go eat more Welsh cakes.
Cheers,

Alex

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Normal, Mundane, and Other Synonyms for School

Time February 21st, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

Sometimes you do pretty normal things even on a different continent.

As I said in my very first, pre-departure post, you get a lot of advice before you leave the country. You hear a lot of stories from those who have studied abroad before you and you see pictures and blogs from peers who spent semesters in Spain, Rome, or wherever the wind took them. But here’s the problem: they only tell you about the adventures. The beautiful sunrises they saw over mount-whatever; the fun nightlife in a certain city; the amazing and inspiring people they met. Yet there is a fundamental detail that is left out of all of these tales—studying abroad involves a lot of completely normal moments. No one tells you that you will still binge-watch Gilmore Girls in bed, or that you’ll have quiet nights where you do nothing, or that you actually have to study for the classes you’re taking.

While this seems like a pretty obvious part of being away for an entire semester, it took me two weeks into classes to actually be okay with it. For the first part of my time abroad, I hated any gaps of free time I had in my schedule. I felt like I always needed to be doing something to make my time here valid and worthwhile. If I didn’t do something fun every night, I wasn’t getting the full “abroad” experience. It wasn’t until I was sitting in my Wednesday morning seminar the other week that I had a huge breakthrough—we were discussing the reading we were supposed to have done for class and I sat there not knowing a thing. I didn’t do the reading because I’m a student abroad, and students abroad most certainly don’t need to do the readings. But as I sat in class in a bubble of confusion wondering why pre-Raphaelite art was considered scandalous to upper class Victorian-era citizens I realized a fundamental fact: I came here to take classes because I’m in college. Read More »

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Three Cliffs Bay, Bath, Stonehenge, and Snowdonia National Park

Time February 7th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

The other night, I couldn’t sleep. I spent the day doing pretty average stuff; I went for a run, made myself breakfast, walked around the city with some friends, and worked on homework. You couldn’t pick this Monday out of a lineup, but that night I couldn’t sleep. And here’s why: I started to get an itch. A hum in the back of my head. A small little devil-version of me sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear, “Hey Alex, let’s go somewhere.”

It all started with Three Cliffs Bay. It was a day trip my friends and I signed up for that looked like a promising way to spend a Saturday. After a two-hour bus ride we arrived to what I can only describe as a photo out of a National Geographic magazine. The ocean was bright blue and framed by beautiful, magnificent cliffs. We hiked along side the cliffs for a bit, then climbed down a steep slope to the beach. After a few miles up and down the beach, we hiked back up the cliffs and to an old, rustic castle that overlooked the ocean. It ended up being somewhere between eleven and twelve miles of hiking—we were all so tired by the end of it. But every second of the hike was insanely beautiful.

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Classes, Welsh Cakes, and the Great Outdoors

Time January 30th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

As I start this post the first thing I’d like to say is that I love Wales. With all of the emotions I feel on a daily basis here, whenever I’m out and about in the city or walking around on campus the feeling I experience most overwhelmingly is excitement. While the past week and a half have felt somewhat like a dream, the reality of a semester abroad has finally sunk in as classes have begun. I did it. I followed through on accomplishing a goal I set for myself long ago, and made my dreams a reality. Now all I have to do is remember that excitement as classes, and real work, begin.

SO, about those classes. Before leaving for the semester, one of the most common questions I was asked was “Alex, what classes are you taking in Wales?” Well, after months of not knowing and not actually figuring out my schedule until the first real day of classes, I can happily say that I am registered. I’m taking three 20-credit courses, each equivalent to about 6 credits on the U.S. scale. I’m taking a Victorian art class, an environmental politics class, and a class looking at how different countries have developed culturally, environmentally, and economically. While normally I wouldn’t be exactly thrilled for classes to start, I am actually very eager to begin learning and have some of my free time taken up. So far the classes seem promising.

Now onto something more exciting than school… Welsh cakes. This past two weeks in Wales has introduced me to something that has exposed the naivety I hold in my culinary experiences. The gap in my pallet. The type of breakfast pastry that I’m convinced could cure the ill, could put an end to all international disputes, and could bring a grown man to tears. A pastry called a “Welsh cake.” For those who don’t know (like me a week ago), a Welsh cake is somewhat of a cross between a cookie, a pancake, and a scone with chocolate chips or raisins. It’s life changing. In my book, Welsh cakes are right up there with Beyoncé. I’ve gotten them a few times on the way to class, and I got them with some of my flat mates when we went into town together. I have a strong feeling that I’ll have to allocate a chunk of my abroad-budget specifically for Welsh cakes.

To work off all of the Welsh cakes, I’ve taken some time to explore the great outdoors. My favorite spot to run so far is this beautiful bike path that goes alongside the river near my flat. Not only is it a stunning view, but it’s a good break in my day and lets me get some fresh air. On Wednesday, some friends and I went on a night hike with a club on campus alongside the bay. It was actually very random, and the club we went with was really strange. It was about a 4 or 5-mile hike in the dark that went through back wood trails that led to a path on a cliff that overlooked the bay. It was one of those experiences that ended with us asking ourselves “what the hell did we just do?” After warming up at a pub and deliriously laughing about how weird it was, we decided that the experience was worth it.

While the night hike isn’t necessarily something I’d do again, it was the kind of experience I was craving. I needed to get off campus and do something a little random and adventurous that I’ll have good memories from. This weekend we’re headed to Three Cliffs Bay for more hiking, and the following weekend I will visit Stonehenge and Snowdonia National Park. I’m starting to realize that if I go into this semester with the right attitude and continue to do things that push my boundaries, I can shape it into whatever experience I want it to be. Hopefully, I’m able to create a semester that exceeds my expectations. So far, I’m thinking I’ll have no problem doing just that.

 

That’s all I’ve got to say for now.

Cheers,

Alex

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From London to Wales

Time January 20th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | 1 Comment by

Wow, has everything changed! After a long journey from the Minneapolis airport to the Newark airport and finally to the Heathrow airport in London, I can now say that I have hopped over the pond. We arrived in London around 7:30 AM, went through a long customs line, and met with our IFSA-Butler guide. At this point I was feeling so many emotions, but most of all, I was exhausted. I had woken up at 4 AM on Thursday and we landed in the morning on Friday. I managed a 2-hour nap on the flight but surprisingly, plane seats are not to best accommodation for a good night’s sleep. But I didn’t have time to feel tired, because we had landed in London and had a full day ahead of us. I was excited enough to be able to push my tiredness to the side. Read More »

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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!

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Casey is Counting…the days until she can go back, the amount of money she has left, the number of memories she made, etc.

Time January 4th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

It’s official. I am back in the US of A. But before I talk about that, let me tell you about my pre-Christmas adventures!

The first weekend in December was my last real weekend in the UK, so I figured I’d make the most of it! First, I headed to Bath for the crowded Christmas Markets, where I stocked up on Christmas presents for my family, and the Roman Baths. It was quite a fun little trip! Next on the list of places I had to visit was Northern Wales. I got on my first train of seven for the day on my way to Blaenau Ffestiniog, a slate mining town, home to Bounce Below–the largest underground trampoline park in the world! I had a blast at the underground trampoline park! Then, I made it to the town with the longest name in the world–Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

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Casey Still Celebrates

Time January 4th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

Have you ever gone to school on Thanksgiving? Up until today, I hadn’t. The UK doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, remember? So last Thursday was a normal school day, filled with professors, reading assignments, lectures, and a full on American Thanksgiving feast.

Yes, that’s right–my flat celebrated Thanksgiving! We had turkey, stuffing (oh my gosh, so much stuffing), mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green beans, rolls, corn–we went all out. For dessert, we even had apple crisp and pecan pie! We made hand-turkeys, listened to Christmas music, and shared lots of laughs. In case you missed the stellar video we all made, please watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XKONuW0-eI

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After my Thanksgiving in the UK, I got on a plane to Amsterdam for my US squad weekend with Emily, Bailey, Sara, and Jessica. We went all over the city on a canal tour, saw the Anne Frank Museum and House, pet lots of rescued cats on a cat boat, went ice skating in front of the Rijksmuseum, and took tons of photos in front of the famous “I amsterdam” letters and, of course, the big yellow clog. We ate giant Dutch pancakes, blue-colored cheese that tasted like lavender, and stroopwafels–all delicious!
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The weekend with them made me realize just how much I’ve missed seeing each of their faces every day like I have for the past two years at school. Lately, I’ve been missing a lot of things, actually. Mostly, it’s just been little everyday things that I took for granted before moving to a different country–97 cent Suave shampoo and conditioner, Wendy’s junior cheesburgers, dryer sheets, etc. It would seem silly to me if I were the one reading this, but, as I write it, it makes perfect sense. These things used to be constants in my life, and I never thought a time would come when I wouldn’t have the option to have them. It’s made life a bit more interesting. Trying to find a deoderant that wasn’t spray-on, or a box of Kraft mac and cheese to make for dinner, while trying to keep the “trolley” (shopping cart) under control–all of the wheels move, not just the ones in the front, so they can be kind of hard to steer–has been quite an experience, I’ll admit.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy trying new things and being in a new place–I absolutely love it! All I mean to say is it has made me a bit more thankful for the things I used to take for granted. I am really looking forward to getting my hands on some of these “delicacies,” but also know that when the time comes for me to leave in just a few short weeks, I will be missing the things I’ve come to see as normal here. I’m already dreading the goodbyes I’ll have to say in 12 days…

In other news, CHRISTMAS IS ALMOST HERE!

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

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Casey Finds a Cache

Time November 14th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the past two weeks, it’s this: if you ever want to see a part of the world—and really see it, like the locals and tourists see it—open up your geocaching app and start walking.

Cork in Ireland, Fort William, Glencoe, and Glasgow in Scotland, and soon to be Cardiff in Wales, would not have been as interesting if it weren’t for the geocaches along the way. The different caches hidden around these cities and villages tend to have a little description about the place they are hidden in, and that little description is usually pretty interesting to the wannabe queen of quirky fun facts (hey, that’s me!). For example, did you know there’s a clock tower in Cork that is called the Four Faced Liar because each of the four faces on their respective sides tell a slightly different time until the hour hits and they all read the hour correctly?? Or that the “fort” in Fort William wasn’t completely destroyed during a war or battle like most castles and forts were, but by a train company in 1894, temporarily turning the fort into a rail yard?? I didn’t think so.

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As you can see, some of the tidbits of information are a little more historical than others. Sometimes the information about the location of the cache is a memory of the person who hid the cache. Other times the descriptions are blank or don’t have any fun facts, just hints. It’s still fun looking around the area each one is hidden in. Some caches are teeny tiny, only big enough to fit a log for you to sign, while others are huge and hold neat little treasures to trade in and out.


If you haven’t been geocaching, or don’t know what it is, you totally should, especially if you want to know more about the town you’re living in! Even if you just want to pretend your Nicholas Cage, hunting for your own little National Treasure (like me), that’s cool, too! For all my E&H friends back home, there are a couple by Emory that are fun, quick finds—I’d totally recommend it.I’m looking forward to finding more geocaches in more of the places I plan on traveling to. It really has been the best way to find all of the best spots in town. Give it a try—you might just find a new hobby, too!

I’m off to find my next cache! Wish me luck!

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
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Casey Cuts Class

Time November 7th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

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
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Casey Has A Cold

Time October 17th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

6 boxes of tissues,
5 cartons of orange juice,
4 hours of sleep a night on average,
3 packs of lemsip,
2 bottles of cough syrup,
1 day of missed lectures,
and about a million cups of tea later…Yes, it’s true. I have a cold. Or the flu. Perhaps even both. Regardless, I am sick, and have been for about a week and a half now. Not cough-cough-I-feel-icky sick, but body-aches-all-over-can’t-stop-coughing-up-my-spleen-lungs-filled-with-snot-fever-gives-me-cold-sweats sick. It has been absolutely horrible. BUT it hasn’t kept me from having a blast here in Wales! Picture

Last Wednesday, I visited Cardiff Bay. I took the touristy pictures (all of which can be seen under the Places I’ve Been tab on my blog), went to a pub, saw lots of pigeons and seagulls, and went home on the train. It was a perfect little afternoon outing.

Friday, I got to participate in the Student Sleepout with my flatmate Meg (until we had to leave because I was too sick to be outside all night). The Student Sleepout was a fundraiser/volunteer experience to bring awareness to the amount and severity of homelessness in

PictureCardiff. A group of students raised money and/or showed their support for a couple homeless shelters in the city by sleeping out on the streets as long as they could. We were each given a cardboard box to sleep on and could only bring whatever we could carry. Some people brought sleeping bags, others snacks, and some just brought the clothes on their backs. At the beginning of the event, two members of the homeless community came to speak to us along with a staff member of one of the shelters in the city. The conversation was very open and honest and helped ease some of the nerves and aided understandings of the experience. It was eye-opening for many of us there.

Monday, I went to the Big Pit National Coal Museum (also under the Places I’ve Been tab on my blog). It was awesome! I got to wear a helmut with a headlamp and go underground in a real coal mine for a tour given by a retired miner. Every time a question was asked to our miner/tour guide, he answered it with a story from his, his father’s, or grandfather’s mining days. I thought going to school in Appalachia gave me some insight into the mining world, but, boy, was I wrong. There is so much more to it than I could ever imagine. The culture, history, and traditions behind the entire coal mining industry here in Wales is rooted deeper (haha, deeper–get it?) than anything I’ve ever known.

Every night, my flatmates and I play a game of cards, specifically the game Contract Rummy. If you don’t know how to play, any of my flatmates and I are well-versed and would be happy to teach you, I’m sure, as we’ve played it practically every night for the past two weeks.

I’ve only got a few little life updates for now. This weekend I’ll hopefully travel some more and be able to give some more exciting updates other than “I smashed my thumb in my bathroom door after being woken up by the fire alarm this morning.”

Until next time! Thanks for reading!

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
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Casey in Class

Time October 3rd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

Now that I’ve accomplished what seemed impossible last weekend–enrolling in classes–and have completed my first week of classes, I feel like I’ve had a decent amount of time to compile the list below:

​10 Things to Know About Uni When Studying Abroad in the U.K.:

  1. Courses are called modules. Classes are called lectures. Schedules are called timetables. Semesters are called terms. If the accent doesn’t give away the fact that you’re from the US, using any of these “American English” terms will.
  2. Professors are not called “Professor” until they’ve earned the title, much like how you wouldn’t call a professor who hasn’t gotten their doctorate “Dr. So-and-so.” Lecturers is a more appropriate term.
  3. My lectures have between 30 and 230 students in them, as opposed to back home, where I’ve never been in a class with more than 20 students. I definitely just feel like a number here (except for in the class in which I was called out for “being the American who emailed a lot of questions ahead of time.” I felt more than just a number in that class for sure…).
  4. University (Uni, for short) and college are not the same thing here like they are at home. When people ask what school I go to back home, I feel like I have to explain myself every time I say “Emory & Henry College.”
  5. Students attend Uni for 3 years, not 4. They don’t use freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors as descriptors, but say they are in Year 1, Year 2, or Year 3.
  6. Every lecture is set up the same way. The lecturer stands up in front of the class, opens up a PowerPoint presentation, and begins the lecture, not a second too early and not a second too late.
  7. Lectures are once a week. Not Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Not Tuesdays and Thursdays. Just one day a week.
  8. Lecturers will send/upload the slides for their lectures before the actual lecture, sometimes as far as two weeks in advance apparently. Students are expected to look at the slides beforehand, take notes on the slides, read out of 20 different books, take notes on those, and then show up to lecture just to take more notes, which they should review and rewrite later, combining them with the notes they took before the lecture. When looking at the amount of prep work students do here compared to the amount I do at home, I feel like I’ve been “college-ing” wrong this whole time.
  9. There is no such thing as a liberal arts education. It is completely unheard of to take classes in different schools. Students pick a school (or major) they want to be in and will only take classes in that school. For all of my E&H readers, this means no Transitions, no Foundations, no GWIC, no Connections, no Modes, etc.
  10. There are no pop-quizzes, no quizzes in general, no tests, no mid-terms, no reflection papers, and hardly any coursework. You can wave participation grades goodbye because there aren’t any of those either. Most of the time, each module will have one or two grades total. Whatever those grades are amount to your final grade. In a couple of my classes, I will have one graded written exam–a 2000 word essay–and in others I will have two written exams that will be averaged together. Yikes!

Side-note: I don’t mean to generalize with this list. It is just what I found to be true with my experience. Although some of these things will probably be a little difficult to get used to, I still feel like I am a normal college student, boarding the struggle-bus and fighting the battles of non-essential spending and procrastination.

In the end, my lectures seem like they’re going to be pretty interesting! I’m already super excited about this semester, and it’s only been a week! 10 more weeks to go! Wish me luck!

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

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Casey in Cardiff

Time September 28th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

I’m in Cardiff and I’ve survived my first week at Uni–what everyone calls University or College here–and am beginning my second! This second week is really Week 1 of Uni, meaning classes finally started today.

Since being here I’ve found a lot of things to be different than back home. For example, Orientation or Week of Welcome doesn’t exist. I was literally dropped off at my flat, handed a sheet of paper with a couple events on it, and told “Good luck. Call if you need anything,” despite not having an international phone plan at the time. Picking classes (the term used here is modules) has been an absolute nightmare. Everyone in Uni here in Cardiff gets put in to classes for their specific school (or major) and only for that school. A liberal arts education does not exist here. Students take classes that apply to their degree and then they graduate–all in three years. And here I am, trying to squeeze everything I want to do in to four! However, I will say that I feel pretty accomplished now that I’ve got a working schedule (everyone here says “timetable”)! Although it was difficult, it got done. I am taking Cross-Cultural Management, Managing People in Organisations (have to make sure I spell it “correctly” here), Reformation History, Globalisation and Social Change, and Power, Politics, and Policy (In class today, there were four stabs at the United States, thanks to last night’s debate…). Not bad, eh?

Freshers Week–Orientation week, if you subtract the academic parts and multiply the social parts by 10x–was loPicturets of fun. I met lots of new people and got to know the city a little better. I still have a lot to explore, though! I plan on exploring more of it this week. Tomorrow, hopefully, my flatmates and I will head on over to Cardiff Bay! This past weekend, some of us took a trip to Brecon Beacons National Park and hiked to the peak of Pen y Fan–one of the best hikes I’ve ever done! I was blown away–literally and figuratively, meaning it was absolutely breathtaking, but the wind was so strong, I found myself almost blowing off the mountain a few times! Check it out under the “Places” tab under the “Connections” tab on my blog caseyincardiff.weebly.com! There, you’ll also find photos from my trips to London, specifically from the day trip I took to see Sara and Bailey! It was great seeing them. #wheredasquadat #squadabroad

I’d love to share more, but my tummy is pretty full from my flat’s second Taco Tuesday, which is making me kinda sleepy. I have to write up some notes from my lecture today (Yes, just one! Another fabulous difference between the US and UK! I only have each class once a week and no more than two classes in general a day!) and prepare for my two lectures tomorrow. Wish me luck as I brave the next week! I’m super excited for everyone else I’ll get to meet, everywhere else I’ll get to go, and everything in between!

 

 

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
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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
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When in Wales: Modern Beauty and Medieval Footprints

Time October 26th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England | No Comments by

Wow, I think we can all agree I have been putting off writing a post for way too long now. One of my goals while I am here abroad is to live more presently, and as such as soon as things start to get exciting I get caught up in day to day life without taking time to reflect. This morning though, I have made myself a nice cup of tea and a delicious omelet and am sitting down to write. Since I have kept you waiting so long, I think I will catch you up with a more recent event and then may go back in my fill later on.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to Wales with IFSA-Butler and many of the other American Students here and discovered one of the hidden gems of the United Kingdom. Admittedly I needed a break form the hustle and bustle of the city, so an escape to the mountains of Snowdonia was the perfect excuse to get away. My weekend was spent hiking and soaking in the rich history of Welsh Princes and medieval land grabs by England. Although this may not sound the most exciting to the average person, I felt like a kid in a candy store surrounded by the natural beauty and historical wealth of Northern Wales.

We stayed in Llanberis (thlan-ber-ris), which is a small town near the foot of Mount Snowden. This area has become a bit of tourist destination over the years, but it is also home to a number of climbers and boasts of some great climber cafés that will serve you a proper pint of tea. I found this information through one of our guides, who led us on a hike through the abandoned slate mine that once created this town. Part of the abandoned quarry is now home to the Dinorwig Power Station, but it is also a gorgeous place to climb.

The head of the trail is just past Dolbadarn Castle built by Welsh Princes in the 13th century. Although only one turret really remains, this site is quite important to the people of Wales even to this day. It is significant because it is one of the only remaining castles built by the Welsh.  Most of the other castles that are still standing in Wales are English castles built during the medieval time also as a protection from the Welsh people.  One such example is Caernarfon (kyre-nar-von), now a world heritage site, that had a dual purpose as a beautiful castle along the sea and a fortress for English nobility.

In addition to a fascinating past, Wales is home to possibly the most beautiful country side I have ever seen. Although it will be difficult, I want to describe to you the view from my bus window on the way back to London. It is early fall, so the colors of the trees were beginning to change as we rode southward surrounded by green trees turning burgundy and gold. The land was speckled with small farmhouses and divided into a quilt of green pastures stitched together with low shrubs that could be mistaken for the Smokey purple of grapevines on a sparsely populated vineyard. Hills rolled on for miles and mountains spilled directly into the sea. If I had to compare the landscape to what I know in the states it would be to combine the North Carolina Mountains in the early fall, the farms of Central Pennsylvania and the shore of Mystic, Connecticut on a very calm day. Replace the cows with sheep and put these images under the muted filter of an English postcard and voila…Wales!

Needless to say, if your imagination is good enough to picture anything out of those words, it is easy to understand the magic of this place. So if you don’t hear from me again I have gone off to the mountains to herd sheep!

~ Wonder at Wales ~

As I mentioned before, Dinorwig Power Station has been built into the abandoned slate quarry in Llanberis. Unlike most energy sources, this power station burns more energy to create power than it puts out. Rather than consistent usage then, this station emits power bursts at times when the country needs additional energy like half time of the Rugby match between Wales and South Africa the weekend I was there when the entire nation went to put the kettle on (I kid you not, this was the actual example given to us by our guide and she was so serious). In an emergency this plant would also serve as a start up generator for the whole of England.

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The Final Countdown

Time June 12th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

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.

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I See The Sea

Time March 25th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

Time continues to fly by over here, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. On the plus side I’m moving away from schoolwork and towards break, but on the other hand I’m moving closer and closer to having to leave. I’m both extremely excited and incredibly anxious about the next few months so I decided to take it day by day and try not to think too much about what I have coming up.

Since about the time I first decided that I wanted to study in Wales, I’ve been online searching for ways to really see this country and embrace everything it has to offer. During those hours of endless Internet searches I discovered a company called Where When Wales, which is a small tour company operating out of Cardiff that offers affordable tours to amazing places around much of Wales. When I finally got over here I did some more investigating of the tours, and based on suggestions from numerous people, the Gower Explorer tour to the Gower Peninsula was the must-see. Everyone I have ever talked to has said the Gower Peninsula is one of the most beautiful places in Wales so I had to get there.

We booked the tour about a week before we were intending on taking it with no problems at all, and then spent the entire next week patiently awaiting Sunday. I was so excited.

Sunday finally rolled around with an aggressive 7:30 am alarm and a quick breakfast before we set off for our day. One of the best parts about this company, at least for us as Cardiff residents, is that the pick up and drop off location is in front of the National Museum, which is an easy walk for us. Our walk ended up being way faster than we anticipated so we had some time to just sit on the museum steps and watch the city of Cardiff wake up. I realized how little Cardiff feels like a major city, it may have a population of over 300,000, but it still genuinely feels like a smaller city. We still have a lot of the accessibility of a major city, but not so much the overwhelming atmosphere.

At a little before 9am, the WhereWhenWales mini-coach pulled up in front of the museum and we were greeted enthusiastically by Jan, our fearless leader, and her husband John, the courageous driver. There were nine of us (seven American) and from the start, Jan and John spent time getting to know us, so much so that it felt like we had known them for years. They were so incredibly kind and welcoming it made the amazing tour even more fun.

Our first venture brought us to Swansea, the second largest city in Wales, and the National Maritime Museum. We weren’t there long, but we got to see the marina and all the boats in front of the museum before heading inside to check out some of the exhibits. It’s a relatively small museum, but it was recently refurbished so it’s very nice and innovative. There were some really cool transportation vehicles from history, including a two-person bicycle from the Victorian age and a one seated, tiny car that was designed to battle London traffic. After our brief viewing of the museum, we were back on the bus listening to Jan narrate the ride with tons of interesting facts about the area, and Wales as a whole, including making sure we all knew when we were passing Catherine Zeta-Jones’ house. We were finally to the coast and the views.

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We pulled off the road into Langland Bay and I was blown away. This kind of tropical view is probably one of the last things I expected to see in Wales, it’s like the true hidden treasure of this to often overlooked country. It may be one of the rainiest places, but it has incredible tropical beaches with surfers and everything. This stop of the tour allowed time for a walk along the coastal path from Langland Bay to nearby Caswell Bay. I learned that Wales actually has a coastal path that follows the entire perimeter of the country, and is the first country to ever do so. The path we walked along was absolutely breathtaking. It was by far one of the most amazing moments of my entire life. I have never seen anything like it, but it wasn’t just the views, it was the entire atmosphere. It was an absolutely pristine day; sunny and blue skies, and we were surrounded by people who were also out there enjoying the gorgeous environment we were surrounded by. By far my favorite part of the walk was the smell. You always hear about the “fresh ocean smell” and you see it in all sorts of air fresheners and candles, but out there it was real. It was fresh and clean, and it was mixed with the faintly floral smell of the flowers that line the path, and it was amazing.

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After our walk, we set off to Rhossli Bay, which has been voted the #9 best bay in the entire world, and it is much deserved. The bay is immaculate; sandy beaches and limestone cliffs at the base of mountains that we explored for hours. There is an adorable little town at the top of the cliffs where we grabbed some sandwiches before heading down to the beach.

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Down on the sand we wandered for a while, taking in the scenery and just enjoying the weather. It was really cool to be down there because not only is there the ocean, but there is the remains of the shipwreck of the Helvetia, which is kind of surreal to see. I don’t really know anything about the ship (and have forgotten what Jan told usabout it) but it’s very strange to think that the pieces of wood sticking out of the sand used to be a massive ship. To leave the beach, we scaled a small incline and climbed a very steep hill that left us out of breath, so we rewarded ourselves with some delicious Welsh ice cream.

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Helvetia shipwreck.

The rest of our time in Rhossli was spent exploring the path along the cliffs leading out to Worms Head, a very uniquely shaped landmass so named because it looked like a serpent to the people who discovered it (worms head in their native tongue loosely translates to serpent). We tried to make our way down to climb it but unfortunately didn’t really have enough time; I’ll just have to come back some time to try again.

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Our last stop on the tour brought us to a more inland portion of the peninsula to see Arthur’s Rock, a location thought to be a Neolithic burial ground. To get to the rock, we had to walk through a field that just so happened to be the residence of a local herd of wild ponies. It was pretty spectacular to just walk through this herd that remained seemingly unfazed by us.

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The rock itself didn’t really stand out that much (I think after you see Stonehenge any rock is just sort of a rock) until John got to telling us about it’s history. Originally it would have been built like a mound that you could go inside of, but it has since collapsed. Historians thought it might be a burial mound, but as no human remains have yet been discovered, they think it may have just been a ‘mead stone,’ or magical rock worshipped by the pagans. Tradition held that visitors would walk up to it, rub their hands together (‘to get the energy flowing’) and touch it with both hands to absorb the magic, so obviously we did the exact same thing.

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However, this stone may not have just been for magic. John told us that legend has it that this rock was the rock that housed the legendary sword of Excalibur that could only be removed by King Arthur. Sure enough, on the front of the rock is a slit that would have held the sword. I would have never believed it had that slit not been there. Why else would it be there? I am 100% convinced that we touched the rock that Excalibur was embedded in, absolutely surreal to think about.

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Unfortunately, our encounter with a legend was also our last stop and we were then on our way back to Cardiff. I had such an incredible experience that I will no doubt be taking another WhereWhenWales tour. It was completely worth the money to see more of the spectacle that is the country of Wales.

While it was by far the highlight, the tour wasn’t my only adventure this week. As a spontaneous last minute decision, I decided to join some friends on a Wednesday afternoon trip to a different Welsh coastline. We hopped on a train after lectures and made our way to Bridgend, where we grabbed a seat on the bus to Porthcawl. Our afternoon was spent exploring another amazing beach. I have a very strong attachment to seeing the ocean, which is ironic seeing as I have a very strong aversion to the sand that so often comes along with it. For the most part this beach was stone (which I absolutely adored) but there was a bit of sandy portions that I tried my hardest to avoid.

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I don’t know how I’m going to be able to cope with returning to landlocked Minnesota after falling in love with being by the sea. We may be the land of 10,000 lakes, but it’s just not the same. Just add spectacular ocean views to the list of reasons why Wales is amazing.

This Friday is officially my last day of classes before Easter Break, which is also the beginning of my three-week adventure around Europe. That means very limited time and Internet connectivity. My goal is to get a post up about each location we get to so hopefully I’ll find the time to make it work. They’ll all get up eventually, it’s just a matter of when. So hopefully the next time you here from me I’ll be in *drum roll* Marseille, France!

 

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Adventures in Space, Time…and Southern Wales

Time March 18th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

This post is a bit of a conglomeration of a few different adventures because I wanted to keep last week’s post only about Adventure Weekend, as it was a pretty big event. So technically this post is about this week and last week, but rather than make two separate ones I figure why not just write them together and save the extra post for something more productive (I’ve got a couple of ideas brewing for some less narrative posts and more informative/reflective stuff but I’m waiting to find time to sit down and plan them out and unfortunately procrastination keeps rearing it’s ugly head around here).

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Adventures In The North

Time March 11th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

I’m back in Cardiff sat at my desk, alternating between writing this blog, editing an essay I have due Tuesday, filtering through pictures to post, and unpacking my suitcase. Earlier today I spent 5 hours traveling from North Wales, into England, and back to South Wales, even though I wish I could have stayed in Snowdonia for another month. This past weekend was the big IFSA Adventure Weekend, and it was probably one of the most amazing weekends of my entire life.

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No Capes.

Time March 2nd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

I may have already experienced this week, but I still can’t really believe that it happened. I got to experience some incredibly surreal moments, all whilst dealing with being a college student. The study abroad experience offers so many incredible opportunities, that I will likely never have the chance to experience again, and I am so incredibly excited to be here.

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From Tourist to Tour Guide

Time February 23rd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

This week was really exciting because not only was I finishing up my first major assignments and officially checking them off of my to do list, my friend Shelbie was coming to visit for the weekend. I spent so much time last week working on schoolwork I was very excited to get out of my room and not have to worry about word counts or PowerPoint layouts. However I did learn a lesson or two outside the classroom.

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