I have officially been in Wales now for almost a full week so I figured I would update everyone again on my times adjusting to my new home and lifestyle. Warning: this post will probably ramble and be scatter-brained.
Thursday and Friday was the orientation program for the study abroad students of this semester. I was excited for orientation because I figured it would be informative and help me feel comfortable on campus and I would be able to meet all the new students. While I was able to meet many new friends through the orientation, I wouldn’t exactly say that it was a very beneficial process. We quickly learned that things in Wales move a lot slower than things back at home. For example, when they say things start at 9:30, you can expect them to arrive and start closer to 10. Orientation was mainly filled with random people speaking to us about what the library and the gym have to offer. We then registered for our visas and registered our modules (class schedule here). The last main thing we did was get a tour of the library which essentially showed us how to scan a bar code of a book to check it out.
The two most important things from orientation, and the only useful things (besides socialization) were the schedule and the visa. Unfortunately I had some minor issues when trying to get my visa. When I flew into Wales, I had a layover and entered the UK through Ireland. Apparently Ireland and the UK have some special agreement in customs that says if anyone enters the UK through their airports, that Ireland can do the customs part. Basically for me, that meant that Ireland stamped my passport for my student visa instead of the UK. This in turn granted me a three month visa to study in the UK and Ireland, but after 3 months I have to be gone. As I am sure most of you are realizing, but my semester is about 4 months long and so I would be kicked out before it ended. At first I was panicking and thought that meant I had to fly all the way back to the states and come back or that this semester would be for nothing, but soon realized all i need to do is travel outside the UK, for example to France, and then reenter and have my passport re-stamped and the crisis can be solved! As far as my class schedule goes, I got lucky and only have modules Monday-Thurday so hopefully that will leave me with more time for adventures.
The best thing about orientation was meeting everyone. We made a Facebook group the last day of orientation and then Friday night planned for a bunch of us to meet up at one of the pubs in town. I would say close to 20 of us showed up and we sat at a rounded booth and pulled up as many chairs as we could. While there are around 12 kids from the states, I also met kids from Germany, Canada, Austria, Denmark, France and many other places. It was so awesome to get to hear about everyone’s home towns and stories about their schools and countries instead of only hanging out with Americans. I think that I am truly lucky to be able to have the experiences with different cultures and people here. Most people I know who study abroad only stay with a group of Americans, mainly from their university and never branch out of their comfort zone or get to know other ways of life. So far, while I do hang out with a group of about 7 other girls from the states, I have become friends with a girl from Hong Kong, a girl from Taiwan, and girls from Germany, as well as people from Uganda and obviously England. I have to say though that I am super surprised that I have actually only met and talked to one student who is actually from Wales. It really does feel like an international experience.
Night life here in Wales is a little different too. First off, most stores close at around 4 or 5, including most restaurants so if you plan on eating or shopping it has to be done pretty early. Otherwise, if you are in town past 5ish you’re probably drinking or playing pool. Pool is a pretty big deal here to the locals and almost every bar or pub has pool tables or specific rooms dedicated to the game. When I even told my flatmates that I have a pool table in my basement back home they were shocked and made comments that they needed to come visit me. In the town, we were told there are 52 bars/pubs. So far I have only made it to 3 of them but they were all fun. Of the 3, one was more of a dance club and they carded us at the door to get in. When they saw we were from America, they started asking us to pronounce words like “Alabama” to basically make fun of our accents which was somewhat entertaining. Another weird thing about going out here is that apparently on birthdays, the whole group of friends will dress up in costumes and go out bar hopping together. I saw a group of Lord of the Rings characters and some animals and pokemon people the first night we went out. I am sure by the end of the semester I will have made it to all 52 bars.
On Saturday, I went along with a group of girls from Wisconsin and Indiana to Shrewsbury, England. It was only a 2 hour train ride each way and made for a nice little day trip! While we were there we walked around the main town square and looked at all the cute shops and cafes. It was an absolutely adorable town with the classic english architecture and old style looking houses. There is also a huge park that is on the outskirts of the town that we explored. It was basically sidewalks crossing through all sorts of large green fields where dogs and children were running around having a great time. There were also statues and monuments scattered throughout the park as well as an enchanted garden. The park was along side a river and there was a bridge that crossed into the more residential area that had houses and town homes lining quiet streets. After exploring the park, we went and looked at the remains of the Shrewsbury Castle. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go inside because they don’t open it up during the winter months. The only downside about the town was that when we were looking for somewhere to eat a late lunch/early dinner, almost all places were closed. It must be a common thing to close super early all throughout the UK. The only places that were open we small cafes where we couldn’t all find spots to sit or that only served drinks. Finally we found a place that was a cafe and gelato place and we all had small sandwiches to eat even though it wasn’t as filling of a meal as we might of preferred.
During the train rides, the main sight you will see out the window besides the rolling hills, are sheep herds. There are literally thousands of sheep every where you turn out in the country side. I enjoyed this because they are super fat and fluffy and just laying around being adorable and are fun to look at to pass the time. Some things interesting about the sheep here are that most of them don’t have docked tails so when they are facing away from you or when the run they almost look like a fluffy dog mix. The sheep are also all marked with different colors of paint. Other than the sheep however, there is not much wildlife around. I have seen seagulls and other types of birds out along the coast, but there haven’t been any sightings of things like squirrels or deer running around so I’m not sure what all lives out here.
As far as the food I have been eating goes, I wouldn’t say that I have had too many traditional Welsh meals yet. I have had different pastas and caved and got a cheeseburger, but other than that, nothing seems very different so far. The only thing I did have was fish and chips and personally do not see where all the hype is. Cod is very bland so thank goodness for the chips (which I have been corrected for calling fries WAY too much). The other thing here about food is that they hardly put salt on anything and as we all know, Americans love their salt. I have learned now that I don’t even have to take a bite of my food first before salting it here because I know that there won’t be any on it already. I am hoping as time goes on though that I can maybe find more places to go and eat to try some foods that are native to Wales and branch out from my picky eating habits.
Other than that, I think I have been adjusting rather well to the area. Classes start tomorrow and I am anxious to see the difference in teaching styles here vs back home at Purdue. Also there is a slight chance I will be coming home with some form of english accent. I find myself often having my dreams or thoughts in english accents as well as constantly having to hold myself back from speaking out loud in a terrible fake one and offending people. We will see what happens! More posts to come after my first week of classes!!
Some pics are below, but also for more check my Facebook page!