February 14, 2011
Interested in studying abroad in Swansea, Wales? Find out what it's like by checking out Kristi Smith's experience.
It wasn’t a matter of whether I should study abroad, since I had planned on studying abroad since my freshmen year. The question was, where should I study abroad? After researching the possibilities and talking to students who had previously been abroad, I chose the CSU-Sponsored program in Swansea, Wales. Swansea University planned trips throughout the semester to go on, and the study abroad office planned excursions to nearby towns. Talking to previous students made me realize Swansea was a perfect fit for me. While it was hard to leave my current life behind, I knew there was a new adventure awaiting me a short nine hour plane ride and four hour bus ride away. In hindsight it was definitely the best decision of my life!
Swansea is located in South Wales and is the second largest city after Wales’ capitol, Cardiff. It is a beautiful city, right along the beach in close proximity to the Gower peninsula and the Welsh countryside. They do have their own language, but the majority of the people speak English. Every street sign and all the emails I received had a Welsh translation under the English, and some of my housemates could speak Welsh. It is a very different language that could not be made sense of in my time there. The only word I came back knowing is “pop-it-e-ping” meaning microwave (and I only know how to say it, not spell it correctly).
Campus was right across the street from the beach and was smaller than CSU with many fewer students. While the weather was rainy, as most people would think when hearing of Wales, there was not rain every day. There were nice days and I did see the sun many times while there. On my last night I even got to experience snow (which doesn’t happen often there)!
I had many opportunities to travel and explore the UK while abroad. Only an hour bus ride away, you could make it Rhossili Bay in the Gower peninsula – a beautiful site and worth seeing when in Wales. The study abroad office planned day trips including touring castles and a trip to Stonehenge. I also went on two trips to Paris and Amsterdam, planned by the travel shop on campus. Along with the planned trips which were optional, I was able to plan independent travel to Ireland and London (an easy three hour train ride away). With Swansea’s train station in the middle of the city centre, Swansea was an accessible area to travel from while still allowing me to feel like I was living in a different culture, not a tourist town.
Most of my time in Swansea was spent in the student village, on campus, or in city centre which was always an adventure. There were many stores, shops, food and most of all the nightlife. There was one street that was full of pubs and bars which most students go to on Monday and Wednesday nights. Everything was in walking distance around city centre and everywhere else nearby could be reached by bus.
One of the most important aspects of studying abroad is actually studying and taking classes. I took a total of three classes while I was there, one during the first two weeks before the semester and two during the term as they call it. This meant that I wasn’t in school for nearly as many hours as I was used to at CSU. While it was nice to have the time to get to know my housemates, travel, and hang out, school was a huge adjustment. I did not have any exams, instead I wrote five essays throughout the semester. While adjusting to school was one of the harder adjustments for me, I had awesome friends to help me along the way.
Swansea did a great job at allowing us to get a feel for our new home. In the first two weeks there was a pre-sessional course which included taking a class on British Culture and Politics. It was for Americans who were studying abroad that semester and it was held prior to the British students’ arrival on campus.
It was comforting to meet other Americans and learn a new area with people who were experiencing the same thing. While it was nice to have the comfort of other Americans, studying abroad to me meant experiencing a new culture so I was eager to meet British students. I lived in the student village which was two miles away from campus, but it was an easy walk or a short bus ride. I was in a house with nine other students, one large kitchen, and two bathrooms. There were a couple other Americans, Welsh, and English students in my house. This is where I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had. My housemates and I did everything together, making it easy to adjust to life in Wales for the semester. While I have only been back for a couple months I still keep in touch with my housemates and we are already planning trips to visit each other. I know that we will always have each other even though there is an ocean between us.
Leaving my experience was one of the hardest things to do, but because of the friends I met I know that it not only impacted my life but it was the best experience I have ever had. I highly recommend anyone who is interested to go out of their comfort zone and study abroad. While it may be hard to leave your life behind and may be hard to adjust to a new life in the beginning, when you look back it is the best decision you will ever make.
Are you interested in learning more about study abroad opportunities at Swansea University in Wales? If so, join us for the following events on campus:
The CSU Study Abroad office will be hosting a Flea Market table in the Lory Student Center on Wednesday, Feb. 16 from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Stop by to learn more about study abroad opportunities in Swansea.
Join us for an information meeting Wednesday, Feb. 23, at noon in the Study Abroad office, Laurel Hall, to learn more about study abroad in Swansea.
At the meeting, you’ll have an opportunity to talk to study abroad staff and Swansea study abroad alumni to get more information about this great program.
Story written by Kristi Smith, junior, Health and Exercise Science and participant in the fall 2010 semester abroad in Swansea, Wales.
Contact: Robert Booker
Phone: (970) 491-5917