Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Last Days in Wales

December 12-16
Packing: attempting to put three months of souvenirs, clothes, shoes, etc. into one suitcase, hiking backpack, and duffel bag. It didn't happen. At first. After throwing away some things, rearranging others, and putting a few things with my cousins luggage, everything fit!

Last sunset by the sea:


Mincemeat pies and Christmas cake at a Christmas party. Mincemeat is not actually meat but a mixture of dried fruit and spices.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A little about my stay in Wales

         The wind meanders from the sea to stroll through the town of Aberystwyth. It window shops through all the different small stores, picks up the fragrance of fresh coffee and scones, is pushed on by the incoming train, speeds past a few fields of woolly sheep to pick up and carry on their message of baa, and finally, at the top of the hill, delivers all these sensations as a caress on my cheek as I stop in the middle of the pedestrian bridge to admire the sunset kiss the waves goodnight. Aberystwyth is a university and town full of many charms. After being here for almost three months, I already know that I look forward to coming back to visit. A semester here is quite a bit of time but not really enough to fully enjoy and find all the nooks and crannies. I'm going to make the best of my time here and try to see as much as I can.
Sunset on the pedestrian bridge overlooking Aber and the sea.

          One simple thing that I have really enjoyed is the different words that are used for everyday things. They call their rain boots wellies (Wellington boots), their cookies biscuits, flashlight is torch, eraser is rubber, tennis shoes are trainers, a jumper is a sweater or jacket, the line to checkout is called a queue,  and cheers or cheerio can be a replacement for thanks and goodbye. They call french fries chips and their chips crisps. The trunk of the car is called a boot and if you want to call someone later you tell them you'll give them a ring. One of the things that I've had to get used to is people asking me if I am okay, because that is their way of asking how are you? And all of this is said in an accented voice. But of course I'm the one with the accent here and people usually pick up that I'm from America pretty quickly.
           Some other things to get used to is people driving on the opposite side of the road. I still have to look both ways when crossing the street for both sides because its just so different. I'm sad to say I didn't realize what the speed limit signs were until I asked somebody... In my defense I come from a place that have the words 'speed limit' on their speed limit signs.

When eating out you don't tip the waiter. They are a bit stickler on checking that your signature is the same that's on your credit card. After going to the grocery store and checking out there's no extra tax to pay.
The classroom is a bit different from back home as well. The class sizes are smaller and instead of desks we sit in rows behind these long tables. We start classes ten past the hour and are required to sign into the lecture using our student IDs. The setting is a lot more informal than back home where the professors wear a suit and tie. My professors here usually wear jeans with a t-shirt or jumper. They also encourage you to call them by their first name. This makes them a lot more approachable and easier to ask questions.

I am part of the IBERS college here at Aber.

Almost everything is in two languages here: English and Welsh. It's pretty cool, though if you don't know Welsh and try to say the words 9 times out of 10 you are saying it wrong. Welsh is an interesting language. Fun fact: without sheep people wouldn't have been able to settle down in Wales and make a living and so create the Welsh language and culture. Sheep are literally the reason the Welsh language exists.

Here are some additional thoughts of mine based off of questions I have been asked:

1. Why did you decide to study abroad?
I decided to study abroad because I wanted to see some of the world before I got caught up in a full time job. I didn't have too many classes left to finish my degree and the college provided scholarships for studying abroad which made going easier. It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up as I really want to travel to see new places and experience different cultures.
2. What has been your favorite experience while abroad?
My favorite experience so far has been climbing Snowdon, Wale's highest mountain, with the hiking club. I really like outside activities and exploring nature so getting to the peak after three and a half hours of climbing was a noteworthy accomplishment. I also met a lot of really nice people in the group and have went on several other hiking trips with them since then.
3. How did you prepare for your trip?
I prepared for my trip by talking with others who had studied abroad and people who live in Wales. People who have had similar experiences or know the area are a wealth of information. I also searched online for some basic information on Wales to get an idea of what the culture was like.
4. Where have you traveled while in country?
I have traveled to Snowdonia National Park three different times with the hiking club to climb mountains: Snowdon, Cadair Idris, and Aren. I have been to the cities Borth, Shrewsbury, and Birmingham. On class field trips I have been to Saundersfoot beach, the RSPB YNYS-HIR nature reserve, and Bwlch Nant yr Arian nature reserve. I have been on field trips with the international office to Devil's Bridge and Birmingham and plan on going to Cardiff and Machynlleth. I also have plans on visiting Scotland, London, and Paris.
5. What are your classes like? How are they similar and different to Purdue?
My classes are a lot smaller than at Purdue. They all have around 30 students in the class. Things that are similar to classes at Purdue are the classes last for 50 minutes with the professor teaching from powerpoint slides. Things that are different would be that I have to sign in for attendance at every class, there are no desks just long counters with seats behind them, there's no homework or quizzes, and only one exam at the end of the course. The exam at the end is all essay questions and makes up most of your grade. They have a different grading scale here where a 75% is really good. Besides an end exam, I have a few practicals in two of the courses and in the other course I have one other essay that contributes to my grade besides the end one. Instead of homework, you are expected to do extra reading outside of class that pertains to what is being taught at the time.
6. What experiences have you had that made your trip more interesting?
One thing that has made my trip more interesting is that because the drinking age is lower here it is common to go bar hopping during club socials which happen every week. It's such a different atmosphere for socializing within a club.
7. What are some things you have struggled with?
I have struggled with being separated from my family, friends, and everything that is familiar. I can't pack up, drive a few hours, and be home for the weekend. It's really challenged me to stay busy and meet new people to socialize with. They also don't have the same foods or brands here which make baking a bit difficult but then this challenges me to try new things.
8. Would you recommend others to study abroad? Why?
Absolutely. It is such a fantastic way to see new places, meet new friends, and immerse myself in a different culture. It forces you to grow as a person and become more aware of others around you which are great qualities to have.
9. What classes are you taking? Which one is your favorite?
I am taking Ethology, Animal Bioethics, and Marine Biology. My favorite is ethology, the study of animal behavior, because I worked in a lab last summer working with animal behavior and I find the topic enthralling.
10. How do you think your experiences abroad have influenced you?
I will definitely be more likely to ask strangers questions and strike up a conversation than before I studied abroad. Studying abroad has also really opened my eyes to how the United States of America influences other parts of the world. I had not realized how much others followed America's politics and other things we do. We are a HUGE impact on other countries and the people that live there. I have gained a new perspective on American issues and hope to make more informed decisions in the future because of it.

These questions were for an interview with the Purdue study abroad office and my story got put onto the front page of their website! Check it out:

Their flag has a dragon on it!! That is reason enough to come visit Wales :)
Image result for wales flag

I have definitely learned a lot while studying here. I have made new friends and immersed myself in a different culture. I know I have changed as a person while here. I can't wait to tell everyone of my experience back home and I can't wait for my next abroad experience!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


The international office planned a trip to a nearby town called Machynlleth. They said that at one point people wanted it to become the capitol of Wales. It did not, Cardiff is the capitol, but it was a nice little town. Within the span of two hours I had visited almost all of the shops, the art museum, and walked up and down the two main roads. So not a very big place but it was nice to see another Wales town.

St. Peters Parish Church:

War Monument

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA):

My favorite piece! Fishing Lesson by Terrance Lambert done in pencil.
Another by Terrance Lambert done in ink. I think I have definitely found another artist I greatly admire. Just exquisite.

Back out to the streets:

Welsh cake with a mocha :)
Christmas lights!!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Brecon Beacons

This past weekend I traveled to Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales with the Aberystwyth Hiking Club. The national park contain four ranges of mountains, one of which is the Beacon Beacons. It was established in 1957. We stayed in a nice little bunkhouse where we enjoyed each others company and a warm fire in the evening. We hiked for the better part of the day on Saturday and several hours of the morning and afternoon on Sunday. We ended the weekend with a group meal at a pub on the way back. It was a nice closure to a great weekend full of conversations, hiking, and shenanigans.
Saturday's hike:

First peak!

Our next destination: that peak in the distance.

A pixie's cup.

Second peak!

Making a new friend on the way back

Sunday's hike:
12 man survival tent.

Breathtaking sky.

Pen Y Fan is the highest peak in South Wales.

Frozen puddles. The group was greatly enamored by it and the idea that it might hold their weight.

Heading back to the bus' after a great day :)