It’s the Little Things

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It’s been a month since I’ve been in Wales now. The dust is settling. I’ve moved out of my B&B dorm and into my permanent accommodation at the Hendrefoilan Student Village until I leave in December. It’s off campus, about a twenty-minute bus ride to the university. It’s an apartment—rather, a proper British flat—in a large three-story building surrounded by woodlands and other residential buildings. It’s an actual student village, so there’s a library, a laundry mat, a store, and even a pub.

Most of my pre-sessional classmates are in the same building so it’s a fun time. We’re hoping to make a custom of “family dinner” nights. We still wander into each other’s kitchens regardless. We’ve also gained plenty of other international students in our flats, from Hong Kong to Sweden, Spain to China. Another Brad Henry scholar from Oklahoma is one of my flat mates and it is nice to have the familiarity.

Bus routes are being figured out. I’m adjusting to the weather more each day. I try not to leave the house without an umbrella anymore. I still struggle to remember to grab shopping bags before I head to the store; they charge for those here. Settling down means I’m adding to the amount of all-important “stuff” in my room (Hel-lo luggage fees when I return to the US…).

The school term finally started the second of October. I know, right? Crazy. What is even crazier is, I only have class on Mondays and Tuesdays. That will change in the middle of November, but I am looking forward to a lot of exploring in the meantime. I’ve officially finished my two-week pre-sessional course and we capped it off with a visit to mine and a castle—and an essay.

There are so many differences here I don’t know where to start. Of course, there are the castles, the coastlines and the quaint British villages. School assignments are minimal; class meeting times are less frequent. I don’t get around in my own car, but a bus. Space and personal space is less common, especially coming from Oklahoma where it is wide-open spaces.

Even a trip to the grocery store becomes an exploration in what is different. There aren’t any Nacho Cheese Doritos in Wales. There isn’t Pepsi. I’ve yet to see soft chocolate chip cookies (or soft cookies, in general). It’s the cookies I miss the most; the other two have been complaints from other American students here in Wales. Fortunately, I can bake cookies in my accommodation’s kitchen.

You find the strangest foods missing when you go to look for them, but most are available and in more varieties than the U.S. There are large populations with different tastes here. Despite what you read online, there is peanut butter in the UK; there is also salsa and guacamole.

There’s a lot of Indian food and spices, given the immigration from the previous Indian colony. There is a lack of Mexican food, but there is Spanish food. There’s a lot of pastries, both savory and sweet. It seems to be a British staple in many ways. There’s plenty of black currant-flavored foods and drinks here, which I’ve never seen in the United States.

Fish and chips is a pub stable, as well as steak pies. There are chips or peas with every pub meal. There are supermarkets, as well as food markets. There’s nothing quite so surprising as going shopping one afternoon and finding an entire festival of cultural foods happening in the middle of a street. I ate good Chinese food that day.

Wales is an adjustment, but it’s a fun adjustment.