Sun. Sea. Swansea

It’s been two weeks since I flew to London, the same day as my last article. What an adventure those two weeks have been. I arrived at Heathrow Airport to a rainy Great Britain; I laughed because the cliché of British weather proved true. Even the bus trip to Wales was a mix of sprinkles, downpours, and sunshine. Despite the arrival, it’s been beautiful.

Swansea, Wales sits on a bay so you find yourself with seagulls overhead and a view of the ocean from higher buildings. It’s a five-minute walk to the beach from the university campus. I think most of us would agree that’s amazing.

Swansea is a city of roughly 250,000 citizens with Swansea University at 17,500 students. There are plenty of shops, numerous cuisine choices, and good public transportation to get you where you need to go. The Welsh are helpful and friendly. Within a half hour of arrival, I had people suggest what to do in Swansea, where to go if I got lost on campus, and a random passerby show me how to get into my building, all without prompting. The suggestions and kindness have only continued.

Of course, I am here for university. That needs said because sometimes I feel I am on vacation. The Brad Henry Scholarship includes a pre-sessional course on British culture for two weeks before the official semester starts. I’ve been attending with a class of Americans, Germans, Canadians, and an Indian. We’ve been learning about British movies, politics, and music and how they cultivate into Great Britain of today. Lecture lasts for hours a day but I rarely notice the time pass between the breaks, the movies, and the jokes our professor makes.

Of course, the most exciting part has been the fieldtrips. We’ve gone to stunning Gower Peninsula; to the Roman Baths in Bath, England; and will soon go to Cardiff, Wales; and an old Welsh mine. All classes need more fieldtrips, right? Beyond university hours, afternoons and weekends are spent exploring. Myself and my classmates have gone to beaches, gone hiking, gone to pubs, and gone shopping. Individually we’ve done so much more I couldn’t begin to name it all.

With that said, I need to be realistic. This has been hard sometimes. At the end of the day, I am in a foreign country. The Welsh speak English, but occasionally you will come across someone you won’t understand because the accent is thick. The first person I couldn’t understand was the first person I needed to: my cab driver to the university. I didn’t get lost, but there was a bit of back and forth as I tried to understand him and he tried to make sense of me.

But you will get lost. You will miss buses. You will be amused by the British and Welsh names of items you recognize. You will wonder why the British eat beans and mushrooms with their breakfast. You will get confused by time zones, the metric system, and the British coin system. You will miss family, friends, and significant others. You’ll want to explore but just as much you’ll want to stay in your room watching Netflix because you’re tired of socializing, or you’re lonely, or you want to escape being in a foreign country for a bit.

Everyone in my class has done each of those things. We’ve become the people counting out coins for too long at registers. We’re those people looking at phone maps trying to figure out where we are. We’re the tourists who stop in the middle of a street for a photo. We’re the ones who walk on the wrong side of the street and struggle with knowing which is even the right side. We’re all in this together and, even then, we struggle making friends of each other. One night I complained to a friend at Northwestern it was hard to make friends here; the next day, I learned at least four of my classmates had gone back to their rooms and done the same thing with their friends back home.

So don’t let any worries stop you from applying for this scholarship opportunity. Don’t let any fears prevent you from exploring anyway. I may sound completely trite but be brave and be bold. It’s worth it.

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