St. David’s Day!

I remember when I was looking through study abroad programs and came upon Wales. It was the first time I’ve heard about the country and I knew that before I headed to the unknown I had to research it. Just from reading on the place, I was excited. Now that I’m here, two months later, I’m glad I made the right decision!

Wales is filled with nice weather, people, and places to see. Cardiff reminds me of a smaller version of New York City. Although there are differences, I feel comfortable and safe here. I have become accustom to my surroundings and cemented daily routines.

Recently, I headed down to the City Center to see their annual St. David’s Day parade, a celebration for the patron saint of Wales. I brought the Wales’ mascot hat (a red dragon) and joined the mixture of Welsh and tourists that came together for the celebration. While I walked through the streets I can see flags, flower pins, and hats everywhere I turned. In that moment,  I felt like part of the community.

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As I continued to walk the streets, I stopped for a moment to capture a duo dancing to music, while street vendors sold Wales merch. The street vendors always come out for special events like this. The only times I see them is during the Rugby matches that I had the pleasure of going to watch a game in one of the pubs for fun.

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I didn’t know what to expect of the parade. I was so use to the ones at home that I just assumed it’ll be the same. But then I realize there were no barricades or security insight. Their parades were a bit smaller and intimate. Overall, it was a fun experience, seeing the people in the parades, the music playing, and the smiles on everyone’s faces around me.

Once the parade was done, there was free access into Cardiff Castle. Cardiff Castle is one of the key places to visit while you’re in Cardiff. I haven’t went inside before, so I was happy to had a chance to. Once I was inside, my jaw dropped at how beautiful it was. I felt like I was in a whole new place as I looked around at the many people crowding around the grass. Although many things were restricted (just an excuse to come back) I managed to go up to a part of the castle and look down at the sight. For a moment, I felt like I was in an episode of Game of Thrones.

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It was a great to celebrate Wales! Events like this makes me appreciate picking such an interesting, historical and exciting place to study abroad. I can’t wait to plan travels to explore outside of Cardiff and love Wale even more!

Academic Adjustment: Cardiff Style

I can’t believe I’m in my 8th week of classes! I only have three more weeks left until my classes are officially over and finals kick in. I remember how intimated I was on the first day. I didn’t know what to expect because I was so accustomed to classes in SUNY New Paltz.

In the beginning of the semester, I can already tell the difference between SUNY New Paltz and Cardiff University. I was only taking three classes (each count as 20 credits), Tuesdays became my off days, and the earliest class for me was 9 a.m. It’s also tough getting to classes each day, especially on Fridays. I’m so use to all the academic buildings being so close to each other that when I came here, I was in for a total workout!

It was beneficial to take courses that will count towards both my major and minor. So I decided to take two English courses called Graphic Memoir and Reading Old English. I’m also taking a Journalism course called The Making & Shaping of the News.

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This where I have Reading Old English. I’m always the first one in the classroom :p

I decided to take Reading Old English, knowing it was a challenge. I like to say it’s the most challenging class I’ve ever taken in my three years of college. I’m basically learning a whole new language that I didn’t know existed. The first time I saw the text, I already had a feeling that this wasn’t going to be an easy A.

I felt at ease knowing the people around me didn’t have a clue on  how to translate Old English. Without the guidance of my professor and the glossary provided in our textbooks, I would be lost. Thankfully I’ve been doing the coursework and taking my time to understand for the upcoming exam.

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Long hours translating Old English!

 

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Bute Building – This is where my journalism class is held.

When it came to The Making & Shaping of the News, I was learning about UK news, something I’ve never learned before. I was learning concepts that some students were use to since their freshmen year of university. It’s also cringe worthy to watch examples of ‘bad news’ coming from America. It doesn’t help that the professor looks my way every time America is even mentioned.

But overall it’s interesting to learn about UK news and the background information I wasn’t aware of with news in general. Although this class wasn’t my first choice, I’m glad I had a chance to take it.

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Tons of reading for class!

By the end of my week, I have Graphic Memoir. I wasn’t expecting to analyze graphic memoirs! All this time, I viewed them as comic books, but there’s so much more to these work of arts. It feels similar to the English classes in SUNY New Paltz when it came to analyzing literature. However, in this case, we’re taking a closer look on concepts we learn each week on books like Maus and Fun Home.

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This where I take my English classes!

Out of all my classes though, it’s weird to have Graphic Memoir on the same day at three different times. It’s different from SUNY New Paltz because Cardiff University breaks up their week by lectures and seminars. My lectures are in medium-size lecture halls, where we are taught in great detail the topic of the week. But, the seminars are small and intimate. Just like SUNY New Paltz, all three of my professors know who I am and it gives me a chance to interact with other students during the seminar time.

Overall, my classes have been great! It’s been informative, interesting, and overall fun! Although it’s weird being the foreigner in most of my classes, it’s great to interact with people from around the world.

Now final essays and exams are another thing…

Adjusting My (Budgeting) Life

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Roath Park

I can’t believe it’s been over a month and a half! I’ve been settling in Wales nicely with juggling personal responsibilities, academics, and a social life.  Although I feel like time is moving fast, my life has been at a steady pace. It took a while to adjust to the calm atmosphere that Wales brings me.

I always considered myself an independent person. However, I realized I wasn’t as independent as I thought. It was a new challenge for me to start budgeting my life when it came to food, travels, and social events.

Although it’s fun to spend money on traveling and social events, it’s also important to budget money for eating. When I first came to Wales, I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know how I was going to use my money wisely. How was I going to eat and have fun at the same time? I realized I relied so much on a meal plan, that I forgot how to step out of it.

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First real cooked meal at Wales!

 

By the next week, I was getting better at budgeting. I began writing my expenses down and focusing on what’s important. I only cashed out money once (even twice) a month. I used the cash when I really needed it or my purchases were less than twenty pounds.

When it came to food shopping, I began comparing prices. There are three (sometimes four) supermarkets I look into. By comparing prices of the items I buy, I’m cutting cost and getting an abundance of items that can hold me for a month or two. Before coming to Wales, I was afraid I wasn’t going to find anything I like. But that fear slowly faded with the variety of choices I was familiar with when I walk the aisle of the supermarkets. Oh poptarts, how I missed you!

With a focus on what I’m buying and how much I’m spending, I have enough money left over for fun stuff like trips, social events with friends, and delicious traditional Welsh food!

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Traditional Welsh Breakfast

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Welsh Rarebit & Earl Grey Tea

 

I always relied on the advice of my mother or on SUNY New Paltz for so many of things. It’s weird not being able to pick up the phone and call my mother (with the rates for international calling and the five hours difference it’s difficult). It’s also weird that my student id is nothing more than just identification. I never use my id except to let people know I go to Cardiff University or discounts at stores (there’s 20% discount at Krispy Kreme’s!).

From meals to printing, budgeting has become a major adjustment to my life.

 

Welcome to the Emerald Isles!

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Because I had a night flight, I arrived in Ireland at 7am. I did not sleep at all, I was so anxious and excited. There was so many thoughts running through my head. Still to this day, I have no idea how I was able to even stay up for the whole flight especially since there was no wifi on the plane. When I got to Limerick, I toured around campus, unpacked, made myself at home…anything but sleep. I didn’t sleep for 48 hours and I didn’t have any caffeine at all. I was a zombie, I don’t know how I did it. I was just so excited.

Limerick is a beautiful place despite the constant cloudy weather. It’s so much different from New Paltz.

 

For example, there’s an ensuite kitchen in your apartment (no meal plans!) There’s no roommates, and you get your own bathroom. They provide pillows, blankets, a full size bed, a huge closet space. It’s massive! I currently live in a six bedroom apartment with two Irish students, two Americans, and my roommate from New Paltz, Joceline. When Joceline and I spoke to Sean and John (our two irish housemates) described our housing situations back at New Paltz, they were so shocked, “Wait!, How are you suppose to make toast?!, Fire hazard?, What?!”

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The Living Bridge, University of Limerick

After settling in, there was this three-day orientation for all the international students. I felt really, really welcomed. They gave us a beautiful tour of the campus, fed us their best food, and invited us to a concert (see youtube link above) Known for their traditional Irish music, this concert featured a group called, “Celtic Steps”, which consisted of someone playing the bodhrán (traditional Irish drum, similar to our version of the tambourine), the piano, accordion, fiddle (who is also on vocals), guitar/banjo, and four Irish step dancers (two male/two female). It was a stellar performance and I was so amazed by their talents! I wish I had the hand-eye coordination to do any of that!

 

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I am loving it here!

 

 

And so it begins…

Hey Readers! Due to technical difficulties, my blog was not published in time before my departure. So…some of my posts may be in past tense! However, thank you for following me and reading about my experiences! I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed blogging about them! Cheers, Sandra xx


I remember about two weeks before my departure, I went on this frenzy and panic that everything was going go all wrong. I started imagining crazy scenarios where I was going to be kidnapped or lost in the middle of a mountain region with no electricity or contact with anyone. I remember having to call United Airlines almost everyday with some bizarre question about baggage or my flight, and to make sure everything was okay. I suppose the paranoia was normal, since I’ve never really left the country, and have never really been on my own. It’s a scary feeling…hell, it’s still scary. But even with all the paranoia, I still managed to pack 48 hours before my flight (which is no surprise because I always pack at the last minute.) Even a few hours before my flight, I was STILL packing.

From the 48 hours before my flight, and the 48 hours after my flight, I remember being in such shock. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to really prepare themselves for an experience such as this. They say, studying abroad is an experience of a lifetime, and it truly is.

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