Major: Social Work
While in Wales I hope to gain not only a new perspective of the world, but a greater sense of peace within myself. When looking through the photos of previous UMBC students who have traveled to the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, the beauty and joy of being in Wales was shown through each student’s smile. I am exhilarated to experience this. I haven’t done a great deal of research about the culture of Wales, but as a group the UMBC group discussed various need to know information. For example, the term, “Cheers”, means hello and goodbye in Wales!
When thinking about what I am most excited about in Wales, nature is the first thing that comes to mind. Every photo I’ve seen thus far seems unbelievable and I cannot wait to capture the immense beauty of the shore, the mountains, and more. I am equally thrilled to explore castles in Harlech and Criccieth. The only part of this trip that I remain nervous about is the travel time because I tend to get motion sickness. There is a seven hour flight to London followed by a six hour bus trip to Wales. When discussing nervousness with a fellow student, they immediately offered me anti motion sickness bracelets that help control uneasy feelings when traveling. I’m eager to see if the bracelets work for me. Once the traveling venture is complete, I will feel more at ease.Overall, I believe this Faculty-Lead Program to Wales will provide myself and each of the other students with endless insight. With workshops and readings by authors nearly everyday and excursions to other various parts of Wales, we will be given so much time to think, write, and reflect. I’m looking forward to keeping you all updated on how everything pans out!
There are a few special things about my host country, Wales. My favorite is that the air here feels cleaner, fresher. Another is that you never know when itʼll rain. Itʼs nearly always cloudy, misty, and foggy so when the sun comes out itʼs a nice treat. All the locals speak English, but many of them also speak Welsh. In Welsh they use the letter, “W” as a vowel! For example, the Welsh word cwrw (pronounced coo-roo) translates to beer in English.
(Wales landscape near campus)
The Dylan Thomas International Summer School is focused around workshops and excursions. The workshops are lead by guest Welsh authors as well as the faculty who are on the trip. We are given a lot of space to learn, write something new, and improve our writing skills. We, the students, are given a prompt and time to write in each workshop followed by the option to read our work aloud to the group. The excursions are thrilling! Weʼve gone on hikes, tours, and visited museums.
(Exploration of Iron Age Fort, a hiking trail nearby Lampeter campus)
The locals are even kinder than I had originally expected they would be! Especially in Lampeter, everyone in the neighborhood knows one another so they reach out to say hello when we are in town. Myself and other U.S. students agree that the local people are far more interested in both us and America than we thought they would be! Additionally, this kindness is the strongest sense of culture shock Iʼve experienced in Wales. This holds true whether in town, at the pub, or even visiting a castle. The locals are always wholeheartedly interested in us and ready to offer advice in a heartbeat. Separately, on the first day while traveling to Wales I developed a cold. At a rest stop, I found my way towards a convenience store and had the trickiest time finding medicine! Each brand is different in the U.K. and I immediately felt so far from home when I couldnʼt even properly pick up cold medicine for myself. Luckily, another student on the trip lived in London for a few years when they were younger. They were able to advise a wise choice & within two days I was back to my full health!
(View from the top of the Harleich Castle)
Lampeter is a small town. We went on a tour on our first day and it took no longer than 30 minutes, even while walking slow! There are endless shops and people walking around with their friends, families, and dogs. Shops seem to open and close when the owner wills, much more loosely than usual in the U.S. It always smells a bit soggy due to the weather, even so when the sun shines! There arenʼt many trash cans around. Youʼd think this means there is more litter, but the streets remain fairly clean. The town itself is rather quiet apart from the sound of cars rushing past, they certainly zip by! It is important to look both ways multiple times before crossing the street, especially because they drive on the opposite side of the road in comparison to the U.S.
(In town, Lampeter)
A typical day in this program consists of breakfast on campus followed by a workshop. This workshop can be either on campus or off campus while on an excursion. Some workshops are lead by the professors involved with the program while others are lead by guest authors. Lunch is either on campus or taken to go. We usually have multiple workshops and excursions until dinner time. Post dinner, we hear from either an established Welsh writer or an instructors from the program. Once the reading is done, some students usually get together and head to one of the local pubs. A hot spot is Nags Head, sometimes locals practice music and fill the air with exciting folksy sounds.
(The inside of the bus while on excursions)
The first assignment for the Dylan Thomas International Summer School was to be completed before we arrived. The prompt asked us to write about the Wales of our imagination, focusing closely on how the five senses interacted with our vision. I wrote primarily about the clean air, inspiring views, and the insight that would follow being in this environment. The intensity of insight has far exceeded my expectations and proven to be the most surprising part of the trip so far! During the workshops and while on excursions, we are given time to reflect on what weʼve learned and write about what weʼve felt. When given the space to read our pieces, itʼs both exciting and nerve wracking. Itʼs interesting to hear what others create with the same prompt you were given. Itʼs sometimes scary to read your own work aloud, especially when there is not much time for revision. Overall, I feel more confident as a writer and Iʼm thrilled to continue using the new skills Iʼve learned while abroad!
(A view of the sea in New Quay)
Advice that I would offer other people interested in studying abroad is to utilize the time given to you. If you are provided with optional outings, go for it! You can catch up on sleep soon enough. Each experience is worth it! Additionally, never forget about your studies. The experiences you’ll have will be incredible and it’s important to take full advantage of being abroad!
(Walking to the Dylan Thomas Boat House, Laugharne)
While in Wales, I think the thing that I missed the most about being in the US was the availability for comfort food. Even their candy bars and sodas have a different taste! Sometimes I just wanted to have something simple like doritos, but all of their flavors are different in the UK! For example, their most popular flavors are called Cool Original and Chilli Heatwave whereas in the US, Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch are the most common flavors. There also seems to be a significantly lower amount of salt used in the food in the UK. Although, there is something I will always miss about my experience in Wales. For each meal, there were always various vegetarian options. I am a vegetarian and I often struggle to have adequate meals in the US whether dining out or at a friend’s house. Food is interesting whether abroad or not!
I don’t think I’ll face any significant reverse culture shock, but I think I will miss the structure and schedule of the abroad program in Wales. There was always an exciting excursion or activity planned each day, especially because it was a 12 day program. Although we didn’t have much spare time during the day, it was exhilarating to see where we would go next. It will be interesting finding ways to imitate this during the summer at home.
(View at the Dylan Thomas Boat House)
I plan to see each of my primary friends and family members to immerse myself back into life at home. It’ll be difficult to fully explain my Wales experience without them having been there before. Although, I will have a head start using all of the photos I have taken while in Wales. I will share some of the writing prompts we did while i workshops and how the prompts were related to excursions on the trip. Luckily, I was able to do this program with one of my best friends! I also made a lovely group of friends who I will continue to talk to throughout the summer and hopefully throughout life.
(Three UMBC Friends, New Quay)
I want to keep my study abroad experience as a key factor in my life. To do so, I will keep in contact with the friends I made, the instructors I met, and continue to use the endless skills I have learned while on this trip. I feel more ready than ever to explore the rest of the world. Now that I’ve got the handle of traveling internationally, it will be so fun to see how other countries operate. I can’t wait to see other place’s sites, try their food, and see their sites. I will be able to base my perspective off of the US and Wales for now, but as I travel to more places I will have a much stronger perspective on the varying ways of living in this world.
There were a few big takeaways from my international experience in Wales. First and foremost, when traveling it is essential to give yourself plenty of time before leaving whether going on a plane, bus, or whatever transportation you end up using. While going through the airport getting ready to leave my host country, the UMBC group of students heading back on the same flight encountered several stopping points. We got split up while getting bags checked and going through security, there was an issue for each of us. By the time we got to the plane, it was time to board! Thank goodness we didn’t miss the flight. Another takeaway was fully seeing that the American way is not the only way. There are different laws, values, and attitudes to understand while in a new place. Always be willing to listen to the local people in their environment, there will be something new to learn. I look forward to the new places I will visit in the future as well as the interesting set of rules they have in place. The last big takeaway I had while in this program is that anyone can be a writer. Words have a tremendous amount of power and their influence on people can change the world.
(Dylan Thomas’s Boat House with a slate roof overlooking water)
When applying for this faculty-led abroad program through UMBC, I was able to navigate the application with ease. There are a few steps, but it walks you through each process and the UMBC abroad office is both very responsive and helpful if needed! It was nerve wracking waiting to find out whether or not I got into the program, but this is often the case for people once applying for something. The faculty-led aspect of the program was fantastic. It was reassuring to have both a professor and other students from UMBC while in a new place. I found comfort in the similarities between myself and other students from UMBC while in a new place which also made it a lot easier to compare aspects of the host country to home! The transcript from the host school in Wales with the received grade for the creative writing course was easily transferred over to UMBC too! This is sometimes a struggle for students who study abroad.
(Soft pastel homes inline with one another)
Since my experience in Wales, I have greatly considered going abroad again. I’m grateful to have a growing understanding of the world at large. It was also amazing to see how a different place operates in comparison to my home country. I want to continue to travel and keep seeing new places! I wasn’t always sure about this, but ever since my trip abroad I feel like my future destination is outside of the U.S. and I’m looking forward to exploring new places and finding the right one for me. I’m not sure whether I will look for a future career in another country or if I will wait until I reach a retiring age, but I love that the possibilities are endless.
In reflection of my experience before, during, and after the program, I can only do my best to put into words what Wales has meant to me. We were taught that there is a history of otherness that resonates deeply within the country of Wales and the Welsh people within it. Rather than feeling cast out the Welsh people have created a culture of Hiraeth, a word that cannot be fully translated. It can be known as longing, homesickness, and a feeling of being in between two spaces. I will always remember the power of Hiraeth, of being in between. There is a lot of room for growth for all of us! Being in between means you’ve made it this far and you’ve got more growing to do. I have never viewed myself as a writer before this program and I have more confidence in my ability to write than ever before. I have never taken a plan outside of the U.S. before and now the idea of visiting other new places feels within reach. Most importantly, although I have depression and it did not disappear when I left the country, I’ve learned that the person in their environment can have an important impact. I felt extremely positively impacted by Wales and I am looking forward to finding the most ideal living situation for myself one day!
(One last beautiful view, featuring members from the trip)