Exit Interview: the Cardiff Experience (Part 2)

June 14, 2016

in Europe, Melanie Kohls, Spring 2016, Wales

cover photo

[after six weeks of exams and traveling we’re picking up where we left off.]

Gwyneth/Sioned: Did you change your hair or something?  You look…different.

Me: *wearing dark glasses and a beret, waving a cigarette around without actually smoking it*  I’ve been to Europe, yes.  *dramatic pause*  It changed me.

G/S: Wow.  Hmm.  Well, technically you’ve been in Europe since January*, but I guess we’ll let that slide.  By the way, how did your exams go?

I think they were alright!  The short-answer and essay formats weren’t much different from what I see in Madison, but the idea that one test makes up 80% of my grade still doesn’t sit too well.  I don’t get any results until July, but I spent hours revising and I’m proud of the work I put in.

That’s good, then.  Anyway, I believe we were talking about your social experience here?

Yes!  Like I mentioned, I didn’t see my classmates much outside of class.  But from day one, the uni held events specially for study-abroad students.  It was a lot like freshman year – a campus walking tour, a “let us help you enroll and then give you free cookies”, a trivia night in the student union.  What’s perfect about these functions is the way they level the playing field.  It’s okay to look a bit nervous, it’s totally cool to introduce yourself to strangers!, because everyone’s in the same boat.

I still remember sitting in the Main Building after a tour of downtown Cardiff, drinking strong black tea with two girls from Sweden, a girl from Austria, and a boy from Australia.  I didn’t know (obviously) that Emma, Ida, Elisa, and Josh would remain my close friends all semester long.  I just knew they seemed friendly, and interesting, and I was grateful to have people to sit with.

Waiting at a crosswalk that afternoon I noticed nametags on the people standing nearby – the same nametags we’d been given before our tour.  Confident and caffeinated, I walked up to say hi, and boom: more new friends.  We all met for drinks that night, and over a few pints plus an extremely mediocre pitcher of mojitos, a bond was formed.

[By this point I think my interviewer would have gotten tired and gone home, but I’m going to keep talking.]

From there, things snowballed in the best way.  In those first few weeks, we won Trivia Night!  We toured Cardiff Castle!  We sat down for High Tea!  We couldn’t be stopped.

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Today, our chat on WhatsApp (creatively named “Cardiff”) has about 30 members, and every day I can pretty much guarantee that someone will be up for something – coffee downtown, a Coast Path hike. 

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Because we’re all studying abroad, we’re motivated to get out and explore.  I’ve seen more of Wales in six months than some CU students will see in a year year, all thanks to my friends.

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We’re a pick-n-mix of writers, doctors, social workers, engineers, scientists, and mathematicians ranging from 19 and single to 26 and engaged (congratulations, Thorbin!!).  We’re tall, tiny, sassy, sweet, dancing queens, serious students, veggies, carnivores and we make an absolutely killer team.

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If you’re reading these blogs to help you decide if studying abroad will be a good experience – it will.  If you’re worried that you won’t make any friends – you will.  If I can do it, you can do it!  Even better, you’ll probably meet at least one or two of the people that Anne of Green Gables would call your bosom friends – “really kindred spirits” you’ll keep in touch with long after you return home.

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That return flight home is creeping up on me now, somehow even faster than what I mentally prepared for.   Luckily I have more words of wisdom, from another fierce fictional redhead: Pippi Longstocking, or Pippi Långstrump to my German & Swedish friends.  The end of Chapter One of her story goes like this:

“Suppose you go home now,” said Pippi, “so that you can come back tomorrow. Because if you don’t go home you can’t come back, and that would be a shame.”   Tommy and Annika agreed that it would indeed. So they went home, past the horse, who had now eaten up all the oats, and out through the gate of Villa Villekulla. Mr. Nilsson waved his hat at them as they left.

If I don’t go home, I can’t come back.  And that would be a shame.

*NB: things might change on June 23rd!  I obviously can’t vote on the Brexit referendum, but I’m following it closely.

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