The Cardiff Experience: The First Two Weeks

Hello readers!

I’m currently writing this post at my dorm retrospectively because the last two weeks I’ve been busy with adjustment, classes, and a few issues revolving around classes.

After about 15 hours of travelling from Chicago to Iceland, London and finally Cardiff, I finally arrived at my residence hall, University Hall. It is located about 1.5 miles from the city center, but it offers a great community consisting of Cardiff University students. All of my flatmates are first year students, but they were very welcoming. I suggest to at least make acquaintances with your flatmates because you will interact with them daily, and they can offer great advice for getting around the city, things to do, and basically surviving university life overall. If you choose to live in a residence hall on campus, it is a great way to make friends with the local students and learn about their university culture. It took me about a week to adjust to my new living arrangement and lifestyle. When I arrived at my residence hall, I didn’t fully unpack, and I immediately went to a grocery store called Sainsbury’s that also carried home goods. I purchased bedding, shower supplies, and food for the next two days to hold me over until I got used to my surroundings and where to go. Sainsbury’s is not the most cost effective grocery store if you are on a budget, so I suggest asking your flatmates if you can for the best, cost-effective grocery stores to go to since most of them are also university students living on a budget. Shops such as Tesco and Lidl tastefully meet the needs of a student budget. Grocery shopping in Wales, and the UK overall, was an adjustment for me because residents only shop for supplies to last about 2-3 days, instead of about a week as Americans do. The portion sizes for milk, and other basic food items are smaller, but because Cardiff residents shop for food to last about 2-3 days, the portion sizes reflect the amount of time one would consume the products they bought until they would grocery shop again. I advise to eat like the locals because “American” staple foods such as certain types of cereal, pop-tarts, or strictly something labeled as an international food will be more expensive. Other basic foods such as pasta, meat, cheese, vegetables (fresh), fruit (fresh), bread, etc, are decently priced and one could easily live on a food budget of 25 GBP (~$35) per week. One of the first differences between my lifestyle in Wisconsin and now in Wales is how I make coffee. I’m used to drip coffee makers, however most stores in Wales, and UK for that matter, do not sell drip makers. As I heard from my flatmates, mainly only coffee shops use drip makers, if they do at all. My choices (that I know of) for home-brewed coffee are instant, with a cafetiere, or an espresso maker. For my first two weeks I relied on instant coffee, which does the trick, but it doesn’t compare to how I brew my coffee at home. They also do not sell creamer, but I also drink my coffee with brown sugar and milk, which is a very popular way to dress a coffee in Cardiff.

My first week in Cardiff was also orientation week. Cardiff University provides multiple opportunities for international students to get to know the university and surrounding area as well as other international students with tours and “potlucks.”  Because of that, I easily met other international students from all around the world. Thankfully I met a fun group that enjoys trying new food, places, and sightseeing.

Upon my first weekend in Cardiff I insisted on experience and exploration. The first day of the weekend I went to a few pubs and a club in the city centre with my flatmates to experience student nightlife. It was great! The last two days of the weekend I ventured to Cardiff Castle and Cardiff Bay with the group of international friends I made at orientation. Cardiff Castle is located right next to the city centre and Cardiff University. Its location blends the new and old: the rising city of Cardiff and the castle. From the outside, Cardiff Castle looks like a typical fort from the roman age, but inside its walls were bunkers dating back to WW1! The castle holds hundreds of years of history and coexists with 21st century Cardiff. This aspect of cities that date back centuries is one of my favorite reasons to travel. I love seeing the old coexist with the new. The next day my group of orientation friends went out to Cardiff Bay. Cardiff Bay consists of multiple restaurants and the remarkable performing arts center. The bay is about a 40 minute walk from the city centre and about an 80 minute walk from my residence hall. It’s a long walk, but it is worth it! There is always Uber too if walking seems undesirable (which can be very convenient, but costly).

In the beginning of week two I had a traditional Welsh breakfast with my orientation friends and explored Bute Park, which neighbors Cardiff Castle, with them. The Welsh breakfast was delicious! It consisted of bacon, sausage, an egg, lava scone (which originates from Wales), sautéed mushrooms, fried tomatoes, and black pudding (not my favorite but worth the try). I accompanied my breakfast with an Americano instead of tea because I was in desperate need of caffeine. After breakfast, we ventured out to Bute Park, which was expansive and gorgeous. The park lines a river, Cardiff Castle, and the city centre.

Within the next few weeks I plan to visit a few waterfalls, Oxford, and Warwick Castle, on top of classes and studying.

Until my next post,


Cardiff Bay
Wales Millennium Centre- In Welsh it reads: “Creu Gwir Gwydr O Ffwrnais Awen,” which translates in English as “Truth is as clear as glass forged in the flames of inspiration”
Interior of Queen’s Arcade
Entrance to Cardiff Castle
Inside Cardiff Castle’s Apartments- Library
Stained glass windows from inside apartments of Cardiff Castle
Council Room- Cardiff Castle
View from Cardiff Castle
Front of fort
View of Bute Park from top of castle
View of turret
Outside view of the apartments
Bunkers located inside the castle’s surrounding defensive walls
One of the many posters in the bunker; relates to WW1 precautions
Entrance into castle’s surrounding defensive walls and bunker
View of city centre from one of the turrets
Distanced view of the fort- Roman origins
View of fort, apartments, and entrance
Typical residential architecture in Cardiff
Afternoon tea
Sunny day at University Hall
View of Cardiff Castle through Bute Park’s gate
View of the castle’s surrounding defensive walls and moat
Bute Park
Traditional Welsh breakfast



2 thoughts on “The Cardiff Experience: The First Two Weeks”

  1. Thanks, I appreciate your comment Sarah! Hopefully you can make it over here before I leave for the U.S at the end of my program!

  2. I really enjoyed reading this blog, Leah! I’m glad that you are having a great time exploring and meeting new people!!!

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