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The Death or Rebirth of the Welsh Language

Time July 8th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

According to the Cambridge Dictionary the word unique is defined as “being the only existing one of its type or, more generally, unusual or special in some way” (Cambridge, 2009). This is a word that best describes Wales and the language and culture that lives within it. Everyday the world is becoming more globalized leaving certain customs and languages behind, which is why it is increasingly important to hold onto any unique qualities that a county and culture might have.

The one thing that you will notice right away if you decide to study in Wales is that on every street sign, words written in Welsh first and then English second even though only a small percentage of Welsh actually speak the native language still. But the Welsh Assembly Government has a strong stand on their beliefs, and can’t see the road signs being any other way.

The Welsh Assembly believes that the Welsh language is an important part of Wales’ national identity. In order to revive and revitalize the Welsh language, the Welsh Assembly has been creating numerous action plans for the government and people of Wales, which the public unfortunately isn’t too keen about.

The state of the world is becoming more globalized each day. Technology has now created the possibility and even the likelihood of a global culture, which I found to be very alarmingly so while in the U.K. With the amount of American culture that I saw each day, I sometimes forgot I actually was in a different country. Obviously the Internet, and Cable TV are sweeping away cultural boundaries. I have found that global entertainment companies shape the thoughts and perceptions of ordinary people across the world.

In the present day, it is very easy for a minority culture to disappear which is why extra effort in sustaining individuality is more important than ever. This said, I completely support the Welsh Assembly Government in their efforts of reviving the Welsh Language. I really do hope that the language is maintained for the sake of the identity and culture that exists in Wales.


The End of My Journey

Time July 8th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I really can’t believe how fast the time went by. This semester seriously was gone in the blink of an eye. Right now it’s bitter sweet for me knowing that my journey is coming to an end.

I fly home tomorrow and I am really anxious and excited to see my family again! Not being able to see my family for six months was the hardest part of this whole experience. One thing that I missed while studying in Wales was the sense of security, knowing that I always had my family to turn to if I needed support. Sure I had the phone and internet to talk to them, but it’s not nearly as good as sitting right next to them in the same room. Being away made me realize just how much my family means to me so my appreciation for them has definitely increased. Hence my excitement for being back home!

Even though I get to see my family very soon, I am still sad knowing that I have to say goodbye to this place where I made so many great memories. Being placed in a completely unfamiliar place like Wales has pushed me to grow as a person and really find myself. It truly was an experience of a lifetime. I’m sad to say goodbye to the people I’ve met and became friends with, knowing that I most likely will never see them again. (Hopefully I will.)

I remember the months before I left home and the excitement I had. I couldn’t wait to leave and start this amazing journey. But now it’s come to an end and I can barely believe I’m typing this right now. It feels like just last week I was getting on the plane in Minnesota just daydreaming about the adventure that waits for me in the U.K. For anyone reading this that’s planning on studying abroad, make the most of every minute while you’re gone. It really does fly by.

This truly was the best experience of my life and I thank the IFSA Butler study abroad Wales for making this dream of mine come true.


U.S. of May

Time June 2nd, 2009 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

One thing that I have noticed while experiencing the wonders of our native cousin’s land is of course their media influences. The UKs biggest and most influential media outlet is the BBC, focusing on mainly radio and televised programming. Unlike the US the BBC is subsidised by the British tax payer in the form of TV licensing, therefore this provides the financial security to develop some truly inspirational shows such as planet earth without the fear of it not attracting major audiences. This also goes for the BBC radio stations, meaning less advertising and more music or discussion. The British I have found are quite fond of discussion which combined with their unique sense of odd humour explains for the various radio stations the BBC has to offer. Not only this but the BBC also has various ethnic stations to cater for the cultural differences of the UK which like the US has been due to the cause of immigration for economic stability.

Due to the impact of being a relatively small nation whose main media outlet is half owned by the public results in national icons with long-standing history being almost completely unknown to the outsider i.e. Bruce Forsyth. The British also have a large amount of American programmes available via digital television or sky which is the U.S. equivalent to Cable. To me being a fellow American studying in Wales, these shows are awfully dated, many seasons behind and almost constantly repeated, yet are continually watched. A few examples are Friends, Scrubs, and the Hills. This in turn is quite funny yet tiresome to have people discuss what might happen in the future of the show when I’ve already seen the debated conclusion at home in the US.

In a way, I feel right at home when I turn the T.V. on in the U.K. This month on the music channel, throughout the month of May they are only playing American music calling the special the U.S. of May. Another consequence of this American media appeal, is a boxed or packaged America for the consumer (i.e. the British person at home watching) as television sub channels compete for viewings. This of course results, in a parade of (in my opinion) poor shows such as, sweet 16, the simple life and so on which projects an extreme consumer based version of my country, creating a stereotyped image of American people that isn’t accurate.

With saying all of this, I want to make it clear that I love BBC and all of the great British television shows that it produces. I find it comforting to know when I am homesick, I can turn on the T.V. in the U.K. and find Friends or Scrubs that I always watched back home. So in a way it is nice to find American shows and music on television, but yet again it’s still nice to see new shows.


Are the British Actually Polite?

Time June 2nd, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

How did the time go by so fast?! I only have 4 weeks left to study in Wales and I seriously feel like I just got here even though I’ve experienced and learned so much. The one part about studying in Wales. that means the most to me are the people and their camaraderie that they showed me.

One stereotype of the British is that they are very polite which I found to be true, but its not just a way they act in public to be respectful of others. They are genuinely nice and caring people. This is at least the case for me and for the friends that I’ve made while studying at University.

I couldn’t get over the fact of how caring and thoughtful people are here. Their general willingness to help others is far greater than what I experienced while living in the U.S. America has an overall individualistic culture where everyone has the general belief that they don’t need anyone’s help to get through the day where Britain has a more collectivist nature in the sense that they do offer help to others expecting the same treatment in return. When I speak to my friends, I feel like they are truly interested in what I have to say instead of just waiting for their turn to speak. My friends and peers look after one another, knowing that without each other, getting through the day would be a lot harder.

Being around very considerate people that count on each other’s support has made me feel differently about the individualistic attitude where it is believed that I could get by on my own. I feel the overall willingness to help others has increased the amount of kindliness among British people which is a much more pleasant environment to live in.


U.K. vs U.S.:A Look at the Education Systems

Time June 2nd, 2009 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

While coming to study in Cardiff University, I couldn’t help but compare the U.K. and U.S. education systems. The two nations hold many differences in their approach to teach students from the lecturing styles, testing methods, and the overall level of independence that the student is given. I have found with my own personal experience that the differences are in favor of the U.K. system in my belief.

The first difference that I noticed while studying in Wales was how often I have to go to lectures for one class. In the U.S., on average for one class I go to a lecture three times a week, where in the U.K. there’s only one lecture a week. The Universities in the U.K. make this work by giving the students an extensive reading list that they are expected to go through on their own time.

When I went to classes at my home University, I had a variety of classes to choose from but once I was in the class, I was given one book and told exactly what was going to be on the multiple choice test that would be given to me in about three weeks time. This is extremely different to the U.K. in the fact that the Universities give more freedom on what the student can focus his or her main studying on and what approach he or she can take with the one examination time at the end of the semester. At Cardiff University and other U.K. Universities like it, you are compelled to become a scholar. I personally have gone to the library everyday I’m on campus to find books I want to read concerning the coursework that’s at hand. In every class I have taken at Cardiff, I am given an extensive reading list which is a guideline to what materials I should be researching on my own time. This gives me the freedom to choose which researchers and theorists I want to read about in depth and inevitably write about in my essay examination.

The testing method that is used by the majority of instructors in the U.K. is the essay format. With this format, the student is given a selection of about three to five questions where they usually only have to answer one in their essay giving them once again freedom to choose the actual material they are tested on at the end of the semester. Writing an essay on the course work requires the student to understand the material thoroughly. With this, the student is more likely to remember what he or she has learned and use this newly gained knowledge in the future. In contrast, the amount of material that is covered on multiple choice exams that’s given to students in the U.S. on a weekly basis doesn’t have the same affect. With the amount of testing and material we are expected to know, I feel student’s like myself are pressured into memorizing the material rather than actually grasping the concepts of the matter.

In my opinion, Universities across the U.K. treat the students more as adults and the amount of knowledge a student obtains while at University is solely up to the student. At Cardiff University, the students are trusted that they will do the independent reading and attend the lectures and seminars. If the student chooses not to do this, it’s the student’s own education that’s at risk and this will be reflected in the student’s grades. This is basically common knowledge in the U.K., but in the U.S. it’s a slightly different story.

In my U.S. classes, mandatory attendance is taken every time I go to class. If I don’t go to class everyday I will be penalized. I am given a book or two and am shown exactly what I need to know for the exam. Having mandatory classes three times a week and four exams throughout the semester, I feel as if we are being checked up on, to make sure that we are actually doing are studying. The freedom and trust that the U.K. education system gives the student I feel is not there in the U.S. Also, I don’t feel motivated to be a scholar and go to the library to read in depth on certain course material because an A is very achievable on exams without doing this. I am given the book that holds the material that all of my testing will be on in class so there is no point in checking out books from the library to research different takes on the subject. I’ve never once had to check out a book at my college’s library in the U.S. but now that I’ve been at Cardiff, I’ve checked out about thirty books and counting.

Overall, I would say I do prefer the U.K. education system over the U.S.’s. The amount of freedom and independent studying at Cardiff University allows me to have is working really well so far. I feel like I am treated more as an adult in the sense that my education lies in my hands only. Because of this, I am really interested in getting a Master’s Degree in the U.K. sometime in the near future, knowing that it would only take half the time as well.

Thanks to the U.K. education system, I have realized that a library serves a higher purpose than just providing a quiet place to study. It’s in fact a place that holds many valuable resources in the form of text that can better anyone’s education. Who knew?


Cardiff University

Time April 7th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

I think its time I talk about the University I’ve been studying at for the past couple of months since I haven’t mentioned it at all yet which I feel guilty about knowing how much I love it. To my belief, Cardiff University is truly one of the best universities in the U.K. The campus is beautiful with the many regal buildings which were once used for the capital government organizations. Now the buildings hold many of the classes that I attend. Right now on-site, the flower arrangements all round campus and in the center garden are breathtaking. The visual appeal that Cardiff University has got me hooked right away but it has much more to offer.

The instructors that I’ve had in my six courses for the semester have been very informing and more than willing to answer any question I may have. With the structure of the U.K. education system, I am expected to become a scholar and research the topics that are discussed in class by reading articles and books of numerous authors to appreciate multiple viewpoints of the topic. This allows me to understand the subject at hand to the fullest extent.

When on comes to study in Cardiff,  you will have many opportunities that will allow you to become a better person. You will have the opportunity to become more globally aware while having the chance to learn more about your focus of study through a different cultural perspective. A decision to study in Wales will help you to become a much more open-minded and enlightened person overall. I believe that the best learning occurs when one is out in the world and experiencing what it has to offer first hand. With a semester abroad at Cardiff University, you will be given that opportunity.

My heart is set on completing a semester at Cardiff knowing that I can rise above the hardships that will occur and grow from them. Making sure not to take any moment of the journey for granted, I try to appreciate everything that the local and surrounding cultures of Cardiff have to offer and value the education lessons that are provided inside the classrooms and elsewhere. I’m really not a spokesperson for Cardiff University but I would encourage anyone a little interested in going to Cardiff to definitely go!!


What Exactly is The London Look?

Time March 25th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

You know those new cosmetics commercials that say “Get the London look”? Well I never knew what that was until now and that look definitely doesn’t involve tennis shoes.  When I was in London for the first time in January, I was walking down the busy streets taking in all of the sites, but something made me feel out of place.  It wasn’t my accent, my attitude, or how I interacted with people.  It was my shoes.  After being in the U.K. for quite some time now, I realized that the easiest way to spot an American in a crowd is to look at their feet.  If they’re wearing tennis shoes, they are American. Among the population of woman in London that day, it seemed like not one pair of tennis shoes was worn except by me.

Fashion is the one thing that always fascinates me so I thought it was necessary to go shopping and find out what women in the U.K. were wearing. After many trips to the different shopping centers in Bristol, Cardiff, Bath, and just walking around my campus, which is always filled with students that are dressed very well, I am very happy with what I found.

I noticed that women’s fashion in England and Wales is very smart and sophisticated.  Boots, flats, and heels are pretty much the only footwear worn.  Also, it’s all about accessorizing with scarves, hair clips, layers, different colored leggings, and uniquely patterned tights.  The most important accessory that every girl has with them every day on campus in Cardiff is their umbrella.  Black is very popular but many colors, some being very bold, come out in these accessories. 

While walking around on campus, I noticed that jeans are hardly ever worn and leggings with skirts are the popular trend.  This trend makes sense too considering the typical weather here.  One day I wore jeans to my lectures and it rained hard all day.  I luckily had my umbrella but by the end of the day my pants were completely drenched due to them soaking up the water on the paths. This is when I saw the logic behind wearing leggings and tights with boots; you’re not a human sponge by the time you get home!

I can honestly say that U.K. fashion is my new love and I really do want to get the London look! I was a little intimidated at first but after a couple shopping trips I think I’m fitting in a little better. It’s at least a good excuse to buy new boots! Knowing that the very nice shopping center in Cardiff is just five minutes away from campus doesn’t help my new obsession. Although, I’m really trying to stick to mainly just window shopping.  The U.S. dollar converts to only just 71 pence now! L As much as I love the fashion here, I really can’t afford it. Though there’s always hope for those sales to come around.



Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself

Time February 23rd, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

During the IFSA Butler study abroad Wales orientation in London, the day of the Presidential Inauguration came and everyone was very excited, not just the Americans but basically everyone we met that day. The orientation leader thankfully changed our schedule around so we could all watch the ceremony. Around four, after the IFSA Butler staff helpfully informed us on what living in the U.K. would be like and how the education system differs from the U. S., we walked to a pub off the busy streets of London. Not to my surprise, the pub was packed full of people whom all had the same agenda of watching the U. S. president being sworn into office.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve noticed that U.S. politics are as popular to the British people as their own politics. I believe this is the case because the U.S. is still the world super-power and the way that the U.S. is run will ultimately affect the U.K. in some form. A perfect example of this is the recession that is currently taking place in both nations.

As we were watching the inauguration, a prayer was said during the ceremony before the president was sworn in. Being that there were Christians, atheists, and Jewish people in the orientation group, the discussion of religion came up. It was said that in Britain, religion is completely left out of politics, which is very different from the U.S. Many members of the group were expressing their opinions of bringing religion into politics and disagreed with the idea completely. Five minutes later I looked outside the pub and noticed a red double-decker bus with an advertisement on the side which read “There probably is no God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Later, I realized that this quote was on almost every red double-decker bus in London. I was taken back by this because I was so used to seeing “Jesus Saves” quotes around so many places in the U.S. which has a completely opposite meaning. At this point I realized how the views of the majority in the U.S. compared to the views in Britain are very different when it comes to religion.

A recent poll taken among 1600 British school children showed that the person the kids looked up to the most was Simon Cowell with God coming in at sixth on the list behind Harry Potter and Santa Claus. If the same poll was done in the U.S., it would be interesting to compare the views of the children among the two nations. I wonder how different the ratings would be if religion was left out of U.S. politics as well.

Another part of the British Government that struck my attention is the political party of the majority. Britain is overall a liberal nation. For example, the issue of abortion is rarely brought up in British politics because it is generally accepted by the people so there is hardly any discussion on the topic. If I was at my home University talking to a group of my peers and said I was pro-choice I would have to defend my position because the majority would be pro-life. On the other hand, If I was at Cardiff University in Wales and said I was pro-life to my peers, they would wonder why because most of them would have views of the opposite. When looking at the extremes of the left and right wings among the political parties of both nations, the extreme right wing that exists in the U.S. cannot be found in Britain. For instance, if Sarah Palin tried to run for any position in the British government, they would think it was a joke. There would never be a spot for someone like Sarah Palin because her beliefs are too far right wing compared to the other views that are held in the British Government.

In so many ways, the U.S. and Britain are very similar but different at the same time. After living here for almost 2 months now, the differences are becoming very clear. One of my Psychology instructors at Cardiff said that by only living in another culture can you understand your own more clearly. I am currently finding this statement to be very true. All of the different views on politics and religion have made me re-evaluate my own opinions on such topics and have helped me define who I am as a person. Before I came over here, everyone said that you will find yourself while studying in Wales which I thought was kind of cliché and cheesy at first but you really do. Now I am living by this quote that I came across the other day that said “Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself.”


First Off-Roding Experience in Weymouth

Time February 13th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

A week after I arrived, a few others and I were in Weymouth, a city on the Southeast Coast of England. One day we decided to go off-Roding. To those of you who don’t know what this is, you basically get a land rover and drive it on trails that test it’s limits and see how well it can drive through mud, sand, water, sand, and etc.; basically trails that any car shouldn’t really go on unless you’re willing to let the car take a beating. A taste for adventure is key before going off-Roding as well. At the start of the day, the first trail we went on was right on the beach. Being that it was the first time I saw England’s Seaside, all I wanted to do was stop the group and just sit on the beach and take in the sight. Being the only girl this wouldn’t have gone over too smoothly, so we started driving. The first trail was really easy so my first thought of off-Roding was that it wasn’t too extreme, Not at all actually. Of course, this was before I knew what was to lie ahead of us. We worked our way up the hills, finding different trails on our way. The higher we climbed in the hills, the thicker the frost became on the trees and more fog formed. Again, I was taken back by the beautiful views of Weymouth’s countryside. Soon enough, we were at the next trail. This trail looked like it was right from a scene of Jurassic Park. It was dark with these huge trees and vines that hung down on the trail that was basically mud. There was a wall of rock on each side of us as well. The trail was almost impossible to drive on but we decided to try it anyway. At the start it was very bumpy and really fun. We approached this rock which was impossible to drive over so we got out and moved it ourselves so we could keep driving, not thinking about the huge likelihood that more rocks like it would lie ahead. As we continued forward, the walls of rock seemed to be closing in on us as the mud and rocks got bigger. It was loads of fun, until we got stuck. I think we all saw it coming with the looks of the trail from the very beginning. After getting completely muddy in our efforts to get the Land Rover unstuck, we achieved our goal and unanimously decided that the Land Rover was in dyer need of a wash and to call it a day. This day was very exciting and I am just overjoyed that I lived through it! I would happily do it again while I’m studying in Wales.


English Adventures: The Beginning Signs of a Great Land Becoming a Great Love

Time February 5th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Hello everyone! Since this is my first blog entry, I thought I should introduce myself. My name is Carrie and I am currently studying in Wales at Cardiff University for the semester. My main focus of study is Psychology but for this semester I am also taking some Welsh culture and language modules. I have come to study in Wales for a little over a month now and have experienced so much already. My home town is Mound Minnesota and my home University is North Dakota State, thus I have experienced so many changes to my normal way of life and just general interaction with others and their culture.

Since I’ve been in the U.K., I sometimes forget I’m in a foreign country. This feeling reminded me of how I felt when I just arrived at Heathrow. Right after we got out of the plane, we had to take a shuttle to terminal 5. At first I didn’t feel like I was in England because it all was so surreal to me… but then I went on the shuttle ride. I became completely aware of my surroundings when the driver was purposely driving on (what was to me) the wrong side of the road! Of course I always knew the British drove on the left side but even so, every turn we made I really felt like we were all going to die. . It was a very uneasy feeling obviously, but luckily everyone else was driving on the wrong side along with us so I lived through it! Another reality check was the first time I went to a restaurant and ordered a glass of wine with my meal. Being only 20 I knew I wasn’t in the U.S. anymore. Then after the meal, I asked the waitress for a to-go box and she thought I was nuts, not knowing at the time that the only person to ever ask for a to-go box would be someone that was homeless or just really desperate for food. So you could say that was a somewhat embarrassing reality check for me.

So much has happened already that it’s impossible to talk about it all so I will touch upon the most memorable and interesting times. I’ll start with the day I arrived and my first experience with the public transportation in England.

The First Train Ride

To start off I want to say how easy, convenient, and affordable the public transportation is in the U.K. Surprisingly, unlike the U.S., you don’t need a car to get everywhere. A lot of people prefer to take the bus or train over a car. I thought taking the train in the U.K. was very affordable in the beginning but now I have recently bought a Student Rail Card which saves me a third of the original price every time I buy a ticket! After arriving at Heathrow on my first day, I got on a train which let me see the countryside of England for the first time. I was so excited at the time that any new thing I saw no matter how miniscule it was amazed me. Every little street, car, or house I found really adorable. The sun was surprisingly shining and was setting at the same time so it made the rolling hills where sheep were grazing picture perfect. At this moment, I was overwhelmingly happy because I was in a land that I’ve been dreaming about going to for a very long time now. Knowing that it wasn’t just a dream anymore and in fact was my reality made me overjoyed. So the littlest things at the time, like just overhearing someone speaking with an English accent or seeing a round-about for the first time put a big smile on my face because it reminded me of the fact.