Tales from Wales: Abby's Study Abroad Experience

Thank god for modern technology, which allowed me to stay in contact with my best friend, Abby Scadden, during her semester abroad in Wales last fall. I missed her so much, and even with Skype, GroupMe, and emails, it was still hard to talk to her with a seven-hour time difference.

Lucky for me, that semester is now over and I got her back! I wanted to know how her trip went, so I asked her to sit down for an interview with me.

Name: Abigayle Scadden

Year: Junior

Majors: History & English

Clubs: Dungeons & Dragons, Harry Potter Storytime Club, Fandoms

Welcome back! Let’s dive right in. Where did you study and what classes did you take?

I studied at Bangor University in Bangor, Wales, which is a small college town. I took three classes. One was called Magic and the Supernatural which was really fun, it was about the history of witchcraft during the Middle Ages. Another class was called the Heroic Age, which was Wales from 800-1100 CE. That was a little boring, but it was interesting sometimes! The last one was called Film History, which is exactly what it sounds like. We looked at the beginning of films into the modern period.

What was your favorite thing to study?

I really enjoyed the German Expressionism unit and the Italian Neorealism unit, both part of the Film History class.

Did you live with other DU students, other international students, or other people entirely?

I lived on campus, I was actually the only DU student at Bangor. There was one other abroad student living with us from India, and the rest of my flatmates were local students, which means people from all over the UK.

Being the only DU student, not gonna lie, kinda sucked. I didn’t know anybody and I had no one to fall back on if I needed help. Luckily, I had the international office at Bangor and the OIE advisor and my friends back home, but it’s hard to talk to the advisors in Wales about things I would’ve wanted to talk to my friends about. So, it was difficult for a little bit to be by myself, but once I adjusted to new people it was fine, it was like being a first-year in a new dorm again.

 

What was it like being in a different country?

It was kind of crazy. I’d never had to deal with time differences before except for an hour or two difference when friends are in different states over the summer. In Wales, there was a seven-hour time difference between me and all the people I know. When they were going to bed, I was getting ready for class.

It was also weird because I grew up in Denver. I may not have grown up near the DU campus, but I still knew of it and knew the area. Out there, everything was brand new. It was a lot weirder than being home.

How was Bangor as a town?

I really liked it! It was a lot smaller than Denver, since it’s just a small college town. I think the population is 17 thousand, with 12 thousand of those being students. It was nice because you could get anywhere in thirty minutes, walking. A lot of students don’t have cars because it’s just not necessary. There were a lot of bikes, which was nice. Most people there were bilingual, so they spoke both English and Welsh. It was nice to have people who spoke English but also be immersed in Welsh culture and language.

Only one of my flatmates was from Wales, and she would occasionally speak in Welsh when she was on the phone with her parents but other than that she mostly spoke English.

Did you go on any trips?

I went to a couple of places! First, I went to Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest like most students do. That was really fun, it was mostly a sight-seeing thing, seeing the English Gardens and being at Oktoberfest. It was nice to just be a tourist and say, “hey, I did this thing!”

I went to Bath, in the UK. I think it was a six-hour drive on a three-day weekend trip that was sponsored by Bangor University. Fifty students, mostly international students, got to go on this trip together and we got to see Stonehenge on the way back from Amesbury. Bath was really cool, it’s one of the oldest cities and a lot of the architecture is its original architecture. It was crazy.

I went to Manchester a couple of times. It was the closest airport and it was also the closest Christmas market. There were some markets in Wales, but Manchester’s was a lot bigger. Those are a fun tradition all across Europe. They had this huge, light up Santa in the center of the market which was fun. They mostly had food and drinks at them.

And then I went to Dublin for a weekend, which was also mainly sightseeing. We got to explore some castles there.

What was your favorite thing about your school? About Wales? About being abroad?

At Bangor, I really liked that they put international students with local students, that they didn’t divide us. You got to take whatever classes you wanted, there wasn’t a separation between local student classes and international student classes. They did have a whole separate orientation week for international students, whether you were studying abroad or there the full time. It was just to show you the ropes, which I thought was really, really nice because a lot of programs don’t offer that.

I like how old Wales is. It’s really majestic. DU is nice and modern, but Bangor has so much history to it. You could drive fifteen minutes in any direction and hit a castle. They were all open to tours and had student discounts. All the history there was really amazing and the fact that you could see it for little to nothing was awesome.

It was a great learning opportunity being abroad. It was perfect to learn about myself and to learn about history. My major is history, so it was great getting a whole new perspective on it with teachers that didn’t learn the same things I did or maybe learned it in a different way. It was really nice to see the differences, to see what’s important to different cultures or what’s not so important to different cultures.

Going back to learning about myself, it was really great for gaining independence. When you move to college, you sort of become independent, but you can still rely on your parents to call or send you money. Out of the country, it can be more difficult to send that stuff or impossible and you kind of have to fend for yourself to a certain degree. Gaining independence was really nice. I think that was the best part of going abroad.