Goodbye Wales

After three months of traveling Europe, my time here is almost over. I can’t believe that today I attended my last class in Wales and ate my last meal at Stilts food court. It seems like it was just yesterday that I arrived in the hilly countryside of Treforest, Wales, wide-eyed and ready to travel.

I can’t really put my thoughts into words as I wrap up my study abroad experience. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. In just 3 months I’ve traveled to more countries than I did in 20 years. I swam in a roof top pool in Bath, England, watched the London v. Wales rugby game here in Wales (a match-up as intense as the Yankees and Red Sox), I listened to a bagpiper in the streets of Edinburgh, Scotland, and I ate a crepe just outside the Eiffel Tower. Never in a million years could I have seen myself doing all of these things, and more. When I was in middle school I remember all of my teachers telling me that they thought I was going to struggle with honors classes, now I’m backpacking through Europe on scholarship. So I guess thank you for giving me the motivation to prove you all wrong. It paid off.

I have absolutely had the time of my life and I wish I could have more time, or at least the chance to do it all over again. However, I know that this week is probably the last I’m going to spend in Wales, or Europe in general, and that makes me sad. I probably won’t get to walk along the Berlin Wall again or bike through Barcelona. But in a way, if I knew I was going to be coming back some day, I wouldn’t have tried to do as much as I possibly could. I can take pride in the fact that I’ve been to 8 countries in 3 months.

I am beyond thankful for the opportunity that I was given to study abroad. My school is amazing for setting up such a program, and my parents are even more amazing for making all of this happen. They are the best parents ever and I owe them the world.

To everyone that has read my blog, I thank you for giving me the courage to write publicly. I was very nervous about sharing my blog when I first started it since all I do is ramble and make cheesy jokes, but you all have given me the courage to keep writing and share my experiences.

Right now I miss my friends and family very very much. This trip has made me realize just how much my friends and family mean to me and I can’t wait to get back to them. My dad is coming here on Sunday and we are going to travel to London, Dublin, and back here to Cardiff and I am beyond excited for that. I’ve been counting down the days to his arrival since the day he decided to come.

Even though I miss my friends and family like crazy, I know that after a week of being back in the unexciting Columbus, Indiana I am going to wish I was back here eating Welsh cakes and watching rugby. Wales has treated me so well and I will miss it dearly. This beautiful (and hilly) country will always have a place in my heart.

Je T’Aime Paris

Paris was absolutely amazing! Going in I thought that I wasn’t going to like it at all. I’ve only ever heard negative things about it – it’s dirty and the people are rude – so I really didn’t expect much. But, after a tiresome full night of travelling on a bus, Paris welcomed me and Kait with warm weather and delicious crepes.

Our hotel was just down the street from the Eiffel Tower, so it doesn’t really get much better than that. After we dropped our luggage off, we headed to the Eiffel Tower and got in line to climb up it. I’ve been sick lately so I haven’t been able to work out as much, but the Eiffel Tower definitely got me back into shapes. All 700 stairs of it. My legs are still sore, several days later, but it was totally worth it. The higher up we got, the less people there was – people dropped off like flies and decided to take the elevator instead. Not me. I’d rather feel the burn in my legs from walking up the Eiffel Tower – not many people can say that. When we finally reached the top (not really the top, just as far as you can go on stairs), it was absolutely stunning. I felt like I could see all of Paris from up there. The view was just so beautiful, I could have stood up there for hours looking around. After we decided to make the trek back down, we walked along the park and found a guy making crepes. So yeah, I ate a crepe at the Eiffel Tower – again, not many people can say that. It was delicious and made the experience even more amazing – food makes everything better, even the Eiffel Tower. We just kind of walked around after that and found a street with a lot of markets and restaurants where we ate dinner. Our first day was amazing and fun and everything that you could hope for in a trip to Paris.

But then we discovered that Paris is cursed. When my friends Caitie and Haley went, Haley ended up getting sick. Poor Kait fell victim to the curse and felt a little under the weather the next day. After our hotel wouldn’t let us have a late checkout even though Kait was sick, we decided to hit up the Louvre. I originally wasn’t going to go in because I felt really bad that I would be leaving Kait alone, but after some hardcore convincing she convinced me to go while she rested at a Starbucks.

I went back and the line to get in stretched throughout the entire park. I stood in line for 15 minutes and it didn’t move at all. It was going to take 2 hours for me to just get inside. I decided to give up, but just as I was walking back I saw an entrance on the street that went underground, and I only waited 20 minutes to get in. I was beyond excited because not only did I beat out everyone else (something I live for), but I got to go in the Louvre. I would have been very angry with myself if I hadn’t gone in because I’ve wanted to go there ever since I saw the Da Vinci Code when I was 11. And it definitely did not disappoint. It was absolutely amazing inside. There was so much to see that I know I probably only saw a quarter of everything – and I was inside for 3 hours. The Mona Lisa was about what I expected. Everyone always says that it’s tiny so I wasn’t expecting much – still really cool to see it in person though. I saw some of my favorite paintings that I remembered learning about in my AP European History class in high school – I guess I did retain something in that class. I walked through the medieval section, and of course only had the urge to shout “Green Knight!” thinking back on my family’s trip to Medieval Times when I was 8 years old.

Even though I didn’t solve any mysteries with Robert Langdon, the Louvre was amazing and so was Paris in general. I would definitely go back in a heartbeat if I could and eat my body weight in crepes.

Viva España

Hell has frozen over. I, Sydney Rae Jarrard, went to a pro soccer game. In Spain. Anyone that knows me knows that this is as common as lightning striking in the same place twice. I don’t do soccer. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The Spanish get into soccer as much as I get into basketball or football or baseball. They go crazy about it, and I even sat next to an old man who seemed innocent and sweet at first, but then started cussing out the players and the refs. So really, it’s not all that different from America. FC Barca did lose, but I didn’t really mind because I didn’t know what was going on anyway. It was a good time.

Spain was absolutely gorgeous. I felt like I was on vacation in the middle of June. The sun was out and it was almost 70 degrees. After the game, we met some lovely American girls our age from St. Louis. It was really nice to meet and hang out with some fellow Americans that knew as much about public transportation as I do. Americans are great.

On our last day in Spain we rented bikes and decided to ride around the city. Though we had a rough start – I ended up having to get a kid sized bike because my original was toooooo tall and not going to work – we ended up having an excellent day. Probably the most fun I’ve had on this trip. The weather was just so pleasant and I got a workout in. We saw so many amazing sites and even rode down to the beach after going to an aquarium. I truly felt like I was on vacation in the middle of February.

I learned a lot about myself on this trip too. To begin with, I can get by with my Spanish. Kind of. You’d think after taking 5 years of Spanish in high school that I’d be able to speak and understand it well. But I don’t. Maybe it’s because I refused to speak in Spanish while playing Catch Phrase…..we’ll never know. But I did know enough to get by and that made traveling a lot easier.

I also learned that I am not afraid to go one on one with a pickpocketer. After my experience in Berlin where I caught a man trying to open my purse, I’ve been extremely paranoid – for the better. On our last day we were sitting in a bakery and this lady came in begging for money that she clearly didn’t need in her leather jacket and nice combat boots. She pegged our accents early on and wouldn’t leave us be and slowly covered Kait’s phone with  her laminated sign saying she was poor (yeah right). I noticed that she had grabbed the phone very discreetly and snatched it out of her hands right away. I felt like a hero. But now I’m just even more paranoid. Coming from a small town where you don’t even have to lock your car doors most of the time, I wasn’t prepared for people constantly trying to steal from me. But after these experiences, I can gladly say that I’m paranoid enough that no one will ever pickpocket from me.

One last thing I learned on this trip is that I really miss swimming – something swimmers don’t often say, if ever. My team competed at Conference while I was in Spain and I was constantly trying to look up results, failing most of the time because my WiFi was extremely spotty. But I miss my teammates and the sport so much. Swimming is definitely a way of life and my life is completely different and not structured without it – something I’m not used to. I’ll be very excited to be home and swimming again, but until then I’ll be doing abs and circuit training in my tiny dorm room because the gym is too expensive.

Anyway, Spain is definitely a place I would return to and that I would recommend other people visit, despite the pickpocketers. Who doesn’t love a little sun and sand?

The Inhumanity of Humanity

I’m not so sure how to start this post. It is Reading Week here in Wales so we have the week off, giving me plenty of travel time. So, Kait and Sam and I visited Berlin for a few days and it was absolutely great. I liked the city – a little bit big for my taste, but I still enjoyed it, minus the pick pocketer I caught trying to sneak in my purse – and the Berlin Wall was absolutely stunning. And I had some of the best pizza I’ve ever had, in Berlin of all places.

After Berlin, we headed to Krakow, Poland. There was one thing we really had planned and that was visiting Auschwitz. I knew going into it that it was going to be very difficult to see everything at the site, be in the same place that millions of innocent people died at. I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn’t know how hard. I don’t think anyone can ever fully prepare themselves to see the horror that is Auschwitz.

We had our own tour guide and she took us around the concentration camp. I stood in a tiny room that slept about 80 people, when it should have only slept 20, 30 tops. I stood in a room full of hair shaved off from the prisoners. I stood in a room full of shoes. Another room full of children’s shoes. Suitcases, glasses, clothes – anything and everything that makes a person a person was stripped away from the prisoners at Auschwitz and kept by the Nazis – and there I stood, looking at them with wide eyes, wondering how something like this could have ever happened.

As I walked around the camp, a light snowfall encompassed the camp. Just barely, but there was enough to make the experience more real to me. I had on two pairs of socks, tall boots, warm leggings, a long sleeve shirt, sweater, vest, coat, scarf, gloves, and a hat. And I was freezing. The prisoners at Auschwitz had nothing but a shirt, pants, and wooden shoes. I physically could not imagine bearing the winter in Poland without anything less than a snow suit. It made me sick to my stomach.

After we went through the buildings, including the ones where they killed people by starvation and experimented on women for sterilization strategies, we moved on to the last part of the Auschwitz tour. The gas chambers. It was the most ominous feeling I have ever experienced standing in a room where millions of men, women, and children died, thinking they were just going in for a shower. And they died for absolutely no reason at all.

Next to the gas chambers were the crematoriums. The prisoners had to help load them in there.

We went to Birkenau after Auschwitz I, a site that was much more miserable. Hundreds of people had to stay in barracks that were meant for horses, not people. It was even more cold there. The bathrooms were limited, they could only go twice a day and at the time and speed of the Nazi’s choosing. They received barely any food at all, and slaved away all day. Some people tried to escape, but that just made matters worse for everyone else. For there was nowhere to escape, the Nazis had completely wiped out the towns surrounding the concentration camps. There was nowhere to run.

Upon arrival at Auschwitz, the prisoners were separated: men and women/children, fit and unfit for work. The unfit for work were sent straight to the gas chambers. Along with any children under 15 years old. Jews, for the most part, were sent straight there as well. The People died of starvation, fatigue, disease, or by other means. And they were forced to move the bodies themselves to the crematorium.

When the tour was over, I was speechless and unable to comprehend everything that I had just witnessed. I don’t know what could possess a person to treat another human being the way that the prisoners were treated in the concentration camps. They were innocent people. Men, women. Children. I don’t understand it, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to be able to understand something as cruel and inhumane as that. Because there is no way to understand that unless you are that cruel of a person. No one should be able to understand it.

My heart aches for the lives lost during World War II, but I applaud the survivors. After witnessing what all they had to go through, I don’t know how a single person could have survived it. They are the true heroes.

I am very grateful for the life I have. I wake up every day knowing that I will eat, talk to my friends and family, and go to sleep at night. I can take a shower whenever I want. I can attend classes. I can have a job, but I won’t be worked to death. I can talk whenever I want and to whoever I want.

I am free, and I have never been more appreciative of that than when I walked through the tragedy laden roads at Auschwitz.

A Lonely Corgi

So I’m sitting here in my room thinking about how different the United States is from the UK, that and how impossible it is to pack all the clothes I want to wear while I’m in Berlin and Krakow (we’re leaving for that trip tomorrow, don’t worry, more on that later). To start with, the coursework is completely, entirely, positively, 100% different. College is weird here. Nice, but very weird because it is very easy compared to the U.S. For starters, I just finished all of the work for one of my courses today – all one essay of it. And this particular essay was strictly about why Americans fancy British accents. A very easy topic for me to talk about seeing that I’ve been in love with British accents ever since I heard Chris Martin of Coldplay speak for the very first time (he’s going to marry me someday, he just hasn’t figured it out yet). I also used to think that if I spoke in a British accent then Hagrid would come bursting through my front door saying “yer a wizard, Sydney.” That never happened, but regardless, I fancy British accents. Anyway, the fact that I sat down for two hours and wrote an essay that is worth “100% of my grade” is very satisfying and unnerving to me at the same time. Satisfying because that would absolutely never happen in America. As an education major, I spend hours upon hours at public schools observing, some more hours doing homework, more hours getting involved in organizations that will help me get a job as a teacher, more hours studying, more hours attending class (I only go for 5 hours a week here as opposed to 18 hours last semester on top of being a student-athlete), more hours stressing about finals, and more hours reading and reading and reading. So, as one can see, America and the UK differ quite a lot in terms of education. Note: This is not me complaining. I love being an education major and being busy all the time. I watch too much Netflix when I’m not busy (I watch too much Netflix regardless). I am simply comparing.

Anyway, this essay got me thinking about the differences between how Americans and the British talk. Back home I’m used to slightly southern accents, especially since my dad is from Bedford, Indiana, where they learned their ABC’s by reading the street signs. And when I’m at school all I hear is that distinct Chicago accent. And then I come here and suddenly I’m being called “love,” the toilet is the “lou,” soccer is football (completely wrong), and lemonade is not lemonade at all, it’s Sprite. I also come here and suddenly I have a “southern twang.” I think the Welsh might need to sharpen up on their U.S. geography, a lot of them seem to think that Indiana is in the south and right next to Alabama. Wrong. But the Americans also need to sharpen up on their UK geography – most of the people I talked to before coming here thought that Wales was in Australia. Also wrong.

The British also spell words a lot differently here and have different meanings for certain words. They tend to spell words with -ou instead of just -o, like color is colour and favorite is favourite. In terms of words havig different meanings, there is a very popular cider here called Hooch. When Sam and Kait and I first heard this, our faces must have said it all because the Welsh man we were with asked us why we were concerned about the name of it. After we explained, he understood our concern and we all laughed it off. Now it is one of our favorite ciders, despite the  name. Also, just the other day in one of my classes my professor was writing notes up on the whiteboard. She was writing quickly so she abbreviated some words. One specific abbreviation caught my eye. She was writing the word “thought” but instead she abbreviated it to “thot.” I laughed at first because I thought she had simply made a mistake and was going to correct it. But I soon realized that I was the only one laughing and no one else seemed to be phased by it. So I tried to move on, though it’s all I thought about for the next five minutes. The most heartbreaking difference I’ve experienced in terms of language occurred the other day in my poetry class. We were reading a poem that my professor (aka tutor, as they’re called around here) had gotten off the internet and she was reading it out loud and FINALLY everything was spelled correctly. Honor was not honour! It was honor, spelled correctly!

But suddenly my professor stopped reading and said, “I’m sorry, I got this off of an American website so the words are spelled wrong.”

It was in that moment that I decided to stick to my stubborn American ways and mark words as spelled incorrectly as I edit my British peers’ work.

And that is how America is different from the UK.

And that is why I feel like the lonely corgi in the picture above is my spirit animal – me sitting in my poetry class spelling things the wr(American)ong way.

However, this will work to my advantage in the end because even if I spell something wrong in an essay, I can just explain that that’s how it’s spelled in America. Sometimes it pays off to be the lonely corgi.

Note: To all those wondering and severely concerned, the corgi was not abandoned or homeless. It was waiting for its owner to get a coffee.

The Old Man and the Stonehenge Trip

I was always that kid that watched the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. Well, more accurately, my sister was always that kid that watched the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet – I was just along for the ride since she was in charge. Regardless, I grew up watching shows about myths, monsters, animals, conspiracies, and historical sites. So, this trip has been a dream come true for young, nerdy Sydney.

I recently went on a very last minute trip to Stonehenge in Salisbury, England. I was very excited for the trip from the beginning because it was something that I knew I wanted to see during my stay. I had watched endless documentaries about the mysterious rocks as a child on the Discovery Channel, but I tried not to get too excited about it. I didn’t want to build it up to be the coolest thing ever and then actually go see it and it not be exciting; like when the entire world fell in love with Pitch Perfect and claimed it to be better than Mean Girls, but when I actually saw it I didn’t like it because people had built it up to be the funniest movie ever (it’s not).

When we finally arrived, we had to take a bus to the site because it was further away from the entrance. It was a very large field and I felt like I was at home – open plains and animals roaming, throw in some corn and you could have called it Indiana. But then we arrived at the site and I realized this was absolutely nothing like home.

The site was amazing. Pictures don’t really do it any justice. You definitely have to go see it yourself to appreciate it. The child in me came out as I thought back to all the times that I watched documentaries about it with my sister. It’s something that I’ve wanted to see since I was 5 years old and I finally got the opportunity to go see it.

However, my favorite part of Stonehenge was not the actual site itself. Though it was amazing and I fulfilled a childhood dream, the best part came on the bus ride back to the entrance.

As I sat on the bus looking at the pictures that I had taken, I looked up to see an old man sitting in front of me, smiling from cheek to cheek. He must have been about 75 years old, if not older, and he was alone. But he was the happiest man I have ever seen. He sat looking out the window just smiling, obviously elated to have just seen one of the 7 Wonders of the World. He sat looking out the window, holding his cane. He never once stopped smiling, and that made me smile.

I don’t know if the man was travelling the world because he was finally fulfilling his dreams or if he just wanted a weekend away from his wife, but watching him smile like a kid on Christmas Day made me realize just how extraordinary this trip has been. In just one month I’ve started classes in Wales, seen castles in the middle of cities, visited Roman ruins in England, listened to a bagpiper play in Scotland, and witnessed one of the 7 Wonders of the World. I’ve made excellent Welsh friends that I can’t understand half the time and I have the best travel buddies. It’s truly amazing and I still can’t believe that I’m sitting here in Wales typing a blog about my travels. Thinking about this and everything else that is still yet to come (Germany, Poland, France, Ireland) has me smiling from cheek to cheek.

A Special Thanks To…

As I sit here in my dorm room, overlooking the vast and indescribably beautiful hills that make up Treforest, Wales, all I can think of is how thankful I am for the friends and family I have in my life and everyone that made this trip possible. This should have been my first post, which is why I am posting it so close to yesterday’s post (or maybe I’ve realized I really like blogging), so please bear with me as I write another 1,000 words about Wales.

First of all, I need to thank my dear friend, teammate, and soul mate Caitie Danforth. I literally would not be sitting here right now with a Tom Jones song stuck in my head if it weren’t for her. This all started about a year ago when Caitie was planning her trip to Wales. The more she talked about it, the more I wanted to go. Though I chickened out and didn’t go the same semester she did (the Fall semester of 2014), she opened up my eyes to the opportunities that I have right at my doorstep.

Now I sit here in Wales one year later, my room full of gifts she left me. When I arrived on campus, I had instructions from her to go to the accommodations office and pick up a box that she had left me. At first, they said they didn’t have it. So that only left two possibilities of what happened:

1. They didn’t look hard enough.

2. Caitie Danforth is a liar.

After some serious thinking, I came to the conclusion that Caitie is not a liar – she has never lied about her love for Welsh corgis (which is the reason she came here, don’t let her fool you). So I went back down and finally got the box, after telling them to look for a box with my name spelled with a J-a, not a G-e, or a G-a, or a J-e. It’s J-a-r-r-a-r-d (my name being English, I figured I would have an easier time with it being pronounced and spelled correctly over here, but I was wrong).

Back in my room, I opened this small yet very heavy box of who knows what (cue Brad Pitt screaming “What’s in the booooxxxx!!!”). Inside was a survival kit and some goodies for my time here in Wales: hair straightener; hair dryer (I don’t know what Caitie’s trying to tell me about my hair…); adapters on adapters on adapters (so I can plug in the straightener and hair dryer to fix my hair); an extra pillow (for my nasty hair to rest on); an extra towel (to fold my nasty wet hair up in); and many many more items that I could not have lived without here.

So for that, Caitie, I thank you.

Next on the list to thank are my lovely lovely roommates, Alexis and Carol. Not only did they beg and plead me not to go, to stay in Charleston with them with my Taco Bell eating habits and constant Netflixing, but they also made me realize what true friendship is. And yes, I did just call you Carol, Carolyn (xoxo). I’ve only been away from them for a month and it feels like years. Anyone that has ever been in a room with all three of us knows that all we do is make fun of each other. It’s a great time. But, I know deep down whenever they make fun of my incessant love for Sour Patch Kids, they’re really saying “Omg I love you you’re the best person I’ve ever met why can’t I be you.” It’s truly heartwarming. So thank you, my noodle making freak and green bean lover for making me realize that it is very difficult to say goodbye for just a few months. But I am very thankful that I have something so hard to say goodbye to. Even if I did just make fun of you two for an entire paragraph – I did it out of love.

Next, I want to thank my lovely coach, Jacqueline (HEEEYYYYY!), for being so chill (for lack of a better word) with me studying abroad for a semester. When I told her that I had decided to leave, she didn’t even hesitate when telling me to go and follow my dreams. She made me not feel as guilty about leaving my team for Welsh corgis and afternoon tea. So thank you for that. And I am honestly terrified to see how she’s going to whip me back into shape when I get back.

Lastly, and most importantly, I want to thank my loving and ever supporting parents. They made this whole trip possible and taught me some lessons about myself at the same time. They were supportive from the beginning, but they left it up to me to get all of the paperwork completed and find out everything about the trip. I never realized that planning a study abroad trip was so difficult and time-consuming, but in doing so I learned independence and organization. I don’t know if that’s what my dad’s plan was when he told me to find out everything, maybe he just wanted to go watch a baseball game on TV instead, maybe it was a little it of both. But whatever he wanted me to do, it taught me just how organized and type-A I am. So thank you…?

My mom on the other hand was in constant “I need to get you everything you’re going to need while you’re over there” mode, asking me if I needed an umbrella, or gloves, or a hat, or five new purses. After I reassured her that they do indeed have umbrellas and gloves in Wales, she just stuck with the purses and hats. And so far they’ve been great, so thank you.

I am just so thankful to have the parents that I have. Not many people have the opportunity to travel the world, and not many people have parents that would let them. I have both, and I realize that I am one of the luckiest girls alive. So lucky, in fact, that my dad is coming to see me at the end of my trip for a week before I head back – 3 countries in one week, it’ll be like we’re on the “Amazing Race.”

When I was younger, my sister and I always begged our parents for a pony. My sister insisted that we could “tie it up in the back yard on the playhouse, we’ll take care of it and everything!” When we didn’t get a pony for Christmas, or our birthdays, or the next Christmas, we were furious. We held a grudge for years. But now, when we both asked to travel the world, our parents allowed us, my sister in Ireland, me in Wales. They gave me a gift way better than a pony – now I can travel the world and see Welsh ponies!

So, thank you to my parents and all of my friends back home for being supportive and jealous of me. It makes me feel great. And, Bridgette, thank you for the care package. I haven’t gotten it yet, but I’m excited for when it does come.

And thank you to all of my readers – you just read 1,218 words. Rock on.

Shaky Beginnings

Hello all! To start off I just want to apologize for being about a month late on starting my blog. I guess I’ve been too busy travelling the world. My apologies.

My journey began on the best possible day of the year – the very first one. My plane for London left on January 1st and I landed in the lovely and friendly Heathrow Airport on the morning of January 2nd with my fellow Eastern companions, Kait, Sam, and Katie, by my side. Heathrow wasn’t my most favorite place in the world, and I don’t think I was it’s favorite traveler. After about ten minutes of trying to get through customs, the grumpy customs worker finally decided that hey, I am legitimately a student studying abroad at a legitimate college. Who would’ve thought?

So we made our way to Wales via bus. After about 3 hours, we finally arrived in Cardiff, the capital of Wales. From the moment we arrived I knew that I had chosen the right place to study abroad. Sunny, warm, and the friendliest people I have ever met. We said goodbye to Katie, who is studying at the Cardiff campus, and we made our way to Treforest, a small suburb of Cardiff that is home to our university, the University of South Wales.

When we arrived, we stood with our luggage looking up at the giant hills that make up Treforest, realizing that we would have to climb to the top of them to get to our dorm. All while carrying our body’s weight in luggage. It was a grand old time.

After struggling to make it up the hills, we finally made it to the accommodations office. They didn’t quite know that we were arriving…but got us settled in anyway. Finally after 24 hours of travelling, we slept at last.

The next couple of days were a bit quiet since classes didn’t start for a few days. This gave us a chance to explore campus and get to know our surroundings – and the 90 degree hill that we have the pleasure of walking up every time we leave our dorm to go to campus or town. I am definitely going to stay in shape while I’m here.

That week we signed up for our classes, all 3 of them. We had some difficulties signing up for the classes that we wanted/needed to be in, since the information we had was a little outdated, but we got it all worked out eventually and are in the classes that we need to be in.

I’m taking all English classes to fulfill my middle level English endorsement for my major back home. So far, I really enjoy my classes. I get to write about whatever I want and my fellow classmates are very kind. It might be because of my American accent, but I have definitely made friends right away and I am feeling right at home – even with my professors, whom liked to be called by their first name, as opposed to “doctor” or “professor” or “he who must not be named.” Things are a lot more simple here.

With the first week of classes over, we decided to take a trip to Cardiff. We didn’t really  have a plan, so when we arrived we stopped at a Starbucks (we love to branch out) and asked one of the employees where we should go. She recommended Cardiff Castle, Queen Street for shopping, and the Museum. So, after our coffee we marched down the streets, stopping to take pictures every few steps because we embrace the fact that we’re tourists, and headed to Cardiff Castle.

Cardiff Castle was absolutely gorgeous. It is located directly in the heart of the city, like the McHugh’s in Charleston. But a little better. Just a little. The castle was rich in history, spanning back hundreds and hundreds of years to several different rulers that I can’t pronounce or remember. There was even a bomb shelter located at the castle that was used during World War II. As I said, so much history.

Then we headed over to the Museum to see what it was all about. The museum itself was a little childish, but it was free so I guess I shouldn’t complain. But outside the museum was a Winter Wonderland, filled with an ice skating rink, seasonal restaurants, and rides. It was a beautiful site seeing so many kids having fun with their families – I definitely want to go back someday.

After a long day of being tourists, we headed back home after walking down Queen Street and looking at shops. If every weekend is going to be as fun as the one day that I had in Cardiff, then I am in for an excellent three months.