My Study Abroad Experience 0

During my first week at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David I attended one of the fresher’s fayres, (which is still my favourite way to stock up on free stationary-I always think about how I’ll be writing my exams with those cheap but dependable pens in a few months). The Study Abroad stall really stood out to me, and it was here that I learned about the many opportunities my university had available for study abroad. I was handed a study abroad handbook (http://www.tsd.ac.uk/en/search/?q=study%20abroad%20handbook) and decided that I was definitely interested in expanding my educational horizons. 

The University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Carmarthen Campus

Even though the idea of studying abroad was so exciting to me, I absolutely love my university. The University of Wales Trinity Saint David is such an awesome place to be a student. My lecturers are just incredibly approachable and intelligent, they manage to leave me inspired after every lecture. The Carmarthen campus (where I study psychology) now feels like home after a year and a half. However, I really wanted to make sure I got everything out of the experience that I could. I felt I owed it to myself to consider all the opportunities the university presented me with.

Klein Karoo, South Africa

I grew up in two very different parts of South Africa: Cape Town, and the Klein Karoo. This massive contrast of culture within the same country created a spark in me. When you stay in one place it is so easy to forget how big the world is, and how diverse. Travelling forced me to critically evaluate the views I had about not just the world, but many fundamental beliefs that I had just taken for granted. Since then I’ve lived in London, Cornwall and finally Wales. Every place I’ve lived has changed and helped me grow, but I’m not done yet (hopefully I never will be).

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I’ve found that studying abroad is quite different from travelling. It requires complete immersion, and forces you to adjust to a completely different culture in order to succeed, which sounds daunting at first. For me it actually just removes the stress of travelling, because experiences are not forced. You’re just living. You don’t have to walk around a new city with a camera and a map, hoping to fit everything in over a few days, rather living in a new country gives you the gift of time.

The application process was fairly simple. I contacted the International Office after the freshers’ fayre in first year and let them know I was interested in studying abroad, and they just emailed me the application. Once the application was done I was invited for an interview at the International Office, which turned out to be more of a conversation about why I wanted to study abroad, and where would be best for me. I really felt that throughout the whole process, the staff at the International Office was always trying to make sure they had placed me in the right place, and that I was comfortable and informed about the whole process.

I had a few options of universities I could choose from and in the end I went with Presbyterian College in the United States. My friend from my course was going through the process with me and she decided on the same university. The photos online and the information about the courses and campus life at Presbyterian really made me excited to start the process, and in the first semester of second year we applied for our student visas. Once our visas were approved we were able to book our flights and get ready to go once the first semester had finished.

I arrived in South Carolina after 15 hours of dashing through airports, flying, baggage and customs. It was my first time in America, so I had no idea what to expect. When I collected my luggage I turned around to see the international officers from Presbyterian College waiting for me. It was such a relief to see them there already, since I had arrived a little early. I immediately felt welcomed and really excited. My friend’s flight had been delayed due to the snow in Chicago so she arrived a few days later.

Goodbye Wales

The international office at Presbyterian College had brought a Presbyterian bus to collect us, which had WiFi on board which was useful over the next few days as they took us to big stores to do some essential shopping trips, (I decided not to buy a phone while in America, so I relied a lot on having access to wiFi on campus). Before taking us to the college campus the bus stopped at Walmart, so we could buy anything we needed without having to worry about it the next day.

Walmart was a whole new experience in and of itself. I have never been to such a massive shop in my life, and that is definitely saying something because shopping is one of favourite hobbies. It had everything from cupcakes to duvets and computers.1549355_10151925994693173_461031054_n1618440_10151932889498173_1071251785_n

When we arrived on campus it was completely dark since it was about midnight, but I could tell straight away I had made the right decision coming here. The buildings were huge but absolutely stunning and everything just looked so beautiful. I was most excited to get to my room though, because I was very ready for sleep. Midnight in the US is about 5 AM in the UK, so I was absolutely exhausted. As I was shown my room in Clinton Hall I was given directions to get to the office in the morning to start orientation. As soon as I had the room to myself I immediately unpacked my pyjamas and had a shower and feel asleep.

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The next day I made my way down to the international house where they had prepared breakfast for all the international students. It was here that I got to meet the rest of the students who where studying abroad with Presbyterian College. Most of the International students stayed in the international house but since my friend and I had requested to share a room we were put in Clinton Hall.

International house landing

Breakfast

Breakfast was really nice, the office had really made an effort to make sure everyone had something to eat. Then orientation started, which lasted for a few hours. After the first few sessions the office took all the new international students out for lunch in Clinton, the nearest town. The town is pretty small, but it has a lot of charm. I definitely used the wifi on the bus this time!

When we returned we got the news that my friend would be arriving in the evening. I was so excited, the international office even agreed to let me go to the airport to help find her, which was so kind of them to do. I was so excited to show her to our room and introduce her to everyone.

The next few days past in a bit of a blur, with orientation and picking classes taking up most of our time. We were really well looked after by the international office, who bought our meals for us everyday until our meal contract started, which was really nice of them. It was an experience to finally try some of the food that I’ve seen shown so much American in television shows but never tried. After a few days classes started and all the other students arrived (until then it had just been International students).

Neville Hall

I’m doing a BSc in Psychology, and therefore have never had to go through the process of choosing classes before, because in the UK all modules are mandatory. It was quite an experience. Both my friend and I choose all psychology classes, and during the first week tried them out before choosing which ones we would continue with. We also were given the opportunity to do an internship, which we were really excited about. Our internship is supervised by a doctor in psychology, so our learning outcomes are geared specifically for psychology, which is usually so hard to get, (it can be a real struggle to get relevant experience in the field of psychology). We ended up with four classes and an internship. We took Psychopharmacology, taught by Dr. Askew, Educational Psychology and Gender Development, both taught by Dr. Spatta, and Tests and Measurements taught by Dr. Burns. Each class was challenging, in a good way. They taught us to learn and contribute to our education in a different way than we had in first year. Experiencing the different way educational systems are run provide an opportunity to become flexible and adaptable in how you learn.

I can’t put into words how much I enjoyed choosing my own modules and taking classes that really interested me. It wasn’t easy, adjusting to the different grading systems but I felt it really helped me grow academically, and I feel confident going into my third year and doing my dissertation with the skills I’ve gathered from pushing myself.

Reena Arrived!

My internship was one of the highlights of my time at Presbyterian College. We assisted at a day care in Clinton and observed behavioural management techniques in education in relation to children with learning difficulties. The children manage to brighten up our day every time we saw them. Their cute accents completely charmed us, and the staff was really helpful. We were able to meet our learning objectives and make connections with people in the local area that we may not have had the opportunity to otherwise. It was such a simple process to sort out, since the international office passed us on to Lynn Downie, who manages student internships. She was so dedicated to finding us somewhere to intern that she actually drove us to an interview at our intern location. She was such an amazing example of southern hospitality and I cannot begin to say how thankful I am for her and all the other members of staff who were so kind to us during our time there.

We made so many awesome friends while at Presbyterian, and visited other friends who had studied with us at UWTSD. Some of the friends we made were planing on coming to the UK to study for a semester too, so I’m excited for them to arrive, so I can show them around. That’s the awesome thing about having friends in different countries, it forces you not only to explore and experience their country, but yours.

We were only in the US for about four months but we got to see some amazing places, like Savannah Georgia. Savannah was one of those places that I didn’t know I always wanted to go visit until I did. We went with the International Office at Presbyterian College. They drove us and checked us into our hotel and made sure we all had a plan before letting us lose on the city.

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Fun Fact: Spanish Moss, the stuff hanging from all the trees, makes everything beautiful. It both keeps the sunlight out and lets it drape in, in the most magical way. Everywhere you looked was covered in dappled sunlight. I loved seeing all the green, since it reminds me so much of Wales, which even in the snowiest winter still has more green than is fair of one place. When we arrived in Savannah we checked into our hotel and then immediately went for a very long walk and got completely and happily lost in the many blocks and parks that are unique of Savannah.

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Savannah was so beautiful, which would explain why so many people were having weddings that day. Wherever we walked people were dressed in black tie, walking through the streets on their way to what we could only assume was the classiest party in the whole world. Women in saris and others in what can only be described as costumes straight from the Great Gatsby were everywhere.

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I’m so happy I didn’t pass up on this opportunity, because I learnt so much that I know will be so useful next year, and throughout my career. I made so many awesome friends and I can’t wait until I get to see them again. I really feel like studying abroad has totally opened up my horizons academically and has given me a confidence in my abilities that I did not previously possess. To put yourself in a new environment where everything is different, and to see yourself thrive really opens your eyes to how much you’re capable of.

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