When I realized that I would be studying in Wales, my father did what many parents do and found some books about Wales. We spent a while flipping through the books, trying to find information about Aberystwyth (Aber-wrist-with), where I'd planned to study, and enjoyed the various facts we stumbled into along the way. However, some of the most interesting facts about Wales are best learned by visiting in person. Here are some things I have learned about Wales from my time studying here:
Sometimes I forget how completely, and amazingly might I add, different England is from America. We may speak the same language (sort of), but there’s also so much that we don’t have in common. For example, while the holiday rush in the last two months of the year in the US is focused on Thanksgiving and Christmas, in the England it’s focused around Guy Fawkes Day, Remembrance Day and Christmas.
If you can imagine celebrating the US Independence day in November, then you have successfully imagined Guy Fawkes Day. On November 5th every year, and the days leading up to, a slew of fireworks are set off all day long all around England in celebration of Guy Fawkes day. It’s a strange experience as an American where I’m used to watching fireworks on a hot July day in sandals, a pair of shorts and some ice tea, whereas here I was in my full winter ensemble with a hot cocoa in hand.
Topics: British Traditions
I’ll never forget the burst of excitement I felt as I walked off the plane in Manchester. I wore my backpack (the big one I’d use for weekend travel trips) and a huge smile (the kind that you can’t wipe off your face). After hours of preparation, I was finally in England – my new home for the next year. I found the bus that would shuttle me to the University of Sheffield, and an hour later, I was dropped off just outside my new flat. I checked in and was led to my room. None of my flatmates were around, so I decided to unpack before venturing out to find some food for dinner. It didn’t take long to organize my tiny room, so I sat on my bed, staring up at the pictures I’d taped to the wall. It was then that it hit me – I wouldn’t see any of the people that I loved the most for an entire year. I burst into tears, imagining all the things I might miss while I was gone. Unsure of how to make sense of what I was feeling, I decided to wander around Sheffield to clear my head. As I tried to follow a map, I looked up just in time to see the perfect advice. On what I later found out is the Psychology building (one of my classrooms), was a quote by Albert Einstein: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to never stop questioning."
It was comforting to know that I would be studying abroad in another English-speaking country, however, one of my biggest concerns was losing points on assignments by forgetting “u” in “colour” or if my writing style wasn’t “proper” (British) English. Turns out, professors did not mind the US spelling (for the most part), were quite understanding, and well prepared for students to come from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, languages, often non-native speakers.
Since living in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, UK, I’ve noticed that it is best to leave my house at least 20 minutes early for anywhere I need to be. Not because of traffic (I walk everywhere). Simply because the connections that you make with the locals in your community are unlike anything that you could experience living in the big city of London. I truly live in a town where ‘everybody knows your name’.
If you’re a non-UK or EU student interested in studying in the UK for six months or more, you will need a Tier 4 Student Visa in order to enter the country.
If you’re an American student looking to apply to universities in Great Britain, you probably didn’t get very far in the process before you encountered a very unfamiliar acronym – UCAS.
1. Be Culturally Aware
While the UK is not wildly different from other English speaking countries, making sure you’re culturally aware can go a long way towards making friends and keeping yourself socially connected. No one is asking or expecting you to know every single thing about the country or its history, but knowing you’re in Northern Ireland instead of the Republic of Ireland is an example of an important distinction that would go a long way towards showing you’ve tried to do your homework. Usually, when people find you’ve made an effort, they’re more likely to do the same themselves, and it’ll help you build new relationships with people in the UK.
Leaving the comforts of sunny San Diego, California to come to the UK, which is infamous for its cloudy rainy days, was at first a challenge for me. I had been acclimated to 365 days of summer where the winter temperatures are comparable to UK’s summer weather! I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a good fit; and I couldn’t have been more wrong.
1. The British Library
The British Library is the national library of the UK, and is the second largest library in the world (behind the Library of Congress in D.C.). This library is home to more than 170 million items, 13.9 million of which as books! Some of the manuscripts date back to 2000 B.C. Any resource you need is available – or the amazing libarians will find it for you!
When you need a quick study break, the library also has quirky exhibits on display, ranging from Alice in Wonderland to British Punk Rock bands of the 1970s! If you work up an appetite from studying, the British Library has two cafeterias, and is surrounded by lots of pubs and restaurants.