Alexis – Swansea University, Wales
Semester 1, 2020
One of the main reasons I wanted to go to university was to partake in a semester abroad. I had heard of so many wonderful stories of people travelling abroad and making wonderful friends and memories so couldn’t wait to get my chance to do it too.
The time finally came, I sorted out my course structure and subjects and went to pick my exchange university. Out of the entire world, I could live basically anywhere given there are so many universities to pick from. Which city has the best food? Which university is closest to cheap flights? Do I want to live in a hot or a cold place? So many options for one indecisive girl. I decided I wanted to be in Europe so at the conclusion of my semester I could be part of the European summer and live my best life. I also decided that I would rather not live in a country that has English as a second language. I felt that it would just be a touch too much to deal with for myself. So I was left with the United Kingdom. Whilst I was looking on the map I saw Wales. It looked pretty interesting, and after a bit of a deep dive on the internet, I found myself three episodes deep watching Gavin and Stacey and decided this was the place for me.
So the countdown was on. I learned how to wash my clothes and got a few more recipes under my belt. I was mentally and physically preparing myself to leave home for the first time and live on the other side of the world (sounds so crazy when you put it like that hey). I flew out in January and did a short term health exchange in Malaysia before making my way to Wales.
Imagine this, you arrive at your flat for the first time and no one else is there. Your mum has organised for basic sheets and towels to be there and they don’t fit your bed. You realise that you have made a BIG MISTAKE and know absolutely no one in this country and are ready to book a flight home. After about 3 hours of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to go and meet some people at the pub (from a Facebook group I joined before I left). From the moment of meeting my exchange friends I did not have any other moments of sadness (that is till about March 2020 but you can probably foreshadow what that is all about…). I made friends!! I made lots of friends. I made friends from Canada, the US, and Denmark as well as living in a flat with English, Welsh, and German people!
Living at Swansea University was so fun. I was in a flat with 9 other people! We all had our own room and bathroom but shared a kitchen/living area. These people became my family, we would all have dinner together, bake with each other, and go to trivia on a weekly basis. I had a little running club with a couple of the people and our flat would go out on a Monday night together because it was Quids in night (every drink is $2 – amazing).
As the semester began I started classes – they were so different to QUT. The lectures and seminars had such a small amount of students in them that they knew us by name! The only main difference I found (in my subjects) was that all my assessment was 100% weighted from the final exam/assignment. Crazy right! But this meant I could build my knowledge slowly and steadily across the semester and not worry too much about assessment throughout. Are you thinking what I am thinking – TRAVEL! This meant I could travel on the weekends without feeling guilty. I was able to travel within Wales and the UK, France, Czech Republic, and Ireland (and that was just in February). I found myself in a groove, cooking, cleaning, hanging out with friends and travelling – what more could you ask for. Quite quickly everything went downhill all thanks to COVID-19. I had to make the decision to come home or stay. As I spoke about before, I am quite indecisive so went back and forth in whether I should or shouldn’t return home. It got to a point where I just had to come home and that my friends is a story for another time.
I was heartbroken to leave Swansea (even to the fact that I left some stuff with one of my flatmates because I was adamant I would return – and that I will do). Doing the semester abroad was without a doubt THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE (apologies for the caps lock but I NEED TO EMPHASISE THIS). I would legitimately do another degree just to do another semester of exchange – it was honestly that good. Please take the plunge, be nervous, feel excited, and all the emotions of arriving and leaving, and have the best semester of your entire life! You will not regret it.