Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Alexa K. - Swansea, Wales - Fall 2012

Croeso!! (Welcome, in Welsh J)
I have now been in the UK for almost two weeks. Before even beginning my journey to the UK, I had issues arise. My flight from Chicago O’Hare to London Heathrow was cancelled the morning of my flight on September 2nd. I spent 2 hours on the phone with a customer service representative getting another flight out that same evening.  I arrived in London the morning of September 3rd.  I spent 3 days in London as part of my GlobaLinks orientation.
Public transportation (tube, bus, etc.), in both London and Swansea, has been a breeze! No reason to be intimidated. The City Centre in Swansea (shops, pubs, clubs, grocery stores, etc.) is only a 10 minute bus ride. By going through GlobaLinks, a bus pass for the entire semester was included. One less thing you have to worry about. Scotland, Ireland, and England are all very accessible by train, bus, ferry, or air.
Currently, I am taking a two week class entitled “British Politics and Culture Since 1945.” This class is only for international students studying for one semester at Swansea.  We’ve been on 2 field trips through this class and I’ve seen some beautiful and interesting places through those. It’s also an opportunity to make some new friends before the entire university population shows up! Returning students do not arrive on campus until September 21st.  I do not actually register for classes until September 24th and the semester does not begin until October 1st.  
The nightlife in Swansea (and the rest of Wales) is a bit different from what Elmhurst offers. If you go out on any night of the week, be prepared to wear a dress, skirt, or leggings. NO JEANS! The locals will always be in a skirt or dress and 5-6 inch heels. Everyone in Swansea goes to the Nightclubs. The Welsh love to drink and dance. Prime hours are from 12am-3am. Pubs are popular during the week but often close around 12am. Just in time to head out to the club! If you want specific places to go, I can definitely get you those!
I’ve found that the grocery stores are very similar to back at home. You will be able almost everything available back home. Tea (with cream), welsh cakes, fish and chips, and tikka masala are all things you have to try at least once! Indian is extremely popular here, as well as your typical pub food. Because of many different people immigrating the different parts of the UK, there is a variety of food and restaurant options including American, British, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean, and even Portuguese (which is delicious). If you need to get your Mexican fix, head to Chiquito; the only Mexican restaurant in Swansea. 
I think I’ve covered the most important things… Feel free to post any questions and I’ll try my best to get them answered!
Iechyd da! (Cheers!)


Blogger Austin Haas said...

Hello Alexa!

My name is Austin, I am planning to study in Madrid in the spring! It sounds like you're having an AWESOME time in Swansea! Have you learned to love the sport of the world, soccer? I am sure you have! Any suggestions for the best medium when it comes to finances...I.e. Debit cards, travelers checks, credit cards, or cash? Looking forward to your response and I hope you continue to do well in school but still have fun shakin' it up in the clubs!


12:31 PM  
Blogger Nicole R. said...

Hi Alexa, Wales sounds like an awesome experience so far, hope you're loving it! Do you have any tips on picking classes that we will take while abroad?

2:04 PM  
Blogger Alexa K. said...

Austin - I have learned to enjoy football, rugby, and cricket (: All three are very popular here. Debit/credit is widely accepted. I'm not sure how Madrid will be but they use chip & pin cards here (not swipe) so some places cannot take swipe. Also, clubs & bars usually don't want to mess with cards. Check if your bank has a partner bank in Madrid which can help with ATM fees. I'd say always have cash on you, especially when you first arrive. And make sure you have access to your money via a debit or credit card, preferably with a low ATM or transaction fee.

Nicole - Do you have some flexibility? If you do, take courses that you aren't able to take at EC. Even if you aren't getting major/gen ed credits. I have an American friend taking a Welsh class. She'll probably never use Welsh once she leaves, but it's about the experiences she's having now!
If you don't have the flexibility with credits, do your research and make sure you can take the classes you need at potential universities abroad. I am a Senior and did not have much flexibility but was able to make it work based on the classes Swansea offered. I am in two classes that are interesting & meet major requirements.

Any additional questions, Alice can give you my email! Enjoy your semester abroad!

10:32 AM  
Blogger Mary Zizzo said...

Alexa, you mentioned how you did not have much flexibility with your classes since you are a senior, were there classes that you planned on taking but had to contact Elmhurst to make sure they would count? Did you run into a problem with that or were they helpful with allowing classes to count for certain things? Hope you are enjoying your time!

1:27 PM  
Blogger Biba Beckwith said...

Hi Alexa!!

Sounds like you are having tons of fun! Question: how did you pick classes? What do you recommend?

Keep posting!!

have fun,


2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm not familiar with Wales, but it sounds like an awesome place! What was the number one biggest culture shock you had when you first arrived? how did you deal with it? Thanks!


2:24 PM  
Blogger Alexa K. said...

Mary - I looked up courses at a few universities and made sure they offered courses that would transfer back. I set up meetings with Dr. Lagerwey and my department chair to discuss which courses EC had equivalents of. I found that general education courses were more flexible in terms of if they would qualify where as major/minor credits are weren't; in my case, those had to have an exact equivalent. Does that make sense?

Biba - Like I mentioned earlier, if you have flexibility, take advantage of classes not offered in the US. It's a good experience. I took a two week module on British Culture and loved it! Try and fit at least one elective class in - it will be worth it. Another way is to select a class that qualifies as a general education requirement that you find interesting. Hope that helps!

Ryder - I think I'm one of the first EC students to go to Wales (: As for culture shock, I don't know that I experienced it on a large scale. Here's the best advice I can give you for culture shock: keep an open mind. People are going to do things differently than you are used to, embrace it and maybe even join in!! You will get so much more out of the experience that way..


11:58 AM  

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