Aberystwyth, Wales

This summer, I studied abroad at Aberystwyth University in Aberystwyth, Wales.  The start of my experience was a bit rough as I had to isolate myself for the first few days waiting to take a mandatory entry test.  However, I tested negative and was quickly able to explore the town and attend classes in person.  Did you know Wales is one of the world’s top producers of computer chips?  I took a class on semiconductor technology while there (there is no class like this at UM) and it was doubly amazing because I learned at one of the hot spots of the subject!  I also was able to take a physics class on energy and the environment.  This class not only enhanced my experiences in my GLI theme of Natural Resources and Sustainability, but it was also applicable to my field (physics) which I greatly appreciated.  While academics took up plenty of my time, it was far from the only thing I did while abroad.

The town of Aberystwyth is incredibly beautiful.  It’s surrounded by mountains, and the valley in which the town sits goes right up to the sea.  You get a beautiful green mountain view over a lively sea town.  The town sits at the mouth of the Rheidol and Ystwyth rivers (which is actually where the town gets its name with aber being Welsh for mouth).  The river areas and mountain views are perfect places to hike to.  In fact the whole town is traversed by a series of trails, and the town’s size makes it easily walkable.  I enjoyed walking and enjoying the town, always trying to take a different route and discover more each journey.  Of course, the university sat uphill from the town which always made it a drudge to get back to my flat, but it was worth it.  Downtown features plenty of seaside shops and local restaurants.  Following the beach front you can easily find the ruins of Aberystwyth castle, surrounded by the town.  And because of the town’s west-facing nature, every night brought a beautiful sunset right over the bay.  Aberystwyth is such a beautiful town that I’ll miss exploring

I didn’t only explore the town, however.  Our Easter break was 3 weeks long which gave me ample time to explore the entire United Kingdom.  It was so easy to travel too.  Aberystwyth is the terminus of a train line which connects directly to Birmingham (and conveniently Birmingham’s Airport as well).  From Birmingham, I could get anywhere I wanted to by simply hopping on the train (for really cheap too!)  I stayed in Birmingham and was able to explore the lovely canals that traversed the area.  Afterwards, I stayed in London for a long weekend, stopping by museums and of course seeing some of the more popular tourist spots.  After London, I took the train up to Edinburgh (probably my favorite stop in my UK tour) and got to walk the high mile and see the incredible architecture in the Old City.  I went back to Aberystwyth for Easter weekend, and then traveled to Liverpool for the day.  There was way more to do in Liverpool than I expected, but I couldn’t stay too long because the next day I took a ferry to Belfast.  I spent the night and the next day in Belfast before taking the overnight ferry back to Liverpool (I don’t recommend the overnight unless you can get a place to sleep on the ferry.  Which I wasn’t able to do) and continuing back to Aberystwyth to wrap up the semester.

After finals week(s) it was time for me to go back to the United States.  I was able to learn so much academically.  I delved into the semiconductor field which I wouldn’t have been able to easily do here at UM.  I also got to learn hydrodynamics which I again couldn’t take here at UM.  Furthermore, I learned about energy and the environment from a British perspective and saw how it differed from the general perspectives here.  Besides academics, I also got to experience both British culture and Welsh culture.  The Welsh language continues to heighten in popularity in the country, and it was really interesting to be able to see the language present everywhere throughout my studies.  Cars were also much smaller and far less prominent in the UK than here in the US, although drivers were a lot meaner than here in Missoula.  People’s lower reliance on cars is something we could use here in America sometimes (although that’s easier said than done).  I think the biggest thing I’ll miss from the UK though is the amazing train system.  It makes me wish even more that we had a convenient, relatively cheap train option to move from city to city.  Traveling on a whim and just being able to hop on a train and go was an experience I’ll never forget.