From the sprawling national parks of Snowdonia and Pembrokeshire to the southern cities of Cardiff and Swansea (with many a castle in-between) – Wales caters to everybody. Gone are the days of mines and quarries of the 19th Century; in its place a new Wales has developed - strongly setting itself apart from the rest of the British Isles with its own unique history and culture.
Whether hiking the rolling peaks of the Beacon Beacons or unwinding in the many bars and restaurants in the shadow of Cardiff Castle, nobody is left disappointed. With some of the UK’s top universities, Wales is an ideal choice for those wanting a bit of everything without being underwhelmed.
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Wales’ three largest cities all hug the River Seven Estuary on the south coast (The river creating the border with England), and offer great transport links to the rest of Wales and into London and Birmingham in England.
The cultural heart of the country, the capital has developed its own unique scene distinct from its neighbours. From the pulse-racing atmosphere of a Rugby match day to the many parks and avenues within the city centre, Cardiff does not disappoint. Cardiff also boasts being one of the biggest nightlife centres of the UK along with the main shopping districts.
Cardiff University, regarded as one of the UK’s top university is located here, along with the University of Wales, Cardiff (UWIC) which deals with more vocational courses.
Wales’ second city, Swansea allows great views across the River Severn and access to the sandy southern Welsh coast. Being voted as the UK’s best beach, the Gower Peninsular offers pristine views and a laid back atmosphere across a 5 mile costal stretch. Clubs, bars and restaurants also dot around the city centre allowing place to unwind and socialize.
Sitting on the river Usk, Newport completes the list of the three southern coastal cities. Built around the now preserved ruins of Newport Castle, the city offers a trip back to the 19th Century with the many historical pubs and inns from the days of mining and quarrying. Although the days of seeing soot covered miners with head lamps and pickaxes are now gone, these retreats still offer a homely atmosphere and a great pint.
How to Choose a Program
Language: Officially, Wales has two languages, Welsh and English - Welsh being the ancient Celtic language that is more commonly spoken in the more rural and northern parts of the country.
Academic institutions, however, are entirely run in English (so don’t be put off if you arrive and the station names are all in some apparently undecipherable code!). In fact, to actually come across a Welsh speaker are a special find. Bi-lingual traffic signs are still common throughout the country, and we recommend selecting a program that allows you to learn a bit of this local tongue while you're there.
Housing: Universities across the Wales provide “Halls of Residence” to students studying outside their hometown. Students from overseas normally have additional support, such as bedding provided, although this should be checked with the University first.
Dormitories normally consist of 6 private bedrooms sharing one kitchen. A private bathroom is available if you so which, although expect an additional charge. A common route most local students take is using a student dormitory for the first year and finding private housing for the remaining years. However, dormitories are available for the duration of a course if the student prefer to stay on campus. Some programs will organize all of your housing logistics for you even before you land - though it may cost a bit more, sometimes it's nice to save the headache.
Immersion and cultural activities: Program fees may or may not include extra cultural activities or small excursions. While some programs encourage these group activities for extensive learning and a great opportunity to hang with other program participants, other programs will instead encourage students to organize their weekend activities independently.
Your university setting will be a hotbed of activity. Whether it be having a go at Wales’ national sport, Rugby, or something more unique, such as the “Sci- fi and Fantasy society” available at Cardiff University, there is likely to be something to interest you. Overseas societies are also very common, for those students who are longing for their hometown country or simply want to stay engaged with people from their culture. “Society Fairs” normally take place at the beginning of the academic year, for club to compete for potential new members.
Contributed by Stuart Middleton6>
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