Stepping off the gulag of bad air and worse food that is the airplane from LAX to London’s Heathrow, I stepped onto an island of equally cringe-worthy cuisine and inhospitable weather conditions. I dropped my bags and gawked uninterruptedly at the hustle and bustle of this great metropolitan cultural hub before me.
“Welcome to London,” squawked a local behind three inches of bulletproof glass as he exchanged my American currency into British sterling. That’s one of the many aspects of the United Kingdom that’ll grind your gears in a hurry. The currency exchange is appalling and embarrassingly, and not to an American’s advantage, especially to a starving American college student. One quickly acknowledges that a few semesters abroad in the U.K. will end in tears for you and your bank balance.
After paying about $11 dollars for a Whopper, I decided I had enough culture for one day and quickly skedaddled to my host university. I was doubled over and reeling for days because of the small fortune I’d left behind in London.
I journeyed toward South-West Wales, which would inevitably be my home and site of scholarly endeavours for the next year. I soon realized I had a Smurf’s chance in a blender of making it through the year with my sanity intact, especially when I eyeballed my accommodations for the first time. Bedazzling as the natural beauty of South-West Wales is from a cursory glance, my room ultimately made Shawshank seem like the Ritz in comparison.
I’m not a religious man, but I was thoroughly convinced that my door was a paranormal anomaly that worm-holed into Hades.
A toilet paper-thin mattress I once thought was a complimentary yoga mat really did wonders for my spine. Lousy heating and minimal running water also didn’t help the situation. I hurriedly dashed to the local campus health center to check if I had Cholera or Bubonic Plague to confirm if I was actually in the 17th century or not. Exaggerations aside, through and through, I began to feel more and more like Jean Valjean.
“That piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah” became a regular cadence of mine within a matter of weeks. That’s a definite highlight of Swansea. Living in a small, sleepy coastal community does have its perks. I’m surprised America doesn’t offer fish and chips on a more regular basis. Fish and chips are truly an exquisite combination; salty, scaly Atlantic cod fraternizing with diced potatoes. If you’re ever so inclined and find yourself in the neighbourhood, bulk up on them because everything else there is rubbish and shares the culinary qualities of Styrofoam. Packing foam popcorn is actually more appetizing than real popcorn there.
Yes, I complain incessantly. Yes, I whine to no end. But despite the foibles and flaws of Swansea, I certainly relished the opportunity to live and study there. It’s the uncomfortable obstacles that pick at your patience that’ll ultimately sum up this amazing European adventure. I highly recommend studying abroad to CSUN students and wholeheartedly encourage students to peruse our campus IP office as it’ll be a life-changing experience you won’t soon forget.
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