When I realized that I would be studying in Wales, my father did what many parents do and found some books about Wales. We spent a while flipping through the books, trying to find information about Aberystwyth (Aber-wrist-with), where I’d planned to study, and enjoyed the various facts we stumbled into along the way. However, some of the most interesting facts about Wales are best learned by visiting in person. Here are some things I have learned about Wales from my time studying here:
1. King Arthur was Welsh: The legend debatably existed before the 6th Century depending on your source, but the author who made Arthur most famous was Geoffrey of Monmouth (and Geoffrey was Welsh!). It’s a decidedly debatable topic, but it is fun to remind the English that one of the most famous Englishmen in the world could have been Welsh!!
2. Taron Egerton – One of the lead actors in ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ fame considers himself Welsh after attending primary school in Aberystwyth after living in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll (I have no phonetic help on that name!). If you’re curious, you can easily find some of his interviews on YouTube. Mr. Egerton does a fantastic job pronouncing it and explains some of his Welsh heritage and why he loves it there!
3. The Welsh Flag: The depth of Welsh history is incredible and I’ve barely scratched the surface, but I recall excitedly reading that the Welsh flag is one of the oldest recognized flags in the world, though its current form was incorporated in 1959. The white and green stripes with the bold red dragon are well loved, and you’ll see red dragons just about everywhere. I’ve even seen the flag painted on stone above a fireplace, and it’s possible that the red dragon was a symbol of Arthur’s court.
4. Rugby: One of the cornerstones of Welsh culture is rugby. While I was at first hesitant (I love American football), the game quickly grew on me. Rugby is a “hooligan sport played by gentleman,” and the Welsh love to enjoy a pint while watching a match. Before any Welsh Rugby Union (WRU, the governing body of the sport) match, the team and stadium sing the national anthem. I’ve been told that the song alone is worth the ticket, because in addition to loving rugby, the Welsh love music—Tom Jones, anyone? It’s something about all that fresh air, but the National team sounds great even through a TV.
5. Food: One of things that surprised me most was the vast cheese selection at Morrison’s (a local grocery store). When I was a kid, my mother would make what we called “Welsh rabbit,” a simple dish of melted, creamy cheese on toasted English muffins. It turns out, Welsh rarebit is a classic dish, loved for its simplicity and the way it fills you up! Standing before the fridge at Morrison’s I regularly get to try a new kind of cheese and enjoy the variety.
Of course, if you’re going to talk about Welsh food, you have to mention lamb. Sheep graze in almost every direction you look out in the countryside, and it’s not hard to find a recipe if you’re interested. If you favor vegetarian dishes, the cheese section should more than satisfy a curious palate.
If you want to make friends, go to the nearest bakery and grab some Welsh cakes. Similar to pancakes, the small circles of batter usually have dried fruit inside, and come coated in sugar. Whether you enjoy a few with tea, or share them with friends, they are a wonderful treat—especially after a day of classes.
(Bonus!) 6. Castles: Wales has a lot to offer, and if you aren’t swayed yet—it has the largest number of castles in Europe!
Regardless of what food you enjoy, or if hooligan sports are your hobby, Wales is more than worth your consideration. I have always felt safe walking through Aberystwyth, and enjoyed every moment I spend there—whether out and about or in a lecture hall. If there’s a chance you’d like to study in Wales, I really can’t say enough about the wonderful food, the entertaining sports, the rich culture—but the kindness and friendliness of the people are what tips the scales. Studying in Wales leave me wanting for nothing, except to get back as soon as possible!
It’s a wonderful place, and knowing that I can always find a good meal, or enjoy a chat with someone, are incredible comforts when far from home. If you would like to find out more about studying in the UK, please contact us using the form opposite.