. During term time the town is packed with students from all over the world. I was slightly surprised of the amount of fellow Norwegians living and studying here, though I rarely met any of them. I guess most of us try to blend in with the natives – but betrayed by our Scandinavian accent and pockets full of snus.
My main attraction to study in Aberystwyth – apart from escaping Norway – was the academic reputation of the International Politics department. It is a well-known institution and the birthplace of ‘the Welsh School’. Andrew Linklater, Ken Booth, and Suganami are all well-established names associated with the department. I was therefore very excited when I got the opportunity to exchange through the Erasmus programme. Not only once – but twice.
The advantage I had as an exchange student was that I was able to choose from all the different subject fields the department offered, picking modules that fit with my academic interest – security studies, intelligence and theories of war. The modules were taught though seminar discussions instead of traditional lectures which was great way of integrating the topic of discussion, the readings and the student’s opinions and interpretations. The lecturers and professors worked as curators of the discussion and contributed with interesting inputs. As master students we did not have any exams, instead we would write essays and present seminar topics. I believe that the two semesters I spent at Aberystwyth University has broadened my knowledge and sustained my interest in learning.
(The library is open 24/7 which means a lot of late nights working before deadlines).
Aberystwyth social life
Because Aberystwyth is such a small place the University and its students are during term time the heart and soul of the town. After just a few weeks you will almost always meet someone you know when you walk through town. Because I started my exchange at the same time as the master course started, nobody on my course knew each other from before and it was easier to get to know each other.
The Student Union also offers a vast range of societies and sports clubs that frequently arrange socials for new and old students so socialise – everything from real ale society, pole dancing, rugby and cheer leading to history society, larping and Christian Union. It is almost impossible not to find something to join.
As part of the Erasmus exchange I was also frequently invited to socials with the other exchange students from across Europe. They would arrange trips to different destinations in Wales, have quiz nights, pub crawls and language exchange café. Most of the Erasmus students were also placed in the same student accommodation on campus, making it easy to get to know each other and the campus area. I decided to live in town instead of on campus as I wanted to be close to the sea. Also, as a master (and unfortunanly a mature student) I was more comfortable living with older students off campus.
My experience as a foreign exchange student was that we were very welcome and it was almost impossible not to socialise.
Welsh culture and language
In regards to the cultural and language Wales is unique. The Welsh are very proud of their nation, heritage, culture and language. Compared to south Wales, Aberystwyth and north Wales have a larger majority of Welsh speakers and all signs and information with be bilingual. As a non-welsh speaker it is a fascination language and sound a little like something from Lord of the Rings.
(Snowdonia national park just north of Aberystwyth. Of course there were sheep up the mountain).
I found Wales similar, but also a little different from my previous experiences in the UK. As many of the students at Aberystwyth are English and international there is a mixture of many different cultures and languages. This also has its advantages for the people who are non-native English speakers, as there are many students in the same situation which may help calm the nerves when practicing a foreign language. For me – as part English – Wales felt familiar and I quickly adopted the town as my new home.
(The UK isn't fully experienced without fish and chips, but beware of the seagulls. Aber seagulls are cheeky bastards. Although it may look tempting the Irish Sea is freezing).
I would highly recommend other students to study a semester – or two – at Aberystwyth. This has been an amazing year, both academically and socially, and one I will never forget.
(You cannot leave Aberystwyth without a large collection of the sunset pictures).