New Challenges

Sam Laughlin Swansea University, Wales


February 4, 2018

When everything’s going to plan in your life, you normally don’t mix it up. But sometimes, that’s exactly what you need to do.

Growing up and going to the only school I could ever think of attending- The University of Nebraska- was a plan that was executed to perfection. I settled in quickly and felt right at home… because after all, I was only an hour away from where I grew up!

Now I’m sitting here 4,000+ miles away from that life and awaiting my first day of classes at the University of Swansea in Wales. Ahead of me are new challenges that I would never face back home and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about more than just some words from a textbook. 

Sure there have been moments of nervousness and wondering “what did I get myself into?!” But I wouldn’t have gone into the Study Abroad office at Nebraska on the first Friday of my freshman year if those moments weren’t exactly what I was looking for.

In the week that I’ve been in the U.K. I’ve already learned a ton about a culture I thought I knew everything about. I’ve also begun to learn more about myself than I ever have. For example, perhaps I overestimated my knowledge of cooking as proven by the botched attempt of making dinner tonight! But by the same token, I underestimated my ability to talk to total strangers and truly listen to what they have to say.

Surely by the end of my time studying abroad I will have honed the art of making a basic dinner (hopefully), but the ability to communicate in a situation where I’m not comfortable should serve me well during my time here. So I’ll chat with the waiter at the local carvery for now.

Already, I’ve seen that Welsh people are just as interested in my culture as I am in theirs. After ordering a proper corn beef pie and chips at one of the stands in the local market, the cashier thought it was somewhat comical that I ordered it with a bottled water instead of tea.

“The only water I drink is cabbage water,” she proceeded to tell me. I took her word that it was healthier than the average bottled water, but can’t say I intend to try it anytime soon.

She then asked if I was from the States and found it so interesting that I came from the same state as Penny from ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ 

I think a small conversation with locals like that one helps put what I’m doing into perspective. Not everyone gets to have an experience like this—many people don’t even leave the town they were born in! And when I think of it like that, I’m willing to hold off on perfecting the craft of cooking if it means more conversations.


Semester Wales