I only have seven days left in Aberystwyth before I move away. Reflecting back on my three years in this beautiful town, I am really quite sad to go. I chose this place based on my university course and I haven’t always been entirely satisfied with the course. But overall, if I could go back in time and change my decision I would choose this place again. Coming here was one of the best decisions I ever made and I would never want to take that back.
Aberystwyth has been my home
At the time of my arrival back in 2015, I felt like I had ‘fled’ my home country. It felt like I didn’t have many strong ties and I had a strong apathy towards life. Going to Aberystwyth gave me a new start where no one knew me. While this would have been the case for wherever I would have gone in the UK, Aber was particularly great because it is located in Wales where the first thing I noticed was the friendliness of the people. Everyone seemed warm and welcoming and on top of that Aberystwyth is rather small. It’s really easy to find your way, which makes you feel like you have known the place since forever. Because it is so small, there is also a sense of community, which made me feel less alone. As a result, this place quickly felt like a home and I managed to settle in within a week. Finding this home was one I desperately needed.
Made friends for life
I was very lucky in my first year of university. I ended up living with 14 other people and at least one of them has become a friend for life – family even. He’s one of the people that I feel most comfortable around. He appreciates my sarcasm, sees the good in me that I sometimes forget I have and he has been patient and more supportive than I’d ever ask anyone to be.
I do believe that the sports teams that I have been a part of will stay in my heart too (and I’ll have to come back for old girls and 7’s)
I met this Estonian friend on my course, an Austrian friend on my football team, a Welsh friend in university accommodation, and an Irish friend through shared creativity and deep topics and so many other people that genuinely care for me and I hope I’ll stay in contact with.
And if I ever return to this town, I know everyone will welcome me back with open arms including the Swing group that I’m not even a part of.
In my department (English Literature & Creative Writing) teachers were always willing to help me with educational stuff, as well as personal issues. More than once, they spend more time with me as a student than their working hours paid for. I always felt like all of the staff in my department cared about my wellbeing and that they have done their best to accommodate me. I obviously don’t have anything to compare it to, but I think it’s fairly special to find staff and teachers that are so committed.
Superteams and Ruby 7’s
It may seem strange that this is a reason as to why I would choose this university again, but I definitely think these two events add something significant to the university experience. I haven’t heard of another university that hosts something like Superteams (I guess the student union, which leaves something to be desired, makes up for it by hosting this). It’s the best team bonding event, as well as just a fun weekend that I can’t really properly describe. Everyone who has done it knows what I’m talking about. It’s great. I wish I could stay for another year just for this!
And then there is also Rugby 7’s, something that I don’t think I would have been exposed to at an English university. Who doesn’t want to tackle people or be chased by several people as you try and score a point? I know it sounds mad but the adrenaline rush is incredible! And on top of that, it’s fun to be a part of the team and go out at the end of the weekend (or all weekend long, as some do).
The university sports teams
Sports teams give you a group of people to hang out with, a weekly activity and in Aberystwyth’s case, they are the one that introduces you to Superteams and 7s.
One thing I certainly didn’t anticipate though was the long long travel time that comes with competing in any sport if you’re in Aber. I happened to choose football in my first year but it really doesn’t matter because Aber is kind of in the middle of nowhere. While I am so glad that I won’t ever have to drive 3.5 hours to a match again, it’s also special in a way. I never thought I’d find myself on a bus with several sports teams to get to a game. Once, it took us 6 hours to get to a match in Bath (and 6 hours back), but I remember this as a good experience because I talked to my teammate Sam all the way through. Another trip that was quite memorable was one I made with the basketball team just before Christmas. If you follow me on Instagram you’ve probably seen it. ‘Imagine driving through Wales’ windy roads when the hills are covered in snow and the sheep have seemingly disappeared. The radio is blasting Fairytale of New York while the person next to you sings full-heartedly… ‘and the bells were ringing out…’ until suddenly ’blargh’ ‘stop the bus!’ (X3) and these pictures happened.’
Aberystwyth is the perfect place to find a quiet spot in nature. The sea is right on your doorstep and if you stare out into it then there are hills full of trees (and bluebells in spring) behind you. Near the end of my degree, I considered moving to a bigger city, but I don’t think I am ready to because being able to step into nature within 10 minutes of leaving my house helps my mental health. The sea helps with this too.
A disadvantage of living in Aberystwyth is that everything is far away and you’re quite literally at the end of the world. Sort of. An advantage though, for me in my first year, was that I was guaranteed that no one from my hometown would come and visit me unannounced. I never had to worry about whether my family would show up on a Saturday morning without telling me.
Also… the bonfires on the beach in summer are great. Not to mention the sunsets!
Improved my anxiety
I was diagnosed with social anxiety when I was about 16 years old. I thought of quitting university a few times due to my anxiety. Luckily, the university and teachers were supportive. I didn’t have to hold a presentation when it was required (I was given an alternative assessment) and I wasn’t pressured to speak up if I didn’t feel comfortable. Because I was given this time and space, and also continued to be encouraged, I eventually reached a point at which I am able to do these things that I used to feel uncomfortable with.
I managed to be an ambassador for my department: I managed to give complete strangers a campus tour and approach people to answer potential questions or to simply hold a conversation. I’m now also able to join a random sports team without fleeing the room upon arrival. I no longer feel anxious when I go to class and I feel comfortable to share my opinion too. I no longer feel like anxiety controls my life. It won’t stop me from having a part-time job, while before it did.
Improved my depression
While I cannot say that I am no longer plagued by depressive thoughts, I am doing so much better than before I came to Aberystwyth. I learned new ways to cope. I found genuine joy and happiness and I came to realise that it is indeed possible to get better. I think this aspect of my life improved because of the change of location, the people that I met and the supportive environment, as well as the general process of growing up and understanding the world a little bit better. This and the improvement in my anxiety have been two of the most valuable things that I gained from my time in Aberystwyth.
I also fondly remember…
– The floor is lava and tag in the dark
– The May Ball in 2016
– Flat meals & being a house elf… somehow
– Harry Potter Marathons
– All the movies I tried watching with the flat but didn’t actually watch
– Painting eggs for easter
– The walk to Borth
– Several bonfires on the beach
– Bicycle trips
– The arcade
– Playing Dixit and Monopoly
– A 10km run I didn’t sign up for
– The boat races in Yoko’s and Academy
– Dancing in Pier
– Halloween 2017
And probably a lot of other things that are slipping my mind right now…
I don’t know why I ask myself the question of whether or not I’d have chosen a different university if I could. After all, it’s not like I could change it now. It’s interesting though to reflect back upon this period of my life. Would you have chosen a different university if you could? Or have you transferred universities during your degree?
Let me know about your experience.