Kristyn Decker is a Junior studying Biology in the College of Science at Oregon State University. She spent an academic year studying at Bangor University in Wales, through OSU’s exchange program. The experience challenged her to push herself out of her comfort zone, and take risks. Studying abroad has inspired her to travel more, and next she is hoping to travel to Africa to research endangered species.
“Alright, mate?” is a common greeting that at first completely confused me, but quickly became part of my daily vocabulary upon living in Wales. Before I left for my year abroad in Bangor, Wales, I knew that I would be lost in a world of words I wouldn’t understand, but I assumed it would be the Welsh language that tripped me up, not the English slang like this greeting. Walking around the small town I saw the intimidating Welsh words full of consonants written above their English translation, and heard obscure slang in numerous accents all around me. It truly was a new world. My “new world” consisted of narrow streets, beautiful green fields, castles, and a surprising number of sheep. One of my favorite running routes started at the small town of Bangor, went over the Menai Straight, through fields, and into a nearby town, that even many local Welsh citizens have a hard time pronouncing (a word so long it gets its own line);
I chose to delve even deeper into the unknown by joining the women’s field hockey team. I had never played before, let alone seen a match, but this was one of the highlights of my time abroad. My teammates were very supportive and welcomed me fondly. Through practices, matches, and weekly socials I quickly became close friends with many of them. The socials always had themes, so every week I would end up walking through town with a group of teammates dressed in costume or “fancy dress” as they called it. The costumes varied widely; from golf players and Pokémon to a three legged race team. At the end of the year we went on a hockey tour to Spain. We spent a full day on a bus driving through Wales, England, France, and finally to a town near Barcelona where we spent five days playing hockey, sun bathing, and experiencing Spanish culture. If I had never chosen to go abroad or join the field hockey team I would never have had this amazing experience.
Every day that I was there felt like a new adventure. I was in a world where I was learning new things daily, and by the end of my 9 months there I felt at home. I knew the quickest way to walk to class, I was no longer afraid of the Welsh language, I knew the rules of hockey (even if I couldn’t play very well), and even began to drink tea, watch footie, and knew to refuse when someone offered me black pudding. Each day that passed, and all the experiences I was having, added together and slowly changed my view of the world and my aspirations. Everything I learned and underwent in that year will remain a treasured memory of an incredible experience. The country’s motto couldn’t be any truer: Cymru am Byth, Wales is forever.