Part of my study abroad experience at Oxford University was going on a three day excursion through Wales. There were about twenty of us who went on a bus trip through Wales. We stopped in all the ridiculously named Welsh cities, at numerous castles and drove through forests, rolling hills and cliffs. Wales turned out to be incomparably more beautiful than anywhere I had ever been. It gave me the picturesque hills and green landscapes that I had envisioned England to have but was unable to find and we were able to find neolithic stone henges about every 5 miles.
While Wales was beautiful, our day hike through Snowdonia National Park, the biggest national park in Wales, was the highlight of my three days there. Snowdonia was full of cliffs, hills, cows and sheep. It was absolutely stunning. Our hike lasted only about four hours, but we were able to leave the group and explore to a degree that I hadn’t expected. We climbed some of the highest peaks in the area we were in, crossed small rivers and trekked alongside the roaming cows from one side of the park to the other. My hike in Snowdonia allowed me time to reflect on my trip so far and realize how stunning my surroundings really were. It also let me get in touch with nature in a way that was difficult to do in Oxford where there were so many people and so many buildings around.
In addition to Snowdonia, I was able to visit Tintern Abbey in Wales. Tintern Abbey is an Abbey that has been abandoned for hundreds of years and is in ruins. The ground of Tintern Abbey is all grass, but the structural stone of the Abbey still exists. Tintern Abbey has an immense amount of history in terms of the Church, sects of monks, and architecture. There is even a painting of Tintern Abbey at UMMA! While we visited many ruins over the course of my five weeks (they’re everywhere in the UK!) Tintern Abbey was absolutely stunning and shocking in its size and beauty. Thinking of the people who used to live and work in the abbey and reflecting on how privileged I was to be there today made me so appreciative to both my program and the scholarship I received from CGIS that allowed me to go in the first place.
The excursion I went on to Wales was completely immersive and showed me not only the natural beauty in Wales, but also the ruins of religious monuments and castles. It caused me to reflect on my travels, what I have learned and how privileged I was to experience this place in the first place.