Wednesday, June 16
The day passed quickly and although we were tired from our activities and the sun we went to the pub for a last pint of cider.
I soon said good-bye to the group that I somehow had managed to become part of (and it makes me sad just to write these lines) and went to bed early.
Thursday, June 17
I couldn't sleep long and got up very early, cleaned up what was left, grabbed my camera and set out for a final walk through town and some random picture-taking of my last term's haunts:
nice food, good atmosphere, reasonable prices (Burger+Pint £3.95)
- a pool table, quiz machine, beer garden: what else can you want?
and the cosy little green room.
Bangor Station: starting point of many trips
and also scene of several good-byes towards the end.
After this nice morning's walk I returned to the house, transformed the rest of my food into some kind of packed lunch, hugged Sam good-bye and left the house before my feelings could overwhelm me. As the train bore me along the north coast of Wales I mentally bid good-bye to the mountains, the sea, the sheep/cows/horses, the languages (both) and my friends. When I read all the nice messages they had written into my little notebook tears welled up, but with a bit of effort I managed to retain composure.
To cut a potentially long story short:
I landed in Bratislava, exhausted, curious and somehow also glad to be back, especially when I saw my mum and my sister through the parting automatic doors:
To finish off, let me summarise my wonderful term in Bangor (it's the last post on this topic anyway, so I am allowed to keep you a bit longer):
- Goal #1: Find a room in a house with some native speakers. I managed or rather got lucky, as the room (i.e. its former occupant) found me through a website. But here my luck didn't end - I had actually cracked the jackpot: My flatmates turned out to be sociable (ok, that was in the ad), friendly, funny, charming, helpful, cleanly and considerate - just the most perfect and wonderful flatmates I could possible have found. Tom, Sam, Dave and Nas took more interest in me than I had ever hoped for and regularly invited me to join them when they went out, met friends, went to the beach, had BBQs, went to watch rugby, went for a bike ride, and even to play xbox (although I was rubbish!). My flatmates' friends, to my immense surprise, soon accepted me as part of a bigger group of friends and often invited me round for film nights or took me horse riding and to the beach. I appreciated this in the extreme and thanked them a hundred times, because they just made this semester brilliant and I will miss them sorely!
- Goal #2: Get to see and taste as much of Wales as I can.
With "The Rough Guide to Wales" (thanks, Zach!) in my bag and a small group of Erasmus students with similar interests by my side I covered most of North Wales' sites, went to Cardiff and Swansea (and even small towns like Abergavenny and Cwmbrân) - I got to see castles, museums, neolithic structures, slate quarries, picturesque landscape and traditional pubs and, although I haven't yet seen all I'd wanted to see, I am quite content. (Plus: I took several other trips to England and Ireland on the side.) Into this category I also put exciting experiences with Welsh culture of any other kind (culinary ventures like laverbread or Welsh rarebit, literature like Cwmardy or A Toy Epic, glimpses at rugby, social encounters,...). Only now do I realise how much I learned about this country and its people!
- blowing in the wind atop one of the towers of castle Conwy
- Goal #3: Learn the basics of Welsh and understand its significance. I took pains to find a suitable course, encouraged my little erasmus group to join me and had a lot of fun going there twice a week to learn, repeat and practise useful little phrases. I even successfully tried a few in real life. Welsh is a beautiful, melodious language, despite some strange and tricky sounds. It adds an ancient mystic, celtic element to this wild and remote part of the UK. I definitely haven't had enough of if yet and should I ever go back I will resume the course from where I left it and try to become fluent!
- Goal #4: Join a society. I had heard that it is easiest to meet native speakers by joining one of the numerous clubs and societies and when Fiepje mentioned Irish Step dancing I had no excuse to stay away anymore. We both joined and had fun skipping around until Easter. The social night out was one of the highlights of my stay - for various reasons. Like Welsh, Irish Step dance is something that will stay with me and I plan to register at a school in my area with the start of next term.
- Goals #5 and #6: Spend as much time as possible outdoors and Buy a bike. Last year's laziness upped my motivation and the weather and beautiful area drew me outside. I found a runnig partner in Rebecca and soon also a suitable and beautiful path (past the harbour, along a river, through wood-land and over Bangor mountain). Furthermore, I got myself a map of Snowdonia (the mountaineous national park just a few miles away) and went on several hikes with erasmus people, visitors and flatmates. Moreover, I bought a bike cheaply and used it to explore Anglesey, get to hidden neolithic treasures or the Farm Shop, or for proper exhausting but fun rides with Tom. (As a consequence of the latter it died on me). And, finally, when the weather turned hot, we even managed to go to the beach and swim in the Atlantic. Twice! I never thought I would...
All in all this whole term was just one AMAZING experience, the magnificence and emotional value of which cannot be expressed in words! I am grateful for the wonderful people I met, the friendships I formed, the activities I did, the places I visited. The memories of all these things I will always continue to cherish and honour with many little tales and anecdotes.
This half year will be remembered: It might have changed me - it might also not, who knows, but however that may be - I would never swap it for anything else!
For all I know I do appreciate studying and living in Austria, but I miss a lot of things. Amongst them: the mountains, the sea, my running path, sheep, nice and affordable ciders, bbc iPlayer, Hobnobs, Ben&Jerry's, Welsh goats cheese, HMV, New Look, and, above all, English as my everyday language.
On the plus side: things like cheap train tickets, fresh local fruit and veg, freshly made ice-cream and proper bread are back in my life!
One thing is for certain (and here I'll quote from one of these many films I haven't seen yet): I'll be back!