9/05/2019 Lydia Shaw

Letter From an F&M Student Abroad: My Summer in Wales

This summer, having finished her first year at Franklin & Marshall College, sophomore Lydia Shaw studied as a Fulbright Summer Participant in the United Kingdom.

“This is a highly selective fellowship that only takes students with little to no travel experience and a GPA of at least 3.7,” said Nina Bond, assistant director of F&M’s postgraduate fellowships.

The following is Shaw’s letter about her experience in Wales:

  • F&M sophomore Lydia Shaw studied as a Fulbright Summer Participant Aberystwyth University in Aberystwyth, Wales. F&M sophomore Lydia Shaw studied as a Fulbright Summer Participant Aberystwyth University in Aberystwyth, Wales. Image Credit: Lydia Shaw
  • The ruins at Aberystwyth Castle in Wales. The ruins at Aberystwyth Castle in Wales. Image Credit: Lydia Shaw
  • Shaw enjoys a day at Aberystwyth Castle ruins with fellow Fulbright students. Shaw enjoys a day at Aberystwyth Castle ruins with fellow Fulbright students. Image Credit: Lydia Shaw
  • Llfrau Ystwyth Books, a used  book stores in Aberystwyth that Shaw visited. Llfrau Ystwyth Books, a used book stores in Aberystwyth that Shaw visited. Image Credit: Lydia Shaw
  • A view of Aberystwyth from a tram traveling down Constitution Hill. A view of Aberystwyth from a tram traveling down Constitution Hill. Image Credit: Lydia Shaw

Hello all!

The Fulbright Summer Institute at Aberystwyth University in Aberystwyth, Wales, is absolutely splendid. I thought I would send some photos and tell you about the highlights!

I took incredible seminars in Aberystwyth University's International Politics Department, which was the first department of its kind. This year, the department celebrated its 100th year. The focus of the program is “Identity and Nationhood” through the lens of Wales. My favorite seminars included, but were certainly not limited to, "UK Foreign Policy, the Labour Party and the British Left," "Symbols of Nationhood," exploring Welsh identity through maps, and "Colonialism and the Welsh," discussing a phenomenon in which a group of Welsh immigrated to and colonized a small part of Argentina called Patagonia. 

I presented a research project on the importance of bilingual bookstores in Welsh culture (Wales hopes to achieve 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050!). As an intended English literature and American Studies double major, I’m uniquely poised for the program—I am someone who is interested in not only history and books, but the political and cultural nuances to how a nation is defined. I was also learning Welsh from native speakers, which makes the fan of words in me very happy!

Outside the classroom, we went on many adventures! I particularly enjoyed our behind-the-scenes tour of the National Library of Wales and our trip to the International Eisteddfod. At the National Library of Wales, I tirelessly asked the National Librarian many questions—the library owns several Books of Hours (illuminated manuscripts from the medieval era; very, very old bound books) and its collection goes back to the third century! This, of course, blew my mind. The International Eisteddfod is a yearly Welsh cultural/folk festival with performance competitions (including poetry!) that people from many different countries participate in. The festival culminates in a "parade of nations" in which participants march through the streets of the host city in traditional dress. I was an experience that brought hope and smiles to us all.

I hiked on "Devil's Bridge," learned to bake Welsh cakes, explored the ruins of Aberystwyth Castle, ran around Cardiff for a day, went to the Welsh National Assembly and met with a member of Parliament, ate at a "chippy" (fish-and-chip shop), hiked some more, and saw an incredible amount of sheep! I also explored two well-known Welsh castles, traveled to a city of bookstores called Hay-on-Wye, and visited the Center for Alternative Technology.

I have had an absolutely life-changing experience, and I’m extremely grateful to the Fulbright Commission and Aberystwyth University for this unique opportunity. I am also grateful to the professors at F&M for coaching me through the application and interview process, and their unending encouragement of me. The opportunity to fly on a plane for the first time, go abroad, and study (one of my favorite activities, as everyone knows) all expenses paid is not one that I take for granted. I cannot imagine leaving Aberystwyth.

All my best,

Lydia

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