Oberlin Blogs


June 21, 2019

Megan McLaughlin ’22

Today is the longest day of this year, and I am spending it in Cardiff, Wales. This morning I woke up and thought to myself “I want to go on an adventure” and found my way to the train station to spend this extra long Friday in a new place. I got on the train to Cardiff with no plan of what I was going to do aside from see a new place, and now I am here.

How did I get across the pond and now to Cardiff, you ask? Well, I am studying abroad.

I suppose I’m not really used to enjoying summertime. In past years, especially during my childhood, they’ve mostly been aimless three-month periods in which I never really knew what to do with myself. I didn’t like summer camp as a kid, but I also didn’t like having no structure for my whole day, every day. But this summer, I’m spending nearly six weeks taking classes across the ocean before heading back to the United States and going to a music festival. I am doing capital T Things this summer, which is rather new for me.

Today, as well as many of the other days so far this summer, I am doing a new thing – visiting Cardiff. I’m somewhere new, doing something new, and it’s honestly pretty great. I never planned on studying abroad; I’m mostly here because I followed a gut feeling that turned out to be very practical. I’ve also never written an entire blog post in one day, mostly due to my prolonged marination habits, but today I’m doing that too. I suppose if there’s a best day to try and do it, it would have to be the longest day of the year. Today is the summer solstice, and what a good day it’s turning out to be. Happy summer solstice, Cardiff. Like all of the UK I’ve seen so far, you’re beautiful, as cliché as that sounds.

I got to Cardiff around 11:00am, and after getting lunch and exploring the ever beautiful and stained-glassed Cardiff Castle, I made my way to the River Taff and its surrounding parks.

I followed this river upstream for the better part of two hours before turning back. I wasn’t trying to find the beginning of the river; a quick glance at Google Maps told me that it continued upstream for miles and miles and miles until it split into two different rivers, and then two more rivers, until it was no longer called the River Taff. I wasn’t looking for the source, or anything concrete, really – I was just looking. There was no specific reason for me to follow this river for a good 12,000 steps, just like there was no specific reason for me to come to Cardiff today, just like there is no specific reason for me to write this blog post. Nothing today had a specific purpose, but if I were forced to put my finger on it, I would say that everything today was done for the sake of my imagination.

This is the River Taff. The water is wide and deep blue, with trees lining either side. The sky is blue and mostly clear of clouds.
This is the River Taff, which run through Cardiff as well as lots of other places in Wales. It is a good river. I rate it five out of five stars.

Today is a retreat, of sorts. A second retreat from my initial study abroad retreat. A retreat so I can have a just-me day; a writing retreat; a day to explore. Today was productive in that it’s been a great day for me and my imagination. This whole trip during June and the beginning of July is about exploring. I came to the UK based on a gut feeling that if I didn’t study abroad this summer, I would never end up doing it, and so far this has turned out to be a great choice.

The last time I left the United States was five years ago, when I spent three days in Toronto. Travelling, especially flying, is a bit stressful for me, so I don’t do it much. This summer, I’m spending just under six weeks in the UK. I hesitate to say that I’m studying abroad in Bath, because the great part about studying abroad here is that I’m not just studying abroad in Bath; I get the whole darn United Kingdom. Last Thursday I took a trip to Yate to get a lesson; last weekend my whole study abroad program visited Dorset on the Southern coast; right now I’m in Cardiff; next weekend I’m going to London; the week after that I’m going to Stonehenge. Classes are only four days a week, so I can go as far as my heart and a train will take me on any given three-day weekend. So once again, how did I get across the pond and now to Cardiff, you ask? Well, I am studying abroad in this whole magnificent world, and letting my imagination lead the way.

Things aren’t the same in Bath or Cardiff as they are in the US – obviously; they’re thousands of miles apart – but what feels the most different is how I see everything here. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve felt the childlike sense of wonder and infinity that I used to get all the time as a kid, but I certainly feel it here in Cardiff. Not “playing mermaids,” as I did when I was eight, but simply marveling at how amazing this place is, and how grateful I am to be here. I finally got to satisfy the small part of my middle and high school self that wanted to see Wales because Welsh history is the basis for one of my favorite young adult series (I highly recommend the Raven Cycle by Maggie Steifvater). I must admit, I’ve listened to “The Rainbow Connection” by Kermit the Frog about a dozen times today, and I firmly believe that there is no song that inspires childlike imagination more than that one.

This place is so old – Cardiff Castle is older than the United States itself – but everything is new to me. I followed a river today so I could do something new. I am studying abroad so I can do something new. And in the just over two weeks I’ve been here so far, I’ve done so many new things.

Writing a whole blog post in one day? Check. Visiting Cardiff? Check. Today I had a good day, maybe one of my best here. Lots more is coming from me soon. But for now, I only have three weeks left, so I better get back to it.

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