To explain my first impressions of Cardiff is to consider the pieces that immediately felt like home. Hoffi Coffi, “I like coffee” for those who don’t speak Welsh, is a coffee shop a five minute walk from my flat where I have already settled in as a semi-permanent fixture, and there’s always a friend or two to be found relaxing or studying. While talking to baristas I’ve been introduced quirky bookstores such as Troutmark, a used book store where each of the three floors have books on every wall, stacked floor to ceiling, with appropriately placed ladders for accessing those too far out of reach. Or one could consider my time at the Llandaff Cathedral, where of all the couples I could have sat behind, I sat behind the American couple from New York, and following the service, they introduced me to some of their friends before offering me a ride home to avoid my walk in the ever present rain.
The other side of initial impressions are the things that made me feel out of my depth. Having issues with registering for classes and setting up various accounts for life in the UK, and the lack of communication from Cardiff University at the appropriate time. (No worries now though, all has been sorted.) Due to an unanticipated issue, having to figure out how to finagle socialized healthcare, though significantly simpler than any process I have experienced while in the US. Not to mention that I hopped the pond with another girl from Gordon, but largely on my own, and trying to traverse the aforementioned without the support system I developed in the states, well, my oh my.
But I would be remiss if in reflecting on the beginning of my time here I neglected to consider the things that gave me hope. The friends who have walked to doctors appointments with me, providing not only unexpected support but precious conversation over cups of Turkish coffee, talking about world view and the construction of any given musical album. Being able to sit in Hoffi Coffi in peaceable silence, writing pieces such as these to update friends and family or reading scientific literature in one moment, discussing the issues of autocorrect the next. Or, quite possibly the most exciting item, being able to walk alongside the castle in city center and share the health food store and the Cardiff Market with a flat mate, all while not using Google Maps or getting lost. It is in each of these moments that home is created, and here’s to the next eight months of moments such as these.
– Tori Arau (Gordon College, Class of 2019)