My experience as a Cardiff newbie – For Alumni, By Alumni22 January 2024
Nori Shamsuddin (LLB 1998) is a mother, self-proclaimed poet, hopeless romantic, and freelance writer. Here, she reflects on her experience of travelling to Wales for the first time from her home country of Malaysia, and her memories of settling in as an international student.
It was the autumn of 1995. I wasn’t new to the UK, having visited before with my parents. But this time was different – I was about to embark on my journey as a law student at Cardiff University.
Convincing my parents to let me study abroad had not been easy. I had never travelled abroad solo before, and the feeling of being alone in a foreign land stirred up a whirlwind of emotions within me. That, and the fact that I rarely heard stories about Wales, made the country mysteriously alluring, leaving me with a sense of anticipation and not knowing what to expect at all.
So, there I was on my 13-hour trip from Kuala Lumpur to London. I wasn’t part of any group of scholars or a formal organisation, which meant that I had to find my way around on my own. A bit unnerving but, of course, I played it cool and stayed composed most of the time. The only person I knew at that moment was the daughter of one of our neighbours, who was pursuing her postgraduate studies at Cardiff University. She suggested buying a bus ticket from Heathrow Airport for a little over a three-hour ride to Cardiff, where she would meet me at Cardiff Central Bus Station.
Up until this point I was having an amazing time on my solo escapade. But there I stood, soaking in the hustle and bustle of Heathrow Airport, reading signage after signage, asking for directions, dragging my luggage around. I finally boarded a bus that whisked me away on the next leg of my journey. I felt a surge of empowerment and independence! Free at last! But then, at some point during the bus ride, just as I was becoming comfortable with my new surroundings, I looked out of the window and there it was. A sign by the roadside that said: Croeso i Gymru!
Excuse me, what was that again?
Pardon my naïveté, but I never realised that Wales has this fascinating linguistic twist with its Welsh language! That’s right, my friends. From there on, I was gobsmacked. Every sign I read along the way seemed to have more words that meant nothing to me – thankfully, most of them came with English text. Still, my head spun. My heart raced. I even found myself questioning my life choices!
But the feeling vanished as soon as my eyes met the breathtaking landscapes around me. Miles upon miles of rolling hills that make up the scenic Welsh countryside. It was simply surreal. The bus smoothly made its way to Cardiff (‘Caerdydd’ in Welsh), the capital of Wales and home to Cardiff University, where I spent the next three years.
I made it in one piece (phew) and over the next few days found myself immersed in a flurry of class registrations and adjusting to life as an undergraduate. In my initial weeks, I took up residence at the student accommodation on Colum Road, which I absolutely loved – especially the hot showers on those chilly mornings (and nights) in the ensuite bathroom!
After deciding to move, I found my way to a rented home at 4 Wyeverne Road, Cathays, chosen for its proximity to the Law School. It was owned by a bubbly Welsh couple, who would swing by now and then, bringing goodies and random items like lacy drapes (which ended up in my room, of course). They even brought welcome gifts when my folks came over one summer. Having a rented home presented a different set of challenges. From juggling bills, to getting groceries, to randomly having friends over for meals, to hosting festive occasions (on a student budget and calling home for Mom’s cooking tips) – Cardiff had me covered.
Of course, there were other cherished moments between classes, assignments, and exams. You know, simple stuff like getting fresh daffodils to adorn my kitchen table every morning. Flipping through Argos catalogues and circling my wish list items. Waiting for the next sale to grab bargains from Topshop and Next. Or spending hours at the aisles of Tesco, ASDA, and Sainsbury’s looking through varieties of flour, sugar, and other enticing baking items! And perhaps on some days, rushing over to HMV on Queen Street to get the latest £1 CD single releases. Strolling through the city’s shopping arcades, while enjoying the elegant blend of Victorian and Edwardian designs. Scouring for used or out-of-print books at second-hand bookstores (I found some treasures for as little as 50p)! Or getting a newspaper from enthusiastic sellers by the roadside calling, ‘Echo! Echo! Get your Echo!’ as you walk past. The list goes on and on.
In short, I must say that my time at Cardiff University wasn’t just about getting my Bachelor’s Degree, it was more like a crash course in life. I picked up problem-solving skills, multitasking skills, and mastered the art of self-discipline. I made new friends – not just at the University, but with the beautiful locals – whilst appreciating different cultures and traditions. Amid the academic chaos, I discovered personal growth and developed a lasting fondness for Cardiff. I mean, a city boasting a castle at its heart? Could it get any more enchanting?
“Diolch Caerdydd, byddaf bob amser yn eich caru.”
In between writing articles and scripts for commercials, TV programmes, short movies, and copy-editing tonnes of documents, Nori continues to spend her days and nights dreaming of publishing her manuscript (currently covered in dust and cobwebs). You can connect with Nori through our alumni networking platform Cardiff Connected.
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