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Cardiff University ExperiencesLiving away from homeStudent Life

From Masala Chai to Welsh Cakes: My Adventure as an Indian Student in Cardiff

12 June 2024

It all began with a craving for adventure and a will to pursue a master’s degree in the UK. As I embarked on this journey, armed with a suitcase full of dreams and a heart full of excitement, hailing from the Oxford of the East to the Welsh capital was no short of a roller coaster ride. Little did I expect, this journey would not only broaden my academic horizons but also introduce me to a world of cultural quirks and unexpected delights.

After a three-hour bus ride from Heathrow to Cardiff, I was warmly greeted not just by the brisk Welsh air but also by the perpetual use of phrases like “SORRY” and “THANK YOU.” For a moment, I felt like I had entered an alternate universe, because the level of formality was such a contrast compared to the direct communication in India. Nevertheless, I quickly jumped on the wagon of politeness.

My first encounter with Welsh cuisine was a revelation in itself. Gone were the days of samosas and spicy curries; instead, I found myself feasting on Welsh cakes. As I took my first hesitant bite of a traditional Welsh cake, I couldn’t help but marvel at its buttery goodness, so different from the spicy delights of home. And don’t even get me started on sipping breakfast tea with a plate of fresh scones with jam and clotted cream – Bridgerton vibes indeed.

But it wasn’t just the food that left me wide-eyed and eager to explore. The Welsh language, with its seemingly endless stream of consonants and lyrical cadence, was almost like a puzzle waiting to be solved. Spoiler alert: I still can’t get “shwmae” right.

One particularly memorable cultural shock came in the form of the infamous British weather. As someone accustomed to the year long sunshine of India, the constant drizzle and occasional torrential downpours were a rude awakening. But instead of letting it dampen my spirits (pun intended), I embraced the British weather wholeheartedly, investing in a sturdy umbrella and a collection of puffer jackets that would make any fashionista proud.

One of the most enchanting aspects of a Cardiff summer was the phenomenon of late sunsets, where 9 PM felt remarkably like 4 PM. The sun lingering on the horizon, casting a golden glow over the city and painting the sky with hues of orange and pink was a surreal experience, especially for someone from India, where dusk arrived swiftly. It was so easy to lose track of time, as the bright, warm light made everything feel perpetually vibrant and alive. The extended daylight invited impromptu evening picnics in Bute Park and leisurely walks along Cardiff Bay, making every summer day stretch wonderfully into the night.

Of course, no international experience would be complete without a few misadventures along the way. Like the first time I boarded a bus and was completely unaware of pressing the “stop” button at my desired stop, or the time I accidentally set the fire alarm off by deep-frying batata wadas. But each experience only added to the rich tapestry of my Cardiff adventure, reminding me that sometimes the best memories are made when things don’t go according to plan.

To add to my list of Cardiff chronicles, I learned that managing my finances as a student is a delicate art. Extravagant nights out, takeaways, Tesco bills, and the next thing I knew, was a big hole in my pocket. This made me create a budget and got me hooked on always looking out for student discounts on UNiDAYS, and occasionally, even made me rethink my urge to buy that gorgeous ZARA dress which I absolutely did not need.

As I look back on 21 months in Cardiff, I can’t help but feel grateful for the countless experiences and friendships that have shaped me into the person I am today. From navigating the intricacies of Welsh culture to mastering the art of small talk in the queue at Tesco, every moment has been a lesson in resilience and adaptability.

So here’s to Cardiff – a city that welcomed me with open arms and taught me that home is not just a place, but a feeling of belonging wherever you may go. As I set out on another adventure, looking for a job, who knows in which city I will end up, but one thing’s for sure: Cardiff will always have my heart.