When studying abroad, Arcadia offers its students opportunities to go on excursions. Most of the trips are for the day, places like Winston Churchill’s War Rooms, Oxford, and Windsor Castle. But my favorite are the weekend trips, and one memorable destination was to Wales.
I packed up my duffle bag with as many warm layers as I could, knowing that Wales was going to be cold and wet. We all boarded the train and settled into our seats, expecting to catch up on homework on the long ride. That was not exactly how the ride went. Through my headphones I could hear people on the train singing. I looked up to see a group of Scotsmen in the front of the car leaning on each other, singing and waving flags in the air. Within a few minutes, everyone was craning their necks to see the singing men.
I thought the show was entertaining enough, until one of the men came to the back of the train and demanded to know who was a college student. A few of us timidly raised our hands and he invited us to the front to hang out with them. My friends and I jumped up and made our way to the front. They patted us on the backs and handed us cans of Pepsi.
The rest of the four-hour ride went by in a rush of learning Scottish songs, belting out the “Star Spangled Banner,” playing games, making new friends, and being reprimanded for calling their sporrans a man purse. We waved good-bye to our new friends as we hopped in a van to head to the eco-lodge where we would be spending the weekend.
It was cold and damp, so when they announced that dinner was hot and ready, we all cheered and ran for the dining hall. We were from all over: Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Texas, Ohio, and of course, Pennsylvania, including students from other Arcadia programs. After dinner, we sat around the tables, hot chocolate in hand, and played Jenga and Cards Against Humanity.
The next day was filled with activities. A morning hike led us to one of the most breathtaking views I have ever experienced. We walked seven miles along the coastline, careful not to slip in the mud, and failing. We passed through pastures of sheep and cattle, pebble beaches where we saw other students from the trip kayaking and swimming, a small wood with old rope swings that looked like it was straight out of a fairytale, and rocky areas that tested our balance. By the time we reached the lodge, we were wet and muddy and very ready for a hot lunch of steaming vegetable soup and fresh bread.
Thawed out and dry again, it was time to go surfing. We all wiggled painfully into wetsuits. Let me just say that if I never have to wear a wetsuit again, it would be too soon. However, I was very grateful for the warmth once we hit the windy beach. I had never surfed, like most of the other students in my group, so there was plenty of fumbling around and coughing up salt water. By the time they called for us to come in, I was numb and laughing hysterically. Although it was chilly, the experience was more than worth it.
Our last morning there, we put on our wetsuits again and headed out to go coasteering. Most of us had no idea what coasteering was, but we were excited to go anyway. The day consisted of climbing cliff faces of islands and jumping into the icy water, swimming across bays to explore other islands, swimming to caves and caverns to let the waves crash us against the walls and swirl us around like rubber duckies in a drain. It was exhausting and one of the most fun times I have had while abroad. By the time we reached lunch we were cold and sore, but we had the biggest smiles on our faces.