Aberystwyth is a wonderful little town to live and study in. My course has been engaging and very well taught by lecturers and seminar tutors who care about their subject and student success. If for any reason I've missed a lecture, I've found notes and materials available online almost immediately, so there's no reason to fall behind. With all of the online resources, I've never had to visit the library for study, but it is quite large and seems to be more than adequate. If it is not, the National Library of Wales is a very short walk from campus.
On my course, lectures are supplemented with seminars broken into smaller groups. These are used to discuss the texts and ideas we're studying in more detail and to share opinions. The creative writing portion of my course also has bi-weekly workshops where we must write a piece of prose or poetry to be read aloud. While it can be nerve-wracking at first, workshops are a fantastic opportunity to receive feedback and improve your writing.
Some of the academic buildings are pretty dated, but others are top of the line. The older buildings have lecture halls which are either extremely warm or very cold, so I recommend dressing in layers.
The university is on top of a long hill that overlooks town and the sea, and you'll definitely get exercise. I cannot recommend the campus to anyone who is physically disabled, as there are stairs everywhere and next to no ramps. Luckily, the Student Union has decent food, affordable drinks and, occasionally, some pretty fun events, so you don't always have to leave campus for a good night out. If you do decide to go to town, there is always a fleet of taxis waiting for students who don't wish to brave the walk back up the hill.
The student accommodation is pretty much what you'd expect, and has options for most price ranges. There are very basic budget rooms, standard bedrooms, en-suite bedrooms and brand new (but quite expensive) studio flats. All of the rooms have good internet access, large desks, good storage, and some even have washbasins. My flat has ten people with two toilets, two showers and a spacious kitchen. I was quite lucky to get one with a newly renovated kitchen and sofas. Most have a counter or table with plastic chairs. If possible, I recommend staying on campus rather than in the seafront residences. There were storms during January of this year that caused 3 story waves and severe damage to the promenade. The people living by the sea were evacuated several times and it was very stressful and inconvenient for many of them.
The town itself is quite small and isolated, but it has most of what anyone could need, and the surrounding countryside and the sea view make up for it. Aberystwyth's distance from other towns can occasionally prove quite troublesome. Unfortunately, the large number of students and permanent residents in a small area can make finding a job extremely difficult, even if you are well qualified and have previous experience. Budgeting personal savings and loans might become very important if you are not receiving financial help from your family. Also, If you enjoy concerts or other large events, you will be forced to take a 2-3 hour train ride, which can become prohibitively expensive. While I have not returned home to visit yet, I did go out of town for the holidays, and having to take a 6 hour train to London before a flight was exceptionally exhausting. Getting from America to Aber at the start of term with all of my luggage was even more taxing.
The social life in Aber is decent for such a small, town, but primarily revolves around drinking. There are two nightclubs and a truly ridiculous number of pubs, so you're bound to find something to do. The university also hosts societies for just about every interest, and more are forming all the time, so anyone will be able to find like-minded people to hang out with. For those who are interested in sports, the university has an endless number of teams (everything from football to quidditch) and an excellent indoor gym with a swimming pool, basketball courts, and other facilities. There are also a number of well-maintained outdoor fields and a track.
Overall, I've enjoyed my time at Aberystwyth so far. In just five months it has become a second home. If you can deal with the isolated location and want an excellent academic standard and a fun social experience, I definitely recommend it. I was afraid before coming here, as an international student paying higher fees and living farther from home, that it wouldn't be worth the time and effort it took to get here, but thus far I have not been disappointed!
Photo 1: The view from my bedroom during a particularly fabulous sunset.
Photo 2: The view of the Old College and the sea while standing in the ruins of Aberystwyth Castle.
Photo 3: A typical night out in Aber at Pier Pressure Nightclub. I'm the second from the right, pictured with other international students.
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