By Beatrice Massa
I was a Student Ambassador at Swansea University for the past three years. If you attended one of the Open Days, I probably met you there. If you have just started looking into Swansea University and have just come across this blog, we never had the pleasure to meet. Or maybe, you have been in Swansea for a couple of years and, most likely, we have bumped into each other across campus. Either way, hi, I’m Beatrice, and I recently completed my studies at Swansea University.
Working as a Student Ambassador, I spent a lot of time telling prospect students and their parents why it is so wonderful to study at Swansea, and especially why the degrees offered by the Department of Applied Linguistics are so great. Don’t get me wrong, I meant every word I said (spoiler alert, I’m a terrible liar), but after having handed in my dissertation a few weeks ago and having officially said bye to my life as a student, something within me shifted, making me realise that studying at Swansea is much more than what I was able to describe at an Open Day. So, since usually writing is my strength, I thought I will write down what it is about the university and the city that makes many people want to remain in Swansea after their graduation. Or, at least, I’ll try.
As I’m sitting at my desk, alone, in my flat in Copenhagen, one of the aspects I miss the most is the sense of community that permeates the university at every level, whether (pre-Coronavirus) you are queueing for the loo in Sin City (a Swansea nightclub) crying, and some other unknown student hands you a tissue, or you are walking to class and one of your lecturers from first year says ‘hi’ and asks you how you’re doing. On Varsity day, it does not really matter if you are sporty or not, if you play against Cardiff Uni or you are on the side chanting: we all “bleed green” and win (or lose) together.
This sense of community translates into care for one another, not only amongst students, but also between the students and the university staff. I truly believe this is one of the aspects that makes Swansea an amazing university to study at, as well as an incredibly hard place to leave behind. As a student, being aware that you are supported every step of the way and that you can always ask for help makes a significant difference. Having the possibility to walk into my lecturer’s office and ask for clarification about a certain assignment or concept not only gave me more confidence in my projects and my knowledge, but it also sparked conversations and discussions that helped me develop my critical thinking and become even more interested in what I was studying.
The university also offers amazing non-academic support, which you can always turn to if you are in need, whether it is related to your mental and physical health, money issues, or career advice. This type of support is essential, especially since, for many students, university life represents the first experience away from home. Although it is easy to appreciate the freedom that university life offers, it can also be extremely challenging and overwhelming: having a well-structured support system like the one provided by Swansea University makes it more manageable and bearable, because, even if you might not use it, you know it is there if you need it.
Even before I obtained my bachelor’s degree, I knew I was not ready to leave Swansea and the Department of Applied Linguistics yet. I am really glad I stayed for my master’s, because, alongside the learning, I was able to cultivate new and older relationships with both students and academics which will affect my life forever. Because English Language is a small course, as opposed to Psychology or Law, the feeling of community is even stronger: lecturers and professors know us by name, whilst first, second, and third years have the chance to work together and get to know each other through the Applied Linguistics society and the Linguistics Journal. Even during the lockdown, the department made an extra effort to stay connected with its students through weekly meetings and talks.
For the first time in four years, I have not gone back to Swansea at the end of summer. I have moved to Copenhagen with my boyfriend, as he has started a master’s here, and I am currently looking for a job in either publishing or marketing, where fluent communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills developed through an English Language degree can be put into practice. Although I am thrilled to start this new chapter of my life, I miss Swansea already. I knew I was not meant to stay there forever, life goes on and takes unexpected turns, but when you have had such a great time studying what you are passionate about and you have been surrounded by so many amazing and caring people, saying goodbye is always harder. Personally, I think this says a lot about the type of university Swansea is. And who knows, maybe this is not a ‘goodbye’. Maybe it is just a ‘see you soon’.