A group of 29 education counselors from across the United States and Canada took part in a seven-day tour of Wales this month.

High school advisors and independent education consultants from states such as California, Florida, New York and Texas, were invited to take part in a tour of the UK’s smallest nation by Study in Wales – which represents Wales’ eight universities.

From exploring Harlech Castle and having afternoon tea in the picturesque seaside village of Portmeirion, to handling a 17th century edition of the first Welsh language Bible, this was the first time in three years’ that counselors visited Wales in person, after previous plans were postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The group was split into two for the duration of the trip, with one visiting the high-spec sporting facilities at Cardiff Metropolitan University, sampling fish and chips in The Mumbles after exploring ancient Egyptian artefacts at Swansea University, touring Aberystwyth University with student services, before finishing up at University of Wales Trinity St David to celebrate their 200th birthday.

Meanwhile, other advisors toured the state-of-the-art film school at University of South Wales (USW) and visited the new home of journalism at Cardiff University, before a coach trip to north Wales saw the group experience a flight simulator at Wrexham University and board the research vessel at The School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor, which helps train the world’s next generation of marine scientists.

With almost 500 young people choosing one of Wales’ eight universities to further their education,  this tour was a chance for education counselors to see what Wales has to offer.

One of the biggest surprises for Stephanie, an independent consultant based in California, were the facilities on offer at University of South Wales.

Stephanie said: “I couldn’t believe the state of the art facilities at USW. Students have access to equipment that make multimillion dollar movies.

“This film school rivals those in LA and NY, for a fraction of the price.”

Meanwhile, Andrew Moss, a counselor from Idyllwild Arts Academy, in California, was shocked by the amount of support that Welsh universities provide for their international students.

Andrew commented: “The tour allowed me to see the focus a Welsh education puts on student citizens.

“Graduates are active, engaged, and passionate community members and expertly trained in their fields.

“I was truly surprised by the support Welsh universities provide for international students.”

For Jackie, an independent consultant, from Florida, who studied at Aberystwyth University and lived in Wales more than 10 years ago, it was a chance to reignite the love she has for the country – and an opportunity to learn more about Wales’ culture.

Jackie said: “I am excited to share my knowledge with students about the academics, environment, and support these universities provide.”

Market development manager Robert Alexander, from Study in Wales, added: “Over the last two years, we’ve done so many virtual events and we can talk about how beautiful Wales is, the opportunities here and how much our universities care about their students – but you can’t do it justice. People need to experience it for themselves.

“Everyone’s reaction to the trip was very positive and most were surprised by how much students are cared for by our universities. We take student services such as support with health, finances, accommodation and employability, for granted, but that kind of support isn’t available in the US. Here in Wales, each student is seen as an individual, rather than just a pay cheque.”

“This film school rivals those in LA and NY, for a fraction of the price.”

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