The 21-year-old student, from Mississippi, who is part of the LGBTQ+ community endured anti-gay protests on campus in the United States and felt unable to be open about their sexual orientation.
But since moving to Wales three years ago to study Psychology and Criminology at Swansea University, they feels safe to be themself.
After seeking advice from an education counsellor, Kaleigh moved to Wales as an exchange student, before transferring here permanently.
While the application process was straightforward, figuring out how they would fund the course was more challenging. But with the support of their family, Kaleigh was able to secure a student loan and move in September 2019.
Since then, Kaleigh – who had never travelled to Europe before – has fallen in love with the friendliness of the Welsh people, the ability to get around easily on public transport and the mild weather, compared to the extreme cold winters and hot summers they are used to back at home. And overall, Kaleigh feels much safer moving around campus late at night with friends.
Throughout their course, Kaleigh has been offered plenty of exposure to industry professionals – and they believe studying here has given them the connections to pursue a career in a bigger city like London or Manchester, if they ever decide to leave Wales.
Outside their studies, Kaleigh has picked up new hobbies such as joining the equestrian society, paddle boarding and surfing.
And living just 10 minutes from the beach has meant that Kaleigh has been able to enjoy the stunning coastal landscapes that Wales has to offer, sending pictures back home to all their friends and family.
Once their degree has finished, Kaleigh has hopes to study a Master’s and begin a career in public health in the UK.
Swansea pride was the first pride event I’ve been to. I watched the parade and then went to the waterfront where there were street food vendors – we walked around took pictures. When I compare the two experiences – I feel more accepted and able to be myself in Swansea.