We caught up with four international students coming to the end of their studies at Welsh universities to reflect upon their time here; how they felt when they first arrived and how they feel now.
Rizma Faraz – MBA Global, University of South Wales
Rizma moved to Cardiff from Sri Lanka in February 2022 to study her MBA Global at University of South Wales. Rizma described the two-year course, which includes a placement year, as “a must” for her to pursue her dream of working in operations management.
Reflecting on how she felt before arriving in Wales, Rizma said, “I was very excited, hopeful... and sort of nervous, because moving to a new atmosphere and society was quite nerve-wracking. I knew I had to take up the challenge to do my MBA, and here I am, well settled!”
Rizma said that before coming to Wales, she did extensive research on websites and social media to see what current students had to say. She would read and watch blogs about how student life is; from where to shop and how to save, and this made her confident in her choice about coming to Wales.
Looking back on her time in Wales, one of Rizma’s favourite things about studying here has been living in Cardiff whilst studying at USW’s Newport campus. “Cardiff is the capital city of Wales, I’m within walking distance to the City Centre and everything is in hands-reach for me. One of my fondest memories has been getting onto the train in the mornings, going to uni and meeting with friends.”
When Rizma’s studies are complete, she hopes to continue living in Wales as she loves the atmosphere and the people here so much. “My first impression when I moved here was that the people are so kind. I come from Sri Lanka and we are known for our hospitality, but here it’s just another level.”
Rizma is currently in her final year of studies; completing her dissertation whilst undertaking a 6-month placement as the MBA Intern at USW’s International Office. When she first started her placement, Rizma said that as an international student going into the team, she felt very apprehensive, however, she found that the team were incredibly welcoming and have supported her every step of the way. She believes that the role will help her prepare for what comes after university.
Talking about her overall university experience so far, Rizma said, “In terms of my academic knowledge that I’ve gained, I feel that I have evolved into a more professional individual, and as an international student who has moved over 9,000 kilometers away from home, I’m proud to say I have become more independent, and it’s moulded me into a person who is able to take responsibility for myself, and the people I love and care for.”
Kevin Goodrich, MA Ancient Religions, University of Wales Trinity Saint David
Having already lived in both Japan and Spain, Kevin, who hails from California, moved to Wales last year to study his Masters in Ancient Religions at University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
Talking about his feelings about coming to Wales, Kevin said, “I think I was quite anxious… there’s always that feeling of not knowing.” Kevin spent his high school years and Bachelors in Japan before moving to Spain. He explained that there is always a bit of anxiety when moving somewhere new, getting used to new customs and traditions and meeting new people.
When preparing to move here, Kevin said, “My grandma gave me two different travel guides and as I was reading them, they got me more and more pumped up to come to Wales.” He also explained that he took a trip here last summer to look around and get to know the place he would call home. “I came here for a week last summer to scope things out… It was beautiful to say the least and it got me hook, line and sinker.”
Looking back on the last year, Kevin recalls one of his fondest memories being arriving here in Wales, “It was at the end of summer, the weather was perfect and that was when I met the bulk of my friend group here.
“The students who had already been here for a couple of years showed us all the local hikes and trails, and spots that you would otherwise need to be a local to discover. I’ve been on a lot of hikes since then, but that was the first time I realised how pretty it was here.”
Comparing his feelings on arrival to how he feels now, Kevin said, “I definitely feel more settled now - none of that initial anxiety is there anymore.”
Chris Rowell, MSc Sports Coaching, Cardiff Metropolitan University
Chris is an international Masters student who has flown across the pond from Washington State to study his MSc in Sports Coaching at Cardiff Met.
Chris has been coaching rugby since he was 19, so when he began researching universities to study his Masters, he found that Cardiff Met offered him everything he was looking for and more.
Reflecting on his feelings before coming to Wales, Chris said, “I hadn’t actually heard of Cardiff Met before, but a fellow rugby coach who was from Wales recommended it to me. I knew that the rugby here was historic and part of the culture and fabric of Wales.”
“I was super nervous when I applied. I quit my job, I put my house up for rent and sold my car to buy my plane ticket, and when I got here I didn’t know anybody. It’s a big risk to do that, but from the moment I arrived at Met the rugby club welcomed me with open arms, and I never felt out of place.”
When researching the university, Chris said, “I looked up Cardiff Met online, but you don’t get a sense of the real thing, so when I first arrived I was like wow we’re going to be training with Cardiff Rugby, or the Dragons or Bristol Bears.”
“There were people from the WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) who would come in and talk about a partnership they have, or I would walk into work and players would be training. They don’t make a big deal out of it here because everyone is so humble.”
When asked whether he plans to return to the States now that he has completed his Masters, Chris said, “I had such a great time here I figured I would apply for my professional doctorate. I’m hoping to get an offer by the end of the month!”
Thinking about his time in Wales, from when he first arrived in Cardiff until now, Chris said, “It’s been so great! I’ve done exactly what I wanted to do in the classroom, work with a high-performance rugby club, and I've gotten to travel. It’s been magic and I look forward to hopefully continuing my education experience in Wales.”
Jagan Jijo, MSc Advanced Computer Security, Cardiff Metropolitan University
Jagan came to Wales from India to study his Masters in Advanced Computer Security at Cardiff Met and is already planning on extending his stay for another two years to gain industry experience.
When getting ready to leave for Wales, Jagan said, “I was actually so nervous to leave, it was a huge step to move to another country and live independently, but now that I’m here everyone is so friendly so everything is good!”
To prepare for his travels, Jagan did extensive research of the university and nearby areas on social media. Jagan used the location tag on Instagram to find fellow international students at Cardiff Met, connecting with them to chat and find out more about the university before arriving. He was reassured that the university was a great place to be.
Having been here for almost a year now, Jagan’s fondest memory is celebrating Diwali at the Students’ Union - an event which had attendance of more than 400 students. Jagan also said there was an open evening for his course which was a great place to get to know his fellow course mates and mingle.
Alongside his studies, Jagan is working as a video editor at Cardiff Met Students’ Union where he is able to exercise his love for content creation and video editing on Cardiff Met SU and SU Sport’s social media channels. He describes his work at the SU as, “the most fun experience I’ve had.”
As an international student, Jagan was worried at first about how he would be welcomed into the team, but he said, “They all made me feel so comfortable, they actually take care of me and give me the freedom to work on my own creative ideas.”
Talking about his time in Cardiff so far, Jagan said, “Compared to other cities in the UK, Cardiff is one of the cheapest to live in, so you can afford to explore where you live. I also found that the people here really care for you... Even if you get in a cab the driver will ask you how your day was. It just feels like this is your home.”
Comparing how he felt when he first arrived to how he feels as he nears the end of his studies, Jagan said, “I’ve had a great time here. I have made loads of friends, had many amazing opportunities, and even built my network with some prominent personalities, and worked here at the SU which is an amazing place to work. I’m going to miss all of it.”
If you’re feeling inspired by Jagan, Chris, Kevin and Rizma’s stories, you can find out more and learn how to apply here.