The tea was sachets of Tetley’s, served with milk and sugar. The biscuits were the authentic British kind, mildly sweet and crunchy, some of them coated with rich chocolate.
The discussion was about a country where year-round temperatures range between the 40s and the 70s – almost making up for almost constant damp weather.
Myah Schultz, a student at St. Catherine University in St. Paul and a daughter of Park Rapids library branch manager Jodi Schultz, served these treats Jan. 23 at a library talk about her recent semester of study abroad at Bangor University in Wales.
Her pictures, tales and treats combined to make a walking tour of Wales an attractive idea.
For those whose geography is a bit rusty, Wales is a small country within the United Kingdom on the west coast of Great Britain. Wales is the home of the Welsh language, a lot of castles built by Edward I (king of England 1272-1307) and, as Myah Schultz learned, an abundance of history, folklore and gorgeous scenery.
The sun “did shine for us, but I was told that was unusual,” she said about the mild Welsh weather, “It was a bit of a rude awakening, getting home.”
Her description also touched on the country’s long-standing resistance to being assimilated into English culture – evidenced by the revival of spoken Welsh during the past 70 years or so, festivals devoted to reviving the country’s rich history and the whimsical story of a town whose train-station sign sports the jaw-breaking name Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
Besides brief trips to Ireland and England, Schultz participated in a program called outdoor pursuits, catering to American students doing a semester abroad at the University. This gave her an opportunity to see many captivating sights and try a variety of activities within a short bus ride or boat trip from Bangor and the adjacent isle of Anglesey, off the north coast of Wales.
Her adventures included hiking to the peak of some of Wales’ highest mountains, rock climbing, surfing, sea level traversing and gorge scrambling along some of the country’s rocky riverbeds.
She also visited castles, ancient Christian ruins, a group of standing stones (actually built during modern times at the site of a Welsh heritage festival), the well that inspired a fairy tale about a girl who changed into a fairy trout, and the grave of a legendary dog named Gelert that was buried as a hero after saving its master’s child from a wolf.
Once she decided on spending a semester abroad, Schulz said, her options narrowed quickly because she had to go to an English-speaking country, since her foreign-language credits were in American Sign Language. She attended Bangor through a partnership with Central College in Pella, Iowa.
“I was enrolled in three colleges at once, last semester,” she said. “It was kind of confusing. But there happened to be only three of us on this particular program this semester. Often, they’ll have up to 30. So, we kind of lucked out. We got to have a very small, exclusive group for all of the stuff we were doing.”
Besides outdoor pursuits, Schultz also took classes on the history and culture of Wales, existentialist philosophy – toward completing her degree’s liberal arts requirement – and social issues, which fit in with her political science major.
“It was interesting,” she said. “It was very geared into specific British social issues. There were some things that I’ve not really been aware of before. So, that was fun.”
She said her grades aren’t in yet, but she thinks she did OK.
Other highlights of her fall semester in the U.K. included a visit from her roommates from St. Catherine and a rendezvous with her sister in London.
During a week-long holiday when she meant to go to Cardiff on the south coast of Wales, Schultz’s travel plans got snarled when scheduled trains were canceled due to flooding. She warmly recalled meeting a lady named Helen, who took her under her wing and guided her through a zig-zag railway journey. Helen and her husband later invited Schultz to dine at their home on Anglesey.
Asked if she will go back to Wales again, Schultz said, “I do want to. I hope to visit sometime. … I’m going to miss the mountains a lot, because you could always see them in Wales.”
“I told her before she left that she was supposed to make some friends there,” said Jodi, “so that she could take her mom and dad back. And she met Helen and Mike!”
“Helen and Mike said I can come back any time,” said Myah.