University of South Wales: Tales from My Experience
Written by Jonas Marie A. Dumdum
2017 MSc Renewable Energy and Resource Management Graduate
USW, Pontypridd, Wales, United Kingdom
On the of the 17th of January of this year, a KLM plane arrived at NAIA’s Terminal 3 with me on board. It capped a total of sixteen (16) months of my experience in the United Kingdom, particularly at the University of South Wales.
I was not home just because I needed to go home. I was given what is perhaps my final task as a USW student: promote my university to potential Filipino students who also want to be in similar footsteps. The first was done the morning after I arrived with the Study World Education Fair with UKEAS, followed by an Education Reception by the UK Embassy in the Philippines.
So I instantly agreed when UKEAS asked me to write my experiences in a university of around 15,000 students. At least, on a website, I could share my experience in a different way.
The ‘Unconditional Offer’ and Uni Arrival
The experience started, perhaps, in the most unusual of circumstances.
Curiosity initially made me apply for my course in USW. With the aid of UKEAS, I wanted to see if I could really get into a UK university and study for a masters.
What I got was not just a yes from USW, but a special phone call to one of their international recruitment officers who visited Manila when I was finishing the application process to see how I was. It seemed that someone somewhere in the world really wanted me there, and after consultations from my parents, my boss, and my friends, I decided to just do it.
Coming to the UK for the first time for me should have been a hassle-free experience. The university has a free taxi arrival service if you come in to the UK through Cardiff International Airport, so I availed of that and made plans to head there from Manila through Abu Dhabi and Edinburgh. However, I missed my Edinburgh-Cardiff connection due to a delay at the Abu Dhabi-Edinburgh leg. Thankfully, people at Edinburgh Airport and USW worked with me to solve the problem.
Instead of arriving at around 10 in the morning in USW’s Pontypridd Campus, I arrived at around 10:30 in the evening. True enough, a cab did wait for me upon arrival, drove me to the Halls, and the Halls staff helped me get settled for the night.
USW’s Location and the International Welcome Programme
Perhaps the most unique feature of USW is its International Welcome Programme. For one week before we all started the new term, students who were not from the UK were gathered in the Treforest side of Pontypridd Campus, located 11 miles or about 18 kilometers north of Cardiff in the area called the South Wales Valleys. Getting there from Central Cardiff can be done either by car, taxi (or Hackney carriage), bus, or train through gorgeous sights of lush greenery and peaceful sceneries anyone in big cities would love to look forward to.
Treforest is home to the law, business, engineering, computer sciences, social sciences, art, and the central administration of USW. On the other side lies the Glyntaff side of campus, which is home to the physical and biological sciences, police sciences, nursing and related fields, and sports related courses that also have classes at the university’s sports park a few minutes away. The university also has campuses in the cities of Cardiff and Newport; the former is home to the multimedia arts and journalism and the latter is home to teaching and human resource related courses.
We immersed ourselves in the culture of Wales and the UK. The university gave us the opportunity to see the town center of Pontypridd, Central Cardiff, Cardiff Bay, the Treforest Campus; even to places such as St Fagans Museum, Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Oxford. We played Welsh Bingo (way different from bingo worldwide), partied under the lights with karaoke and cheesy disco at the university’s night club (and yes, there’s a night club and a pub inside campus), immersed in understanding other faiths through the university’s Chaplaincy Service, sampled delicacies and enjoyed dancing during Welsh night, and much, much more.
Renewable Energy and USW’s Facilities
To answer the question on whether or not renewable energy is the way forward was the ultimate question on why I was there in the first place. USW gave me the yes that I needed. It did so through its level of teaching and its top-notch facilities.
Inside campus, Wi-Fi is provided 24/7/365, with access as well to Wi-Fi connections to other universities. Library access at its largest library in Treforest is 24/7 during term time, with computers and meeting rooms ready for use by any student at his or her discretion, and with access with many academic journal sites for ease of research. There’s even a Starbucks served inside Treforest andCar
My professors were experts in teaching the subject matter with backgrounds ranging from engineering to chemistry to biology to tackle critical issues from solar and wind power, to hydro and tidal power, to battery storage and fuel cell technologies, and to solid waste management and water and wastewater management. The course was taught in a way everyone understood, from engineers to scientists to energy managers.
It was of great privilege as well to have conducted my MSc dissertation on fuel cell technologies, one of the two ways to replace gasoline and diesel in vehicles, power plants, and even commercial and industrial heating. My dissertation supervisor was hands-on in supervising my work, and I am happy to have worked with something that could help future researchers.
I also had the opportunity as well to have visited USW’s Hydrogen Research Centre in the town of Port Talbot and the Radyr Small Hydro Facility at the outskirts of Cardiff and see how renewable energy works in real time.
In addition, I had the opportunity to engage with my lecturers in a different way as course representative by giving them feedback from my colleagues in the course. I also had the opportunity to engage with the community through seminars in Cardiff Bay, Bridgend, and as a founding committee member of the UK Energy Institute’s Young Professionals Network for the South Wales area. Those conversations helped me see that people are really looking forward to renewable energy as the way to go for them, much like me looking forward to contribute to expand it in the Philippines.
British and Filipino Communities in South Wales
South Wales is also a good place to study, because the community will happily help you out.
The British communities in Cardiff and the South Wales Valleys, more specifically the Welsh, are some of the best people you will ever meet. From accommodation staff to the students and even to our Welsh neighbours, they helped us international students get settled well into their community.
This was even more evident when I was hired as a member of the USW University Student Bloggers Project, where I partly covered community events such as recreating the opening of the Welsh castle Castell Coch, or helped in a Christmas lunch for the senior citizens of the nearby communities in Pontypridd campus. Everyone smiles when you smile, greets you when you greet them back, and reminds you whenever you do something wrong with things like bin disposal or noise.
The Filipino community is also alive in South Wales, with organisations there to help you settle at home. For students, USW has its own Filipino Society, and I was pleased to have helped out as one of its founding members. In addition, in the fourth quarter of 2017, five universities (USW, Cardiff, Cardiff Metropolitan, Swansea, and Swansea Metropolitan) with their own Filipino Societies bonded together to create the Filipino Student Societies in South Wales to cater Filipino and Filipino-British students alike and celebrate what it means to be a Filipino. Filipino food is also evident through two restaurants in the towns of Mountain Ash and Bridgend, and I highly suggest the one in Mountain Ash because it’s closer.
‘The craziest social experiment I have done so far’
In the end, I accomplished something that I still think is crazy but doable for any Filipino to do.
My MSc experience in the University of South Wales and in the UK is something that is still not lost on me today, and I highly encourage others to look into the possibility of UK education.
For now, however, my task is two-fold, to apply what I have learned over there somewhere in the world, and to tell my story as a way to promote what may become another prospective students’ experience of studying over there.
Diolch i’r Hollalluog (Thanks be to the Almighty) for a great postgraduate student experience, and may you experience it too!