'One thing the South-west is renowned for is good-looking young people!'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Having graduated from university a fortnight ago, it seems a long way to cast my mind back in order to recollect what made me choose to spend my three years in Cardiff. I think the factors I perceived as important included "Is it a good university academically?", "Is it an attractive place to live, with friendly people?" and "Is the nightlife and social scene good?" (and not necessarily in that order)! But when considering any of these factors in choosing your university, Wales and the South-west always seem to come up trumps as they have so much to offer.

Having graduated from university a fortnight ago, it seems a long way to cast my mind back in order to recollect what made me choose to spend my three years in Cardiff. I think the factors I perceived as important included "Is it a good university academically?", "Is it an attractive place to live, with friendly people?" and "Is the nightlife and social scene good?" (and not necessarily in that order)! But when considering any of these factors in choosing your university, Wales and the South-west always seem to come up trumps as they have so much to offer.

The universities in this region include Falmouth, Plymouth, Exeter, Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, Glamorgan, Swansea, Aberystwyth and Bangor. It is difficult to generalise about them since they are so academically and culturally diverse. At Plymouth university you may decide to study surf science and technology, at Bath you could specialise in aerospace engineering, whereas at Cardiff you may choose the more traditional English literature or history. With each different circle of subjects, it is the students attending the university who influence and shape the culture of the place.

One of the most appealing elements about the universities in Wales and the South-west must certainly be the coastline, which boasts some of the most spectacular and contrasting beaches of Great Britain. For many students, the decision to move to these areas is strongly influenced by the beaches and that certain ambience which accompanies coastal universities. (In fact, I would bet my savings (or debts!) on the fact that my brother chose Swansea university for no other reason than it's awesome surf!) If you do choose a South-western or Welsh university, try to make the most of the location and get involved in the water-sports they offer, which could include windsurfing, kayaking, sailing, surfing, canoeing, kite-surfing; even the climbing and mountaineering is fantastic in most of these places.

If, like me, you are not Welsh, but decide to go to university in Wales, there are a few things you should be prepared for. First, the universities are bilingual. By this, I mean that it is university policy that documents can only be printed if they are also translated into Welsh. In Cardiff, the English tongue dominates, but admirably the Welsh culture is both preserved and encouraged. When arriving at Cardiff University, the first difference I noticed, aside from the broad accents and wealth of rugby shirts adorning the backs of the locals, was the cash point machines asking me "would you like the instructions in English or Welsh?"

In my experience, the Welsh are very accommodating to the English students who make up virtually half of the population in university time, but they are also very nationalistic, and in England vs Wales Rugby matches, it's best to stick to the student pubs. I would definitely recommend going to university in Wales, as one minute you can be in the hubbub of Cardiff – a cosmopolitan city that is applying to be the capital of culture 2008 – and 45 minutes later, you may be treading on the beautiful beaches of the Gower. Head further north still and you'll reach Bangor, where the countryside is spectacular and the culture completely different.

The South-west of England also has much to offer prospective students. The climate is fantastic, the beaches are stunning and you're never too far away from a trip to Bristol, which is currently being dubbed as "the new London". One thing the South-west is renowned for is good looking young people! I put it down to all the sea air – although I wouldn't state it on your UCAS form as a reason for choosing a South-west university!

Because most of the universities in Wales and the South-west are generally smaller than the inner city ones like Leeds, Birmingham and Leicester; they tend to be more personal and campus based. The nightlife is not necessarily as wide-ranging (with the exception of Bristol and Cardiff), but what you lack in big nightclubs is compensated for by atmospheric smaller pubs. Also, the rate of crime drops with fewer people, but unfortunately, so does the number of well-paid jobs. For me, the real proof that the universities in these areas are a great choice is that over half of the friends I have graduated with this summer have chosen to remain in Cardiff, and those that aren't staying on are headed to other South-west locations. But, unluckily for me, some of us can only find the right jobs in the big city – so it's goodbye to the coast for now – but not for long, I'm sure of it!

The writer is co-author of 'Student Survival Guide' (How To Books £5.99)

Comments