I hadn’t originally planned on taking the trip to Wales that Boston University runs for its study abroad students through a company called Preseli Venture. However, when tickets sold out within a day, I was quietly disappointed.
As a self-proclaimed hiking junkie, I realized that the trip would have been the perfect way to get my nature fix. So, when I received an email saying that extra spots had opened up, I jumped at the chance. After a few weeks of happily settling into life in London, I was excited for a pre-planned travel opportunity–and to get away from the hustle and bustle for a couple of days.
When I stepped off of the train into the pitch black of Friday night, or early Saturday morning (after 5 or so hours of traveling, I really wasn’t sure), I could see my breath. The chill of the air, the lack of light pollution, and the quiet made one thing clear to my tired senses: We were most certainly NOT in London anymore. In a text to my parents before I succumbed to exhaustion and lack of WiFi, I wrote: “Made it. We are OUT here. Way out.”
The next morning, the adventure began. I was greeted by a view too stunning for words when I sleepily wandered outside on my way to breakfast, and I nearly fell over from surprise. Sloping, lush green hills gave way to perfect blue sky, coastal cliffs, and just a glimpse of sapphire ocean.
Our Preseli Venture hosts served a hearty breakfast and quickly shuttled everyone off to their chosen activities. As for me, I hadn’t been able to convince myself to go coasteering (which involved climbing up the rocky coastline and then jumping into the ocean) but I still wanted to get in the water, so I was going kayaking.
After wet-suiting up, we drove down to a nearby beach and, again, went slack-jawed at the sheer beauty of the landscape. It was a picture-perfect day. Warm sunshine, slight breeze, calm waters, and not a cloud in the sky. We paddled along the staggering coastline, guided by our instructors, into caves and past mother seals guarding their pups. I was struck with awe at my surroundings but also with a feeling of tranquility. I wouldn’t have guessed it, but floating in the ocean on the other side of the country was the most relaxing thing I’d done since arriving in the UK.
That afternoon, I visited St Davids, the UK’s smallest city. I immediately fell in love with the streets lined with shops (and ice cream) and the grandeur of its 12th century cathedral, “hidden” in a valley below.
As we drove through the countryside back to the Preseli Venture lodge, I couldn’t help but think that even hundreds of years ago, Preseli probably didn’t look that much different than it did that day in 2018. The outside world hasn’t infiltrated yet. It is a place that simply does not seem real.
The next day, I got to check off one of my abroad bucket list items: hiking in the UK. A small group of us were sent out on a seven-mile route along the cliffs, where we mingled with the sheep and enjoyed unobstructed views of the coastline. We stopped a few times to snap pictures, but were all in agreement that our cameras couldn’t possibly do justice to the sights our own eyes beheld.
It was with a heavy heart that I departed this special corner of the UK, but even the first leg of the rail journey back to London was stunning. As I pressed my nose and my iPhone camera against the train window, I couldn’t help but think that I would never have come to Wales—let alone Preseli—if I hadn’t gone on this trip. I just never would have thought of it on my own.
To think that I almost missed out on an opportunity to explore one of the most beautiful and unique places I’d ever encountered was shocking, and it’s something I’ll keep in mind for the rest of my time here.
In the ninth grade, my English class had to memorize Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” I think that the final lines of the poem capture how I felt about my experience in Preseli (that I almost didn’t have) better than my own words ever could. They read:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Claire Doire, Study Abroad Correspondent
Claire Doire is a junior at Boston University studying Public Relations with a minor in Political Science. She hails from Middletown, Rhode Island and is currently studying abroad in London: the home of her wordsmithing hero, William Shakespeare. Back in Boston, Claire spends her free time dancing, acting, and working hard to one day become her own version of The West Wing’s C.J. Cregg.