August 21, 2019

Sean sitting on a couch with his laptop in front of him

Starting university can be quite daunting and intimidating – I know this as a returning student. Thankfully, I was gifted with a second chance. I knew I had to make the most of my time and grab every opportunity with both hands.

Travelling had always fascinated me, yet crippled with anxiety and the fear of being in new places, for most my life I was not able to travel. I was now determined to step out of my comfort zone, and Cardiff Met offered me plenty of opportunities.

In 2018 I won a Santander scholarship that allowed me to study Spanish at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona for a month. I was then given the once in a lifetime opportunity of participating in an Erasmus+ programme to study Computer Science in Indonesia, before finishing my year on Erasmus in Belgium.

Barcelona was an unforgettable experience. I had always been interested in acquiring a second language, and felt that Spanish would give me a good basis for my dream to eventually backpack through South America.

Image of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
I passed by La Sagrada Familia every day as I walked to the campus

In Barcelona I stayed with a lovely host family just a couple of minute walk from the awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia. The city was magnificent and the weather in July was extremely hot. Not only is Barcelona a beautiful city, but you can easily meet and make friends with so many amazing people there – and to top that off, two of my dearest friends from Cardiff were also moving to Barcelona!

Sean and a group of friends taking a selfie
Enjoying the evening after a picnic in Park Güell

Right after my experience in Spain, I moved across the world for my Erasmus+ at the Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology (ITS) in Indonesia.

This trip was a real eye opener for me – I learned a lot about myself. The ITS campus is based in Surabaya, a metropolis on the Indonesian island of Java. It was such an interesting experience as everything from attending classes to living in the country was miles away from what I was used to – physically and metaphorically!

If you visit Indonesia, you will be in for a culture shock. The culture is completely different to the UK, and as a guest in their country, people truly treat you as a king. Every day I was making new friends with barely any time left to study.

The landscape of the Jatiluwih rice terraces in Bali
I got to travel around Indonesia whilst studying there. These are the Jatiluwih rice terraces in Bali

I also got to travel around Indonesia, which is such a beautiful country. I hiked up mount Bromo where I watched a magnificent sunrise, and later visited Bali, seeing temples, amazing beaches and travelling to Nusa Penida, one of the most popular destinations for Instagram pictures.

The volcano Mount Bromo as seen from a distance from a viewpoint
Here is Mount Bromo from the viewpoint, the volcano was quite active that day!

I finished off my second term studying at the University College Leuven-Limburg in Leuven, Belgium – one of the major universities of applied sciences in the country. At first the experience was challenging. It took me a while to get used to the more practical system adopted by the university, but I feel that I have gained an advanced knowledge of Computer Science thanks to my semester there.

Belgium is very close to my heart. I really got to appreciate the country’s architecture and culture – so much history. From there, I was able to easily navigate and travel around Europe by bus. I got the chance to visit Prague and Budapest, which are now two of my favourite cities in the world.

Image of the facade of the Hungarian Parliament building
The Hungarian Parliament building was stunning

Cardiff Met has so many opportunities available. I am truly grateful for everything Cardiff Met have offered me so that I could achieve my dream of living, studying and travelling in another country. My advice to other students would be to be prepared and find out what you would like to experience, as time goes by so quickly. Don’t be afraid to take a chance, get out of your comfort zone and step into your future.