Featured Students

Jeremy Stull

Cultural Discovery

Jeremy discovered the difference between being "British" and being "Welsh".



Term Abroad: Fall 2010

Home University: Quinnipiac University

Host University: Swansea University

Major: History

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland - that is the name of the country, not "England." Often what is called "Britishness" is synonymous with "Englishness." Many an Englishmen cannot distinguish a difference between being British and being English. Ask any Welshman and they will express an undeniable notion that "Welshness" is an entity in and of itself. Ask them to then articulate that difference, and you often run into a problem.
My family is of British decent. As such, we have both Welsh and English lineage. We identify more so with our Welsh line of ancestry. It is a curious thing, and something that I cannot fully explain. Welshness seems to be limited to a certain number of expressions. There is the landscape, the language, and sport. There are many things that are Welsh that people are proud of, yet do not necessarily fall under Welshness. Catherine Zeta Jones is from Swansea, Wales (Zeta is her middle name, not a hyphenated last name). The poet Dylan Thomas is from Swansea as well. Wales has a lot of sheep, coal, and boy's choirs. None of those things are unique to Wales though. The first three mentioned are what Wales attempts to cling to as a community within a nation. Or is it a nation within a country? Or a country within a state?
When you enter Wales there is a distinct feeling you get. There is something about the landscape that is different from England. The Gower Peninsula, just a short bus ride from Swansea University and a trip that must be made on multiple occasions, is truly a sight to been seen. It was the first place in the UK to be classified as an "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty." The Brits really do have a way with words. Traveling through mid-Wales all the way up north is an adventure to never be forgotten. The feeling is difficult to articulate.
Secondly, the language. Welsh schoolchildren are taught Welsh before they are taught English. I have many Welsh friends who did not speak English until they were six or seven years old. Every sign, government document, university publication, and public entity is in both English and Welsh. There is no denying that a large part of the national identity is tied up in language. Do some research on the language however, and you will find that less than a quarter of the population posses the language skills of speaking, reading, writing, and understanding Welsh. In the industrialized south of Wales you will hardly ever hear Welsh spoken. It is difficult to define Welshness simply by language when such a large sect does not use it.
That brings us to sport. Sport is the only entity in which an expression of Welshness is possible. Even more importantly, you can express Welshness as an antithesis to Englishness face to face right out on the pitch. Soccer is a fruitless endeavor for the Welsh in terms of combating in the English on a national level. Rugby is where it is at. The Welsh exude so much pride in supporting their national rugby side. Millennium Stadium in Cardiff is a testament to that. Rugby is the only thing that Wales can stand up, look out to the world on even footing with all others, and say "We are Wales. Cymru am byth (Wales Forever)."


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