Studying at California State University, Fullerton, for a semester was a life changing experience for Alexandra Rhian Roberts.
Born and raised in the South Wales Valleys and schooled in Welsh, Alexandra was the first in her family to go to university.
“In fact I was the first family member not to enter nursing or factory work.
“University was always on my agenda, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do; so I followed the advice to do what I love for three years”, she recalled.
Now 25, married and expecting her first child in November, Alexandra loved acting and after looking at courses in conservatories she opted for the ‘full university experience’ and enrolled on the BA (Hons) Acting programme at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).
Thrilled by option to study abroad in LA!
“I was thrilled to see that as part of the third year there was an option to take a study abroad module, and one of the locations was LA! I knew I had to go.
“I knew that studying acting out there would be completely different to studying in the UK, with differing teaching styles and attitudes, but I also knew the experience abroad would be invaluable for me and my personal development.
“It’s been five years since I boarded that plane, and I can honestly say, looking back, that not only did the experience improve my grades and outlook on the course in general, but the experience was instrumental in making me who I am today,” said Alexandra.
Finance was biggest hurdle
Mind, there were several hurdles to overcome once she had secured her place on the study abroad module – with the biggest being financing the stay.
“My student loan covered the course fee, but in order to get my study visa I had to prove that I had a certain amount of money in the bank to fund my living there.
“I scrimped and saved birthday and Christmas monies, worked three jobs and borrowed a little from my grandparents. I was incredibly lucky to be awarded a bursary called the Livery Guild Award, which added £1,000 to my savings,” said Alexandra.
A number of the other students were lucky enough to be funded by their parents, which Alexandra said made her ‘extra proud’ to have financed her studies abroad independently.
So was it worth it?
Alexandra is in no doubt and says the four months in California really helped with her studies when she returned.
“I’d lost a bit of passion for what I was doing,” she recalls.
“Having the time away, learning in a different way and a different environment really helped reignite my passion for acting.
“More so, being abroad, alone, meeting new people and adapting to a new way of life gave me invaluable life skills.
Came back a whole different person
My friends even commented that I was a whole different person when I got back”
After finishing her degree, Alexandra decided student advice was her calling and secured her first job in the international support department at her old university (UWTSD) – greeting exchange students and helping international students with the T4 visa process.
She then moved to the Widening Access department, advising, recruiting and supporting students from non-traditional backgrounds to study and achieve their ambitions.
In 2016, she took up her current position at the University of South Wales as Collaboration, Recruitment and Progression Assistant – again working with non-traditional applicants,
“I love my job. I thoroughly enjoy seeing students who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to study, achieving qualifications that they never dreamed possible,” she said.
Main photo: Alexandra Rhian Roberts