By May Jones
As a student from South Wales, home can sometimes feel far away in both proximity and culture. Whilst I admired Oxford’s beautiful buildings decorated for Christmas, my favourite time of year, home felt ever further away. By Michaelmas of my first year in Oxford, I had not engaged much with the Welsh Society at Oxford (Cymdeithas Dafydd Ap Gwilym). The feelings of a fish in a small pond, ready to head on the exciting challenge of a big city, left me forgetting about my Welsh heritage and its meaning. But, during my eighth and final week in Oxford before Christmas, hiraeth came to mind – a term commonly used by Welsh people to describe their longing for home.
As a silent viewer of the Welsh Society’s Instagram page, I knew their annual Carol Concert was fast approaching. So, while everyone I asked was busy writing final essays and packing, I headed to Jesus College Chapel alone. I sat in a pew behind some Welsh students I recognised from my college. Looking around the chapel, students and members of the public slowly filled it. I heard Welsh accents and the Welsh language from students and pensioners alike. While the readings and carols for the service are mainly in Welsh, due to Welsh’s easy phonetic spellings, any knowledge from childhood Welsh lessons quickly returns. I had managed to find a corner of Oxford, a small group of peers who shared my hiraeth. Not only did I find somewhere to celebrate Christmas, but I also found a snippet of home.
Needless to say, I have returned to this carol concert in Jesus College since. Last year, I took all my friends. Some of whom had not even heard the Welsh language before! Of course, coming to Oxford as a Welsh student can feel daunting, but you would be surprised by how many people you will find who share this feeling of hiraeth. Even if you feel like I did – ready to leave your Welsh heritage at home - it is comforting to know that small pockets of lovely people exist in Oxford, ready to say a very ‘Welshy’ hiya. Since that carol service, many fun Welsh society events have occurred, from rugby watching in the pub to St David’s Day celebrations. Overall, I love being Welsh in Oxford. In fact, I think I am prouder to be Welsh than I ever have been. Whilst college life may distribute Welsh students up a little throughout Oxford, we are here and easy to find thanks to Cymdeithas Dafydd Ap Gwilym.