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Recollections of a summer in Patagonia

25 October 2016

Earlier this year, Elin Arfon and Manon Thomas, students at the School of Welsh, won scholarships worth £3,000 each for work experience in Patagonia.

The scholarships were funded by Santander Bank and the purpose of the trip was to undertake varied work experience with schools, language classes and the community of the Welsh Settlement. In addition to this, Elin and Manon were working in support of the Welsh Language Plan. This is a partnership between the Welsh Government, British Council, Cardiff University, The Welsh-Argentine Society and Menter Iaith Patagonia.

Read Elin and Manon’s thoughts about their unforgettable and heart-warming cultural experience, immersing themselves in the Welsh community of the settlement.

“Neither of us had any idea what to expect when we left for the Welsh Settlement, only the imaginings and ideas fashioned by those who have been before us. The reality was quite different. [...] There was nothing better than arriving at Trelew and spotting three figures enthusiastically waving their arms and smiling from ear to ear in welcome: Billy Hughes, Gladys Thomas and Eluned Jones. While meeting the immortal Luned Gonzalez was truly unforgettable. We had never met such a wonderful character before, zooming past in her white bullet of a car, organising everyone and everything. We were treated like superstars and were even invited on to a local radio programme. We are immensely grateful to Luned for looking after us during that fortnight.

“It was very rare that we had five minutes to ourselves during our time in Gaiman but we enjoyed every second, even when having to rise in the early hours to catch the bus. It was a pleasure to meet the children at the Welsh School in Gaiman, Canmwy College and the Hendre School. It was a heart-warming experience to meet children from across the Atlantic who took such pride in their Welshness. They were all such sweet children and were a credit to their teachers. It was lovely to hear the pupils singing the Welsh national anthem with such pride and passion; we are in no doubt that this will stay with us forever.

“Our time in Cwm Hyfryd was also very worthwhile, we received a huge welcome and endless invitations to various activities and events, such as the quiz and a birthday Asado (BBQ). We certainly enjoyed more leisure time here and made lifelong friends who were more than willing to show us around the area and introduce us to the local customs. In spite of this, we did attend a number of Welsh classes at the Centre in Esquel and in Ysgol y Cwm.

“Our time in Patagonia was an eye-opening experience and we hope that the scholarship continues to be offered to the continued benefit of the cultural exchange that exists between Patagonia and Wales. We both applied for the scholarship to encourage more Welsh activity and the concept that Welsh is modern and alive in Wales. We have certainly come to understand and appreciate the complexities of the Welsh language in Patagonia.”

Cardiff University’s School of Welsh offers two scholarships for travel to Patagonia annually, funded by Santander Bank. The 2017 scholarships will be advertised in the spring.

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