After visiting the UK for the first time as part of the Fulbright Wales Summer Institute, Matt is following up his undergraduate studies from Washington D.C. at Cardiff University.
Course title: MSc Urban and Regional Development
Year of graduation: 2017
Could you briefly introduce yourself (name, school, degree, country, year of study)?
My name is Matt Waskiewicz, and I’m studying for a master’s in Urban and Regional Development in the School of Geography and Planning. Previously, I attended American University in Washington, D.C., where I received bachelor’s degrees in economics and in political science. I hail from Hadley, Massachusetts (Go Red Sox!).
Why did you choose Cardiff?
I first visited Cardiff two years ago as part of the Fulbright Wales Summer Institute, a six-week study-travel program for American undergraduates sponsored by the US-UK Fulbright Commission. I immediately fell in love with both the city and the University for its vibrant culture, rich history and bountiful green spaces.
It was while here in Wales that I learned of several innovative initiatives on which partners at the Welsh Assembly, Cardiff University and practitioners in the private sector were collaborating to catalyse economic growth and development in the region. This was in my first exposure to Cardiff and it compelled me to return here to study for my master’s.
Tell us about your course. How is it different to classes back home?
This year, I will be taking modules on urban-rural economic disparities, multi-level governance and public policy implementation, real estate, and housing before undertaking a dissertation that I hope will link my studies in the UK to practical applications of policy in the US.
Wales’s industrial background in coal and slate mining, subsequent de-industrialization and service-based renaissance and recent devolution and creation of the Welsh Assembly make Wales an excellent case study for those interested in economics, planning, public policy, and politics, and how culture, geography, and history interact to create areas of prosperity and decline. Why does uneven development come about? What can we do about it? These are the questions we are exploring here in Cardiff, one of the best places in the world to do so.
What you have enjoyed most about studying at Cardiff University?
I really have enjoyed the warm and receptive faculty I’ve interacted with so far at Cardiff University. I was fortunate at my undergraduate institution to have small, seminar-based classes taught by engaging and open faculty—I have found this same atmosphere of intellectual inquiry and debate here at Cardiff.
The University’s location in the heart of Cardiff makes it uniquely situated to draw in faculty who are engaged in their professions on the same challenges we’re studying in class, and we are able to apply what we’re learning to the outside world. The region is our classroom here at Cardiff and the University makes excellent use of this learning environment.
What is the best thing about living in Cardiff?
Cardiff is a city that is at once both Welsh and cosmopolitan. Walking through the city centre, I can stop in and have a homemade Welsh cake from a family-run shop in the Cardiff Market or catch a rugby or cricket match at a nearby stadium, and I can sample food and hear languages from dozens of cultures from around the globe.
Cardiff has all of the amenities of a capital city, but without feeling like you’ll be lost in a sea of people and streets. It was just named one of the most affordable cities in Europe, but has close connections via bus, rail, and jet plane to just about anywhere you’d like to visit in the UK or EU.
How has the University supported you during your time here?
The University has been tremendously supportive of me in my time here at Cardiff University. Every step of the way, from when I first applied up to and past when I began my studies, I have felt welcomed as a valued member of the Cardiff community. The sheer number and high quality of resources available to me reassure me that I will not be alone in responding to any challenge or opportunity that comes my way.
What would be your advice for prospective students thinking about coming to Cardiff?
My best advice for prospective students is to make not only the most of Cardiff, but also of Wales—go out and explore the impressive natural beauty around you! There are inexpensive buses and trains that can take you anywhere from Hay-on-Wye, a small town home to 40+ bookstores, to Conwy in North Wales, where castles and mountains sometimes make you feel more like you’re in Middle Earth or Westeros than in the United Kingdom. Wales is an incredible country filled with more sights and diverse experiences than you can find on some continents. Take full advantage of all Wales has to offer while you are here!
What are your plans for the future?
I hope to return to the United States and work in public policy creation and analysis. The challenges and opportunities here in Wales are not too different than what many communities in the US (and indeed, around the world) face every day. I hope that by studying what has worked to improve people's lives in Wales, I can apply these concepts and principles back home to communities in need.