The foreign students who have fallen in love with Wales

By Tomos Lewis
BBC News

media caption"I've been told I sound Welsh - I don't know if it's true!"

When Tea Racic arrived in Wales three years ago to study she had no idea what to expect.

Now the Croatian has fallen in love with the country she calls her "second home".

She said: "I think I am kind of Welsh ... I've sort of adopted the accent."

Having graduated from University of South Wales with a BSc in psychology she is now working as an intern there, helping new students from overseas adapt to life in Wales.

Ms Racic said the international welcome programme was "important" in helping students "settle in" and "learn about different cultures".

In the academic year beginning September 2017 a total of 21,350 students from outside the UK enrolled with Welsh universities - nearly one in five of their students.

At the University of South Wales, nearly 3,000 international students enrolled.

image captionDr Lisa Davies says some students are leaving their home countries for the first time

The university's international and partnership development head, Dr Lisa Davies, said students needed a "soft landing" on arriving here.

"For many of our students it's the first time they've been on a plane, left their family, travelled to the other side of the world, so it's really important that we provide this period of time," she said.

"Wales has so much to offer international students.

"It very quickly becomes a home away from home to them."

Ms Racic says she was "a bit nervous" when she got here, but things worked out well.

"I had a really good experience arriving here in Wales and I attended the international welcome programme," she said.

"I attended all the events and I met really good friends - friends from all around the world and it made me feel really welcome".

image captionRosemary Osei Dufie from Ghana has already visited Cardiff and Caerphilly castles

Rosemary Osei Dufie, from Ghana, came to Wales to do a clinical psychology masters course.

"Everybody is so warm and welcoming, I'm enjoying it," she said.

"I've been to Cardiff Castle, I've used a train… I've seen Cardiff Bay, it's beautiful."

Getting to know the culture and "really friendly people" in Wales has been a highlight for Jasmine Dhaliwal.

She came to USW from Vancouver, Canada.

"Getting to come over to Wales has been the most beautiful thing, because I've never been here before," she said.

"Getting to see all this landscape and all this greenery has been really nice."

image captionSteiniar Stensø Skjørholm claims Welsh mountains are more like hills compared to those in Norway

Norway's Steiniar Stensø Skjørholm knew about Wales but his knowledge was "quite limited."

"It's a beautiful country, it's so much greener than home but there aren't the mountains like we have!" he said.

"They're more like slopes and hills… and the people here are very nice."

Tea Racic will continue working with international students through the academic year. She misses Croatia and her allegiances are split between there and Wales.

"They sometimes ask me if I'm from Wales, but I say 'no, I'm originally from Croatia' but I've just adopted that really good accent," she said.

"Welsh people are very nice and friendly.

"I actually call this is my second home now. So I'm home here and I'm home when I go to Croatia to see my family.

"It's really great - this place has this welcoming feeling and I really like that."

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