Student joined Obama's election campaign during her U.S. visit
A SWANSEA student who aims to visit 50 US states before she turns 50 has made an impressive addition to her list — nine months in Colorado including a stint with Barak Obama's campaign team.
Sarah Roderick taught American schoolchildren about Wales, helped to restore land damaged by wildfires and volunteered with the local Democratic campaign team in support for Obama's re-election while studying at Colorado State University (CSU).
The 21-year-old Swansea University student said she was fascinated by American history.
"Originally I had planned to study history as a degree, but wanted to focus on American history, which a lot of universities don't do," she said.
"Swansea University has a very good American Studies programme. When I researched it I saw that it accommodates a lot of different subjects like history, politics and literature.
"The course also allowed for the chance to study at an American university for a year."
Sarah was sent to CSU in Fort Collins, close to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
"Initially, the amount of work I was expected to do was overwhelming," she said.
"It seemed like there was no end to it, but the work was a lot easier than that at Swansea University, so there was still plenty of time to experience other aspects of American student life.
"There were one or two moments when I felt homesick during the start of the year, but that was more the fear that I would not make any friends. However, I was quick to realise that it is easy to make friends when you have a British accent.
"Even now some of my closest American friends say that they were determined to be my friend so they could tell other people they had links to Wales!
"I thought I would be really homesick on my birthday, but because it falls on Halloween there was a lot to do that day.
"Everyone wanted the novelty of taking the Welsh girl out for 'a proper American Halloween', which included pumpkin carving, a fancy dress party, trick or treating, a haunted house, and scary movies.
"Before I left Wales, two of my friends drew up a list of things I needed to experience during my year, mostly things like see an American football game. The overall goal of the year was to see President Barak Obama."
She achieved this, just two weeks into the year, when President Obama visited the CSU campus on his Presidential campaign trail.
"Obviously there were a lot of security checks and guards everywhere which was incredibly intimidating, but Obama's speech was a great moment," she said. "He was very charismatic and had the ability to engage the crowd on a personal level without seeming like a politician. After that once in a life time opportunity, I volunteered at the local Democratic campaign team in support for Obama's re-election.
"The team consisted of mostly students and for the most part we were doing the typical election activities: helping people register to vote and explaining why we thought Obama was the better candidate for President. I was usually put on the phones inviting people to organised events, like our pizza party for the Presidential debates or our Women for Obama meeting. The leaders of our team thought I would bring in more people because of my accent.
"This worked, as a lot of people found it interesting that a foreigner was putting in a lot of effort to help the Obama campaign.
"At one point I spent 30 minutes on the phone with a woman who kept thanking me for flying out to help in the election. I never got around to telling her I was there on an exchange."
Sarah also helped the effort to restore some of the land damaged in Colorado's 2012 wildfires.
"A small group of volunteers camped in the mountains for a few days, spreading seeds and trying to kick start growth in the areas most damaged," she said.
Sarah is closer to her goal to visit all 50 states before she turns 50 thanks to the friendships she has made throughout the US.
"Another Swansea student, Sian Seymour, and I travelled to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon over Thanksgiving break, which was a lot of fun," she said.
"I also travelled to Virginia during Spring Break — the same day Wales won the Six Nations, and I was questioned about rugby and the Wales game almost as soon as arrived. Actually exploring DC was great too.
She added: "I would recommend studying abroad to anyone, even if you only go on one of the shorter programmes.
"It is 100 per cent worth it. If I had to option to stay longer I would have. I learnt so much and met the most amazing friends."