Cardiff graduate Jo Davies reveals her love of all things water…
Cardiff was my first choice of University and if truth be told if I hadn't got the right A level grades to get in I would have re-sat my exams as there really was nowhere else I wanted to go! Mostly this was because of the course - I desperately wanted to do the Marine Geography course as I love the sea and really didn't fancy plain old Geography, which were my other options. I'll never regret having chosen it, the course itself was so interesting and heaps of fun - days spent bombing around the Bristol Channel in the departmental RIB doing "surveys" and trawling the seabed for interesting fish but mostly coming up with rubbish!
I threw myself into university life and was instantly conned into joining the OTC (The Officer Training Corps) on the promise that I would be able to do all sorts of exciting adventure training such as SCUBA diving and sky diving and even get paid for it - it all sounded very glamorous - what no-one told the eager young fresher was that the reality of OTC weekends were spent getting very cold and wet on Sennybridge (a bleak spot in the Black Mountains of Wales where the weather is known to change at the drop of a hat!). But it wasn't all bad and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience of army life. Though not enough to join up when I graduated!
Life at Cardiff was brilliant, the social life as a student was great, we all lived within spitting distance of the union and spent nearly every night of the week out enjoying student life. OTC took up a huge part of my time but I also joined the diving club and spent a few miserable weekends in a quarry somewhere in mid Wales which soon put me off diving in the UK.
As you can see a theme was developing and I would be doing anything that involved water or the sea.
In the third year, as part of my course I went away on an industrial placement; I got a job in Aberdeen working for an offshore survey company, training to become a Hydrographic Surveyor - this seemed to be the job of choice for anyone who wanted to take our course further after university and I quickly found out what working in the North Sea was like! I loved being at sea, spending weeks away on survey boats, unfortunately the work itself was extremely dull - watching paint dry has similarities to some of the work offshore!
Upon my return to Cardiff to complete my course I decided it was time to get fit having spent the last year getting fat on survey boats. Rowing it seemed offered the potential of not only a water sport but also had the reputation of being the sport of choice for getting fit. This was probably the turning point for me - rowing became my life and I still haven't quite managed to shake it off. This year I was part of an all female crew to row across the Atlantic - we smashed the Women's Fours record by 17 days, a fantastic achievement for me as it meant I got to complete something I started 3 years ago.
My final year was busy with dissertations and finals and any free time I had was spent training in the gym or on the water, we had a fantastic coach who believed in putting us through our paces both on and off the water.
My time at Cardiff has definitely shaped my life - since then I have spent time working offshore but have also had many adventures - mostly involving the sea; sailing round the Pacific, rowing across the Atlantic, diving the reefs in Fiji on conservation projects and I still have plans for more sailing adventures and polar expeditions.
Cardiff is one of those brilliant universities, with a great history - I can't believe its 125 years! Congratulations on being (in my humble opinion) the best place to start life in the big bad world!
Jo Davies graduated from Cardiff with a degree in Marine Geography. In 2008, Jo was part of a four-women crew who broke the world record in the Atlantic Rowing Race. Her crew, 'Unfinished Business' completed the race in 51 days, 16 hours and 31 minutes, becoming the fastest women's four to row from La Gomera, in the Canary Islands to Antigua.