From Llangeithio to Ohio
2018 marks 200 years since the Welsh sailed from Ceredigion to Ohio, and to mark the occasion, there’s a new ‘Cardi’ in Ohio! 22 year old Dan Rowbotham from Llangeithio, Ceredigion has been appointed as the Davies Intern at the Madog Center (www.rio.edu/madog/) for Welsh studies at Rio Grande University in Ohio. In a Skype interview, Cymru a’r Byd caught up with Dan to learn more about his role and to ask if the Welsh heritage remains an integral part of the community.
First of all Dan, tell us why you are in Ohio?
I was fortunate enough to be chosen as the new Davies Internship for the Madog Center here in Rio Grande University, where I’ll be working until Christmas 2019. The Madog Center is located in the midst of one of the largest Welsh-American settlements in North America and it’s here to promote and celebrate the Welsh heritage in Ohio. As a young man from Ceredigion, it’s a really exciting time to be living here, as we’ll be celebrating 200 years since the Welsh from Ceredigion sailed over here.
What do you do from day to day?
It’s really varied! I work with a lot of societies and groups to promote the Welsh language and heritage. Today I’ve been working in 5 different schools, promoting the Welsh language and teaching the kids about Wales. I visit a lot of schools and organise skype chats between schools in Wales and schools in Ohio, which can be tricky with the different time zones, but always really exciting and insightful for both the children in America and Wales. Children in Ohio are so enthusiastic about Wales and the Welsh language. They are amazed to hear that we have our own Welsh TV channel and music scene, they love listening to Welsh bands like Swnami and they all want to come to Maes B at the Eisteddfod! As well as my work, I also study an MA in Education and Integrated Arts, which I love! I’ve learnt about different cultures and how I can use the arts to bring the Welsh culture to life in Ohio.
How does life in Ohio compare to life in Llangeitho?
Llangeitho is a rural village and here I’m living amongst the ‘hill billies’ too! There’s a lot of Amish people here and a lot of similarities between the people, but here, the roads are straight, unlike the windy back roads in Llangeitho! The other difference is the population, there’s a lot more people here than in Llangeitho!
Is it hard to integrate into a large community?
Not at all, I’ve been welcomed with open arms. People here have huge hearts and they love their Welsh heritage and connections, I almost feel like a celebrity! I’ve been invited into the family homes of my lecturers and colleagues and made so many friends in a short space of time. I’ve also met Eben from Aberystwyth, he married a local girl and are expecting their third child in August! Their children are learning Welsh and I’m helping them!
Is the Welsh connection present within the modern-day community?
Yes! It’s stronger here than at home! There are Welsh banners on most streets. All the street signs include a picture of the Welsh dragon, the funny thing is that the dragon is facing the wrong way round! You even see the Welsh dragon on the police cars! They are extremely proud of their Welsh heritage which is an amazing thing to experience.
It’s obvious that you are really enjoying your time, but do you feel home sick?
I do miss my family and friends but I call my parents on Skype every week. My parents run a pub called the Three Horseshoes in Llangeitho, and when I call, the phone gets passed around the locals so I can see them and catch up with them, it’s much easier with modern day technology. I’m really struggling with the chocolate though! American chocolate is rubbish! I also miss good tea bags! Another thing I miss is being able to have an alcoholic drink – Rio Grande is a dry campus, which means you can’t have alcohol on site, it’s very different to my life as a former student in Trinity College Carmarthen!
Have you got any exciting plans in the near future?
I’m hoping to get my Welsh choir set up very soon and I’m also looking forward to the fact that we’re opening up a Welsh American Heritage Museum. I’m also looking forward to the North American Welsh Festival, I’ll be representing the College and I’m looking forward to catching up with lots of Welsh performers and visitors.
Will you be returning home before the end of 2019?
Yes! As part of the 200-year celebrations I’ll be returning home to Ceredigion for two weeks at the end of June. I’m really looking forward to taking part in this special event and seeing my family and friends too.
Cymru a’r Byd would like to thank Dan for a lively and insightful Skype interview and wish him the best of luck as he continues to promote the Welsh language and culture in Ohio. We also hope to catch up with Dan when he travels to Wales for the 200-year celebration this summer!
By Heulwen Davies, Cymru a’r Byd / Wales International