An Honest Reflection of My First Year of University

Hello! Hope you’re all doing well! I am currently on my summer holidays?!??! Which is mad because that means that I’ve SOMEHOW survived first year of university?!!!? If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that this year hasn’t been plain sailing and you’re probably very fed up of me rambling on about university, but it’s been a massive change in my life and I feel like my blog as become an outlet for me to document my experiences as a student. It’s definitely been a tough year and there have been points where I have wanted to give up but I feel like I have grown immeasurably as a person since last September and have learnt many skills for life throughout my university experience so far.

In all honesty, my mental health has suffered significantly since starting university and this exam season especially has been the toughest few months I’ve ever had to go through. Whilst I know it’s going to take me a long time to recover from the mental and emotional exhaustion of this year and get my mental health back under control, I don’t regret coming to university as I feel like my experiences here and the independence I’ve gained have helped me find the confidence to seek help for mental health issues I’ve been struggling with for a while. I don’t want to focus too much on the negatives though, I just really wanted to be honest and break the expectation that university is the “best years of your life” because believing that is partly what caused me to struggle so much this year. There have definitely been many high points throughout the year and I should be proud of myself for everything I’ve achieved. I’m going to talk about some different aspects of university life this year and share some of my experiences with you.

Living with other people

This was, perhaps, the thing that I was most apprehensive about when moving to university. Would I get on with my flatmates? Would I be able to look after myself? Can I even cook!? There were so many questions and worries that I had before moving into halls, which I think is COMPLETELY natural. One thing I’ve learnt is that everybody’s living situation is very different. The people that you end up living with in halls are allocated completely randomly and whilst some people get on well with their flatmates and become best friends, for others it can be a living nightmare. I’m quite happy that my living situation turned out to be somewhere in the middle of this spectrum as although my flatmates and I are very different and don’t have a lot in common friendship-wise, we get along well enough to live together. Sometimes I’ve wished I lived in a more sociable flat where we ate together and went out together instead of just five-minute small talk whilst cooking in the kitchen. At the same time, I’ve loved having my own personal space and the fact that I can stay in my room all day if I want to without seeming rude. Living with people from different backgrounds, cultures and countries has definitely been a learning curve but it’s been a very unique experience that I don’t think I would have got if I hadn’t had come to university. I’ve lived with people this year that I never would have crossed paths with otherwise and it’s helped me to become more understanding of different people. Of course there have been times where I’ve been fed up with the mess in the kitchen or the state of the bins but that’s just part of student life and adjusting to living independently. I think we’ve all coped quite well, aside from flooding the hallway, a ladybird infestation and the sad death of Henry Hoover. I’m actually quite grateful that I wasn’t close friends with my flatmates, even thought I’ve struggled with loneliness throughout the year, as that forced me to go out and socialise with other people! One thing I would say is that if you don’t find your best friends in your flat, try not to worry or compare yourself to the experiences your friends are having in halls as their living situations will be completely different to yours!

Independence

I guess this follows on from the first point but moving out of home as definitely given me more independence. I feel like almost a completely different person to when I moved in here. I was unable to cook anything and didn’t like using public transport or going shopping by myself. I quickly picked up how to cook for myself, I think you have to when you’re put in a situation where no one else will cook for you! And whilst I used to dread having to take the bus into town alone when I lived at home, now I will quite happily travel across the country on various modes of public transport, including going into London by myself and navigating the tube (which was honestly terrifying at first!!). I’ve also become a lot more independent in other ways such as looking after myself when I’m ill, taking myself to the doctor’s and reaching out for help from personal tutors and the well-being services when I need it. In that sense, I feel like I have more control over my life now. Part of me still can’t believe that I’ve managed to keep myself alive for the past year?!!?

Going out of my comfort zone

So pretty much the whole concept of moving out of home to the other side of the country was out of my comfort zone this time last year. I wasn’t even sure if I’d make it through Fresher’s Week but when I got here, I just kind of threw myself into everything and realised I could do a lot more than I thought. University is full of challenges and changes and I feel like I’ve really made a conscious effort to do the things that scare me as I know that’s how I’ll become more confident. In Term 1, for example, I went to a hiking society taster session BY MYSELF which was absolutely terrifying but it actually worked out okay and I ended up spending the whole day hiking with people I’d never met before (and unfortunately never saw again as they didn’t join the society, but that’s not the point!). I’ve also made an effort this year to keep in touch with some of the friends I made in Fresher’s Week and meet up with them throughout the year. I personally find inviting people to meet up very anxiety-inducing so this has been a big thing for me but I’m glad I put in the effort to keep in touch with people as now I have two good friends who I meet up with regularly for coffee or lunch that I met during welcome talks in the first week of term. Travelling to London by myself was very much out of my comfort zone too, but now I’ve done it dozens of times, it’s not scary anymore! Finally I applied to be a peer mentor in second year, which means I get given a group of freshers from my department to mentor throughout the year and help them settle in. It’s something I really wanted to do as I feel like I’ve been through a lot this year and would really like to help people settle in to university better than I have. To my surprise, my application was accepted and I attended training last week, which was daunting in itself, having to do group work with strangers! I think expanding my comfort zone is one of the biggest things I’ve gained from first year and I definitely feel like I am more confident than I was in Sixth Form.

Adjusting to a new environment

Another key part of moving to university for many students is living in a new city/area. Personally, I was really excited to move away from my hometown as nothing much really happens there and I wanted to escape all the bad memories that were made there. I’d only visited my university town twice before move in day and I somehow failed to notice that it was so hilly?? Like, the whole campus is on multiple hills. So the hardest thing to adjust to has been having to walk up two hills everyday to lectures and walk up another hill on my way back from Tesco with my bags of shopping (it is AN ORDEAL). My university is on a campus near a small town on the edge of London so I think it’s been easier to adjust to than being in a big city as it didn’t take me long to figure out where everything is. Although occasionally I still get lost walking down some of the residential roads as all the houses look the same! I’ve actually found living somewhere new really refreshing. It may sound weird but uni is starting to feel more like home than my hometown as it’s the first place I’ve lived independently and I’ve actually chosen to live here.

Homesickness

Although I have struggled this year, homesickness was surprisingly one thing I haven’t struggled with. There have maybe been one or two occasions where I’ve thought that I want to go home, but that’s more been because I’ve been struggling mentally and couldn’t look after myself properly rather than actually missing home. However, it is 100% okay if you are homesick as the majority of students go through this. Moving out for the first time is a big shock! I think what helped me not feel homesick is the fact that I told myself I could go home half way through term when we had our reading week, which was about 6 weeks after move in day. I was determined to stay at uni for as long as possible so I could let myself settle in and adjust to a new routine and setting a date in the future where I knew I could come home helped. I definitely think if I had gone home the first weekend, I would have been a lot more homesick. Also, I think choosing a university that is 3-4 hours away from home has worked well for me too as the hassle (and cost) of taking the train back puts me off from wanting to go home!

Friends

I think making friends at uni has been really hard for me. At first, it was easy to talk to people as everyone was friendly and wanted to socialise but as soon as people started forming little groups, it felt impossible. I was lucky in that I met a group of people at my departmental welcome party that I’ve stuck with throughout the whole year in lectures. Although they are all lovely, we’re not very close as I feel like we don’t have a lot in common so I kind of wish I’d branched out a bit instead of sticking with the first people I met. But I’m hoping next year I’ll get to know more people on my course as we split up into different modules. As I mentioned, I haven’t become good friends with my flatmates either which was hard. I think I just felt like the outsider from the beginning and as I’ve struggled with my mental health, I became quite withdrawn and avoided them at some points throughout the year. I have made two good friends though who I meet up with every few weeks, one who I met at the languages welcome party (as I started uni studying French and Politics) and another that I met in a Welcome Talk on the first day as I just sat down next to her and started chatting. So I am glad that I have them although we do different courses so I don’t see them as much as I’d like! I think making friends really depends on who you end up in a flat with and who’s on your course, but it’s never too late to make new friends!

Nightlife

Honestly, I was dreading this before coming to uni. I had only been to a club a few times back home and really hadn’t enjoyed it, mainly because the pressure to drink made me anxious. I did end up going out once in Fresher’s Week but after that I didn’t go out or drink again until about March because I just really didn’t like it. But then I made a good friend on my course, who I’m living with next year, that respected the fact that I don’t drink a lot so I’ve been out with her about ten times over the last two terms. I’m actually starting to enjoy going out now and figuring out what I do and don’t like drinking but if you’re not a fan of nights out, it’s definitely not the be all and end all of university life!

My course

Finally I should probably talk about my actual degree. As some of you may know (because I keep going on about it lol), I actually changed degree within the first few weeks of university as it just wasn’t right for me. This was very disruptive for me and I think it stopped me from settling into my flat as I was so stressed trying to catch up on work that I spent most of my time in my room studying. Sometimes I do miss studying French, but I don’t regret my decision as the way it was taught here just didn’t work for me and I probably would have ended up dropping out. So, I switched to Politics and International Relations and studied four core modules: Intro to Politics, Intro to IR, Classical Reading and Research Methods. IR has definitely been my favourite module this year. I struggled a lot with Classics because it’s a philosophy module and I had no clue how to go about writing essay or why Plato and Aristotle were relevant to my degree, but at least it’s over now! I’m still not completely satisfied with my course as it doesn’t offer me everything I wanted to get out of university, like the opportunity to study abroad for example. When I was doing French, I was enrolled on a four year programme with a compulsory year abroad which I was really looking forward to. However the PIR department doesn’t have ANY study abroad links, which I didn’t realise before I applied here. It’s really frustrated because I know if I studied politics at pretty much any other uni, I could do a semester or year abroad and still get the experience of living in France that I really wanted to get out of university. But I guess I just have to accept that that’s the way it is and there’s not much I can do about it now. In terms of the workload, it sort of fluctuates. As I only had 9 contact hours a week – 5 lectures and 4 seminars – keeping up with my weekly reading wasn’t too challenging as I had a lot of free time. However, in both November and March I had four coursework submission dates within the space of two weeks, which was very stressful and it was difficult to juggle writing four essays at a time whilst attending lectures and doing weekly reading. When it came to exams, I had one for each module in which I had two hours to write two essays. I’m honestly not expecting much from my results and it will be a miracle if I pass because I’ve been quite physically/mentally ill through exam season so was barely able to do any revision. At one point I almost didn’t turn up to an exam as I’d been sleeping for about two hours per night for the past few weeks and was having a break down at 5am on the phone to my mum when I had to get up two hours later for my 9am exam. So, exams were NOT FUN to say the least, but I’ve managed. And next year I’m definitely going to try to stress less and take better care of myself so this doesn’t happen again.

Wow, that’s been a lot of writing and I’m sure I’ve missed out some important stuff! Anyway, just wanted to say thank you for sticking with me throughout the past year and putting up with my rambles. It’s been tough and I’m so glad I have to whole summer to recover, I definitely need a break!

If you’ve just finished first year too, how have you found your university experience? 🙂

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Reflections

Hello. It’s been a while since I’ve checked in here and quite frankly a while since I’ve checked in with myself. I thought I’d take the time on this sunny afternoon to sit down and give myself space to write, let the words flow out of my head and onto the digital page. I think it’s very easy to forget to take time out to just sit and think when life becomes fast-paced and I’ve definitely fallen into the cycle of suppressing thoughts and feelings and saying I’ll ‘deal with them later’. Well, I guess now it’s time to start dealing with it.

Generally, the past few months have been great. I was determined to enjoy my second term at uni a lot more than the first and I definitely have. I’ve got used to living independently now and am (mostly) managing my workload. I’ve also done a lot of things outside of my comfort zone like applying to become a peer mentor next year, starting volunteering and applying for jobs/summer placements (I somehow managed to get called to interview in a few weeks ahhh). However, all this has come at the price of me feeling really disconnected from myself and the present.

Whilst I’m happy with how this past term has gone, it feels like my life is very quickly moving in a direction that I’m not sure I want it to go. I thought going to uni would open more doors for me, but it feels like I am constantly having to make decisions which are leading me down an ever-narrowing path. It’s probably irrational, but the more I specialise in my degree – by picking my second year modules for example, which resulted in me switching degree again from Politics and International Relations to just International Relations – the more I lose touch with myself. Part of me still feels like I’m not doing what’s ‘right’ for me, despite having changed degree twice. I think part of the problem is I don’t know what is the right pathway for me yet I’m making decisions which will impact my future career prospects.

I know, realistically, I don’t have to go into a career that directly relates to my career, but I think being surrounded by other politics/IR students all the time who do want to go into careers in governments, NGOs, policy making etc. is making me feel like I should do the same. I’ve also realised that I’m not an overly political person. I don’t have really strong views about things and politics isn’t my passion, I just enjoy studying how the world works and politics/IR is one lens through which I can understand the world. I do love my degree, but it doesn’t define me as a person and I have many other interests alongside which I’m worried are going to get pushed to the side as I get further through my degree.

Also one thing that’s always in the back of my mind is my love of languages and how studying and speaking French made me feel. I wouldn’t say I regret dropping French at uni as I know the course wasn’t right for me and that I’d like my journey with French to continue by moving to France using the language in a practical way. However I do really miss it. It’s a bit strange but since I’ve come home for Easter, I keep finding myself spontaneously thinking and speaking in French – much to the annoyance of my family who don’t understand half of what I’m saying when I respond, almost automatically, to their questions in French. I think it’s because being back home reminds me of studying French and that part of my life where languages were very important to me.

That leads me onto another thing I wanted to talk about. Coming home from uni is very strange and hard to adjust to. I mean, it’s probably my fault as I had been away from home for around two months before I came back for Easter. It feels like my life has stopped and I’m stuck in this weird sort of limbo where time is passing really slowly. I feel like my life at uni is very fast paced and because I’m settled in there now, my life back home feels like it’s stopped. I’m not sure if this is making sense, but it’s really hard coming home and trying to work out how I fit back into my old, given how much I’ve grown since moving out.

I really wish life wasn’t flying past so quickly. I always seem to be planning something or waiting for something to happen in the future, never being able to fully enjoy the present. My mind is always thinking about the next thing. I think this is partially due to the fact that every week at uni is very different and friendships in particular are constantly changing. It’s really hard to hold on to a single moment before it slips away.

I’m not sure why but I feel very uncertain about the future at the moment. And I don’t just mean the distant future but even about what will happen in the next month or so after exams are finished and I’m allowed to go home for summer break. I know I’ll be coming back to university in September, I’m just not sure what will happen in between. I’m not ready for the long summer break and feeling like time has stopped again, as I do now, but I don’t want to spend the whole summer waiting for September and missing out on the present. I think I’ll need those few months though to properly slow down and catch up with myself before I become too lost.

I don’t think writing this has made me feel any less like I’m living in a whirlwind, but I guess it’s a start to slowing down a bit and trying to experience the present without worrying about the future. I think I just need to have a little faith that hings will work out in the end and I don’t need to be so worried about what the future holds. I really hope you’re having a lovely bank holiday weekend if you’re in the UK and hopefully I’ll be writing more frequently soon. 🙂

Uni supplies haul!!!

Greetings mes amis! As I’ve now finished A Levels (exactly two months ago) and will be going off to uni (exactly one month from now!), it’s fair to say I’ve had a lot of shopping to do in terms of supplies for uni.

I’ll be moving away from home – 121 miles away to be exact – hence I am going to be living in university halls. I was really excited to start buying bits and bobs….until I realised just how much you need to buy when you move out and how expensive it is! Nevertheless, I have enjoyed stocking up on the essentials this summer, so I thought I’d share with you a few of my favourite items so far (because if I showed you everything, it would be a VERY long and probably not very interesting post!).

My accommodation is self-catered, so I had to buy all the stuff for the kitchen too but luckily my duvet and pillows are provided by the uni so that saved me a bit of money!

(Also I’m sorry about the poor quality photos!! I am just,,,not good at blog photography oops. I’ve tried to include where I bought stuff from and prices if I can remember them too!)

Coat hangers

T K Maxx/Homesense £3.99

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Okay so coat hangers aren’t the most interesting of objects, BUT THESE ARE FLUFFY AND GREEN (grey??) AND I LOVE THEMMMMMM. Also I love the rose gold metal too! I have a feeling I’ll need more than 12 because I don’t have any drawers at uni so most of my clothes are going to have to hang, so I’ll either get another set or just take some from home.

Duvet covers

London duvet – Argos – £11.99

Colourful duvet – Primark – £8

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The first duvet cover I got is a sort of hand-drawn map of London. As I am moving to London, I couldn’t resist buying this!! The back of the duvet cover is black and white with London street signs on it.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The second one I got is a very brightly coloured one!! The photo is just the pillowcase because they are double duvet covers so I couldn’t fit it all in the shot, but the whole pattern as yellow, blue and red geometric shapes on it and on the other side it is just black and white polka dot.

Both of these items were in the sale so I don’t know if they’re still available!

(Also once I’ve moved in, I’ll probably do a little room tour so you can see what the duvets and other various items look like).

Crockery

Dinner plate – Wilko – £2.50

Side plate – Wilko – £2.00

Bowl – Wilko – £2.00

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My next favourites are my bowls and plates!! I bought two dinner plates, two side plates and two bowls in case I break some or have someone over to stay. The two plates are from the Mediterranean collection at Wilko which I just had to get after going to Marseille last year and falling in love with the Med! The bowl was from a different collection because the Mediterranean bowl was really flat (??) so it doesn’t really match the others but I still like it!

Saucepans

T K Maxx/Homesense – £14 (ish)

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Okay so I know they’re just saucepans but???!!! THEY’RE BLUE. AHHH. I don’t really know what else to say lol. I think they were about £14 for both but I can’t remember the exact pricing!!

Stationery

Office Outlet/Staples – Pukka Pad 200 pages – £1.99

Office Outlet/Staples – Campus Refill Pad 300 pages – £2.49

Office Outlet/Staples – Hole punch and stapler set – £3.99

Tesco – Crayola Super Tips 24 pack – £3 (ish)

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I was thinking about doing a separate stationary haul but realistically I don’t think I’m going to need to buy a lot this year as I’ll reuse lots of stuff from sixth form. However, I did pick up four pads of paper because I get through so much of it!! And I needed a hole punch and stapler (after I broke mine last year trying to hole punch a 30 page document oops). My felt tip pens had been running out for a while so I treated myself to a 24 pack of Crayola ones (yes, I feel like a little kid but oh well) for bullet journalling and general revision! They should last ages since I won’t be using them all the time! All the stationary I bought was on sale at around half of their original price, which is why I stocked up on so much paper as it is usually so expensive!!

Cacti

Sainsbury’s – £5

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The last item in this mini haul are my cacti!! I already own two pot plants which I will be taking to uni with me but when I saw this trio of cacti I couldn’t resist!!! My mum and I have given them names haha. The little glass pots they are in are actually tea light holders from Flying Tiger (my fave shop) which were 2 for £2!!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little haul. There are obviously many more items that I’ve had to buy for uni which I haven’t included (if I had I’d have to unpack all my boxes!!), but these are my favourites so far. I definitely need to get some more decorative bits for my room, although I am taking some stuff from home. I think I need to hit up Primark’s home ware section 😂

Bye for now 🙂

Thoughts on Leaving Home & University

Hello! Before I start, can I just say how much I am loving this spring weather?? Finally, the snow and cold has gone and we’re experiencing proper spring here in England. As I’m writing this, I’m sat on my bedroom floor watching the sunset through my windows – it’s beautiful!

Today we went for a bit of a drive through the countryside to pick up my mum from a Cub Scout event and it was like I’d almost forgotten how beautiful the rolling hills of Somerset looked in the golden sunlight. We drove past the farm where my family buys eggs from now and again and I felt really nostalgic about all the times I went with my parents as a child to collect the eggs. We also came across a couple of tractors and farmers just casually chatting in the country lanes – it really made me realise how much I’m going to miss living here.

Ever since the prospect of going to university became a reality, I’ve always said that I’d go to university on the coast. It may sound silly, but I’ve lived by the sea all my life and for a very long time, the thought of living away from the sea seemed impossible. For me, the sea represents so much more than just the mass of water that it is. When I stand on beach, looking out into the – albeit brown – sea, I find freedom in the horizon that stretches out further than the eye can see. It represents endless possibility and, most importantly, that there is more to life that I’m living within this bubble. When I feel trapped and claustrophobic under the blanket of pressure from college, friends or family, even just thinking about the sea gives me hope and ignites my spirit of adventure. I always thought that if I lived inland, I would feel trapped and swamped by society, so therefore when thinking about university, 15-year-old me decided I must live by the sea.

However, a few years down the line, I applied to university with none of my five choices being located on the coast. What happened? Well, as I’ve been exploring different pathways and possibilities, I found myself pursuing – unexpectedly – a rather niche degree in the UK comprised of (roughly) European politics and French. Therefore, the selection of universities I had to choose from was sadly quite limited.

I think that’s why it’s taken me so long to decide where to go to university – I received all my offers back by early January but was torn between them all because none of my options seemed the obvious choice. Sure, each one had it’s benefits but none of them would allow me to continue living under the safety blanket that the sea provides me.

Surprisingly, I’ve finally settled on going to London, which if you know me well you’d be shocked at as I’ve always said I wanted to go anywhere other than London. However after my travels in London last summer and going to various open days and applicant days, I fell in love with city and the prospect of living in the hustle and bustle of it all started to appeal to me. Also, the university I’ll be going to offers me some really exciting opportunities for the years to come, including spending a year abroad working, studying or teaching in a French-speaking country.

I think, in all, this decision to move to the capital has come from my growing self-confidence over the past few months. I felt confident enough in my decision-making skills to accept my university place and was pretty sure that, in five months time when I move in, I’d still feel as though it was the right decision. I also felt confident enough to leave behind the sea that I love so much as I no longer need it to act as a source of optimism about future adventures in the wider world. University is the start of my adventure after all, so I could finally stop dreaming and get ready to start living it.

Although the thought of leaving home thrills me and terrifies me in equal parts, I know it’s the right decision for me. So many great opportunities lay ahead, and I’m so glad I’ve found the courage to let myself experience them. I will miss home very much, which is natural of course, but I know the sea and rolling fields will always be here waiting for me to return.

 

//Royal Holloway uni open day; thoughts//

Hello! Hope you’re all loving the heat right now!!! This weekend has been so summer-y, it’s gret (although it’s hard to get in the mindset of doing school work when it just feels like the summer holidays).

Anyway, yesterday I went to my second university open day: Royal Holloway. Now, not many people have actually heard of Royal Holloway – in fact I only found it by chance because the course I’m looking into studying is very niche and not many unis actually do it – so I’ll give you a brief overview. Royal Holloway is one of the 19 (?) colleges (well…really universities) of the University of London. The main bulding – Founder’s – (a.k.a the orange castle) was built in the 1800s and is based on a French chateaux (is this fate??? I mean FRENCH). 

The building is so huge…my photography isn’t great – if you want to see better photos of this stunning building, google Royal Holloway!

It was actually one of the first univerisites in the UK to provide higher education to women (yay!!) and has notable alumni including Emily Wilding Davison, the pioneering suffragette, herself. Whilst most of the colleges of the University of London are located within (you guessed it) London, this is not true of Royal Holloway. When I was originally searching for universities, I dissmissed Royal Holloway because I thought it was in London But when all the other universities that did my course appeared to be located at the other end of the country, I decided to look into it a bit more (what can I say the orange castle is just irresistable!) and discovered that it’s actually located near to a small town called Egham in Surrey.
So, a few months later (i.e. yesterday) I embarked with my family on the two and a half hour drive down the M4 to visit Royal Holloway. The journey there was actually lovely as once we’d exited the motorway we drove through Old and New Windsor past Great Windsor Park and Windsor Castle. The local area already felt so different to where I currently live – Surrey is a suprisingly green county for somewhere so close to London, and their are woddlands everywhere! What I also loved was how close the Thames was to the uni – whilst we were driving through window we followed right by the Thames with it’s beautiful narrow boats and it looked like such a beautiful place to go for a stroll on a summers day. Also the little village of Englefield Green which we passed through just before reaching the uni was lovely. It’s mostly a student village, but all of the houses are quaint and historic – which I loved – and then there was the green itself which had a small pavillion and the local cricket team could be seen practicing on.

Our first sight of the uni itself was the stunning Founder’s building that we glimpsed through the grand gates of the uni. It was honestly overwhelming to see the building in real life after months of gazing at pictures in prospectuses. We got to drive right past Founder’s on our way to the car park. After parking we headed straight over to registration where we were greeted by friednly students who booked me in and gave me my welcome pack (seriously they gave away so many freebies?? Like I ended up with a canvas bag, jelly beans, a pen, lanyard, water bottle, four pairs of sunglasses and a polaroid photo of my family and me inforont of the staute of Jane and William Holloway by the end of the day!).

The first talk we attended was the introduction to the uni which was lead by the Principal, who seemed really appraochable and the presntation itself was really informative and encouraging, considering I hadn’t done much reading into statistics and ranking about the uni because numbers confuse me greatly. The building we were in for this talk was the really modenr Windsor Building, which looked right out onto Founder’s and was right next to the new Emily Wilding Davison building which will house a new library, study spaces, shop and bank when it opens in a few months. The new building is very modern but it doesn’t look at all out of place next to Founder’s. Plus the whole front side will be glass, so you can sit in the library studying with the amzing view of Founder’s surrounded by woodland.

The next thing we went to was a modern languages talk which was really interesting and informative and I’m so hyped about studying languages in general at uni now.  The course I’m actually looking at is called European and International Studies (French) which is essentially the same as French and Politics (the course I’m looking at elsewhere) except you just study European politics, which is pretty cool! This course is part of the School of Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway, so it wasn’t included on the modern languages talk I attended, but as half the course will be taught by the languages department and I’d be taking the same modules as people doing just French, I wanted to get a feel for the too.

After the talk, the temperature had reach about 27 degrees – in other words: HOT. We decided we couldn’t face sitting in another lecture theatre so we headed off to the bottom of the campus to view the accommodation. I actually fell in love with the accommodation – I’m looking for self-catered en suite accommodation, and I was really pleased with the size of the rooms and bathrooms! The accommodation was really modern and spacious with loads of big windows to let in light in the bedrooms and the hallway (there’s nothing I hate more than artificial lighting). The rooms also had massive desks and lots of storage space, as well as huge notice boards which is great because I could bring my world map poster and pretend I’m a geography student!

There were between 6-8 rooms per flat, and the shared kitchen was also huge with loads of cupboards, a large table and huge windows at either end. There was only one hob and oven though, so I’m not sure if that would be an issue between 8 people?? Can I just say though, the views from the rooms and kitchens were stunning. Not only did you get an amazing view of the beautiful campus, but of the surrounding Surrey countryside, Thorpe Park could be viewed in the distance as well as Windsor if you’re facing the right way and ofcourse you could spend hours watching planes taking off from Heathrow which – despite being very close by and all the low-flying planes – wasn’t too noisy from the rooms which is great.

I love the sort of student-village lay out of the accommodation, it felt really sociable and relaxing because you had the woodlands right on your doorstep, along with the sporting facilities and various places to eat. I was kind of sad that all the accommodation in Founder’s Building is catered – I mean who wouldn’t want to live in a castle?? But I did really, really love the self-catered flats that were on offer. 

After viewing a few different flats, we decided to head of to Founder’s Field for lunch. We took the scenic route wandering through the woods and passing my a little river then sat under the trees at the edge of the field with Founder’s in front of us in all it’s glory. The whole atmosphere of the campus felt relaxed and peaceful, although it is about half the size of Exeter Uni so I wasn’t sure if it felt a little too claustrophobic, as the academic buildings were quite tightly packed in.

At about 2pm we went into Founder’smain lecture theatre for the politics talk. The politics department is actually based in Founder’s building, so I’d have my lectures in there which is pretty cool! By this point it had reached about 31 degrees andit was stifling, so it was hard to pay complete attention during the lecture but I still took everything in that I needed to and got a good impression of the politics side of the course I’d be doing.

I must add that before we actually got the lecture, we got lost in the south and north quads in the middle of Founder’s and the many.corridors leading off of them. We ended up in the old library at one point which looked like Hogwarts library so that was pretty cool! 

The final talk we went to was last minute decision as we were hot and tired and about go home, but I thought​ it would be a good idea to go to the student life talk in the Windsor Building. This actually turned out to be the best decision ever as we’d found (probably) the only air condition room on site!

Sadly after that it was time to go as the open day was coming to an end. I have to say I was pretty sad to see Founder’s building getting smaller and smaller as we drove away from it. We did have a quick drive around Egham, the nearest town, and it looked pretty nice! It was also pretty cool because yesterday the town was celebrating Magna Carta Day as it was signed at nearby Runnymede.

So, that concludes the run down of the day. I’m still trying to price together what I thought of the uni as a whole, be wise open days are so intense they can often be overwhelming! I know I definitely liked the uni and the surrounding area has so many sites and places I want to explore. I also like it’s proximity to London, as currently I live about 4 hours drive away, so the prospect of taking a 40 minutes train journey into the city is quite exciting, as I feel like I haven’t spent enough time in London to appreciate it fully. My only worry would be that the campus would feel too claustrophobic, which I know is stupid because it is surrounded by green space and woodland. It could be just because the open day was so hectic with people milling everywhere, or maybe because I’m comparing it to Exeter too much, which felt a lot more spacious. I really loved the course though and all other aspects, so I definitely want to visit it again and see what I think in a couple of months time. Having said that, the first time I visited Exeter with my sister a few years ago I didn’t like it at all, but this time I loved it, so Royal Holloway will probably grow on me over time too!

I feel like the main differences between Exeter and Royal Holloway is that Exeter sort of feels like where I live now. I mean, it’s in the neighbouring county and I’ve spent a lot of time in Devon, so the area surrounding the uni and the city itself didn’t really stand out to me. Whilst at Royal Holloway, Egham and Engelfield Green felt completely different, even the trees and countryside and nature were different to home. I can’t work out whether I’d prefer to live somewhere completely new, or somewhere that feels like where I live now. Also, the sizes of the campuses. I think I felt more relaxed at Exeter because it was more spacious, however yesterday was extremely hot so that probably affected how claustrophobic I felt as well. I think I’m definitely going to have to visit both again next year and think carefully about what each can offer me. And of course, the grade requirements will come into it. I’ll just have to wait and see!

//Exeter Uni open day; thoughts//

Hi guys! As you may know from my countless posts rambling on about the woes of A Levels, I am currently a Year 12 students, which means that next September I will be (hopefully!) heading off to uni. As I have to apply to universities by Januray, this summer I’ll be travelling aorund the UK to look at different unis and see what they can offer me.

You may have read my rambles a while ago about me not knowing what I wanted to actually study at uni. Until a few months ago, I had my heart set on studying history and geography, but a couple of days after going to a UCAS event and speaker to some current students and uni respresentitives, I realsied that my heart wasn’t really in it. I was never really able to picture myself studying history and geography – I just had this vague wishy-washy image of myself at uni, put it was as if it would never come in to focus. Perhaps that’s because everything was put into sharp persepective and whilst I thought I was loving history and geography at A Level, I realised that I’m the sort of person who can put up with studying just about anything, because I’ll work hard at everything I do even if deep down I hate it. Hence, I discovered that my actual passion and (almost) life-long passion has been, and still is, languages. Therefore I’m know heading off down a different path, turning a different corner and opening a different set of doors.

As well as knowing I wated to carry on with my language-learning at degree level, I realised that ever since I did Government and Politics AS Level last year, my love for everything political has been growing. Alongside the imaginative, curious and creative side of my brain, I also have a really logical, analytical mind which wants to know all the intricate little details about how everything works and came to be, hence I loved the insisght into the working of govenrment and political systems that the AS Level granted me, much the same way as I find French grammar – the inner workings of the language – truly fascinating. Therefore, I hope to embark on – what I’m sure will be  – the enthralling journey of a Politics and French combined honours degree.


So today, I woke up at 7:30 am to drive down to Exeter for their university open day. Exeter is the first uni I’ll be looking at this year, and it definitely did not disappoint! I feel as if now the whole university process is beginning, I have been thrust into a whirlwind of adreniline and excitement as the next daunting chapter of my life begins to unfold.

Once we’d arrived on campus after taking the park and ride service the university had put on, we started our day with a tour of the accommodation. I have to say, I am rerally impressed. Having visted various other unis two years ago when my sister was in the same position I am in now, I have seen my fair share of good and bad accommodation. But, I found Exeter’s to be really nice and spacious, and in a prime location on campus (even if I would have to walk up a hill to get to my language lectures).

After that, we headed back up the hill (where I bumped into a friend from my geography class, then shortly after my friend from history who seemed really surprised yet happy to see me there and welcomed me with a hug) and commenced a campus tour. The student ambassador who was leading the tour was really friendly and helpful, and I had a few conversations with her as we were going around which was really useful to see things from a current students prospective. In fact, all of the student ambassadors who I encountered during the day were so freidnly and helpful, and really made the day! The campus itself is beautiful – there are so many green spaces, tress, wildlife, plants – not to mention the views over Exeter and the countryside! I also loved how the campus had a contrast between older buildings and more modern spaces, which really helped it to come together and give it more of a community feel.

Aother thing thart I really liked about the open day was the acedemic fair, which we attended after having some lunch. You could basically go around to different stalls and talk to students and faculty members for the subjects you’re interested in, as well as pick up handy booklets which broke down all the modulkes and gave you all the information you need for each degree. Again everyone was really friendly and it was a great opportunity to ask questions.

The final part of the day was based on attending subject presentations, which lasted around 45 minutes. They had subject presentations at different times throughout the day, but when I booked my ticket they only had available slots in the afternoon, and I had to pick particular times so they didn’t class as I wanted to attend both the modern languages presentation and the politics and international relations presentation. All of the staff did a really good job of explaining their course structure etc and they were clearly passionate about their subjects, which I found really encouraging. Both subject talks I went to really made me fall in love with the courses, and helped me confirm that I was making the right decision about what I wanted to do. What I loved about both courses was the fact that you have a lot of flexibility over which modules you take, and with both there is the possibility to explore a wide range of topics within the subjects themselves. Also, the variety of wayts in which the subjects are examined. Instead of just doing exam papers, you can do oral discussions, group presentations, coursework, role plays – even writing draft policies and writing texts to advise world politicians (well, not actually but you get what I mean…hopefully). Especially with the French side of the degree, the university appears to have a wealth of foreign language resources, and the prospect of spending a year in a French speaking country studying, working or teaching sounds so exciting!

Overall, I had a really enjoyable time, and Exeter uni has definitely made an impression on me! However I want to try to keep an open mind when I visit other unis over the next few months and try to form an impression of them in their own right, but I thought it would be a good idea to write down my thoughts on each uni on here so I can read back on these posts when it comes to choosing which uni to put as my firm and insurance choices.

Are you agoing to any uni open days? Or starting university soon like me? Let me know below. 🙂

//What I learnt from visiting Oxford University//

I don’t know if you can remember but a few months ago I wrote about how I’d been invited to visit Oxford University in the summer. Well, a few weeks ago (more like a month, actually, but we’ll leave my disorganised blogging out of this) I went to Oxford!

I’d never been to Oxford before so it’s fair to say I was a bit gobsmacked by the beauty of the city when we arrived. It literally felt like I’d stepped back into the past as every single building had this kind of Gothic feel to it due to the extraordinary architecture. However beautiful the narrow streets were, they did cause a bit of a problem with parking the minibus so we just had to pull up quickly outside Lincoln College (which was the college we were supposed to be visiting) and jump out. Unfortunately my school’s minibus’ weren’t designed for tall people so when it was my turn to jump out of the minibus, I hit my head on the roof/door frame. Fun.

I think these buildings are student accomodation but most of the streets in Oxford looked like this, aoart from the high street which was normal road width.


Anyway, we then headed through one of the numerous Hogwarts-y door ways which were so huge even Hagrid would have been able to fit through. The doorway led – to our surprise – to Jesus College (it was kind of surprising how easy it was for a group 10 teenagers and a teacher-who’s-not-actually-a-teacher to walk into the wrong college and loiter in the entrance hall for a few minutes before anyone noticed) but we were soon pointed in the direction of Lincoln College. When we arrived at Lincoln, we were greeted by our tour guide, an Oxford graduate, who then took us back to Jesus College because Lincoln College was full up. So basically we spent the first 20 minutes in Oxford wandering round in circles!
Once we eventually got there (and after some interesting incidents invovling pitch-black toilets, phone lights and shadows – nothing more need be said) we went into a lecture theatre and joined a group of students from another school not too far from mine to find out more about the university and what studying there could offer.

That’s when it finally began to sink in that I was sat in Oxford University – one of the top universities in the world – surrounded by people who, like me, were considered to be possible future Oxford students.

I kind of have mixed feelings about the experience as a whole. It did feel good to be in an environment where we were constantly being encouraged and inspired to have high aspirations yet I couldn’t help but feel out of place. I felt the same whilst we had a tour of Jesus and Lincoln College’s too. The colleges themselves were incredibly pretty, and so were their accompanying libraries.

One of the colleges.

The quadrant we ate lunch in (not sure which college this was in, I’d lost track by this point)

Another of the colleges.

I think this is the main library but I’m not entirely sure.

Another part of the university.


I could definitely feel just how peaceful an environment Oxford University would be to study in and how rewarding it would be to live and study somewhere like this after putting in all the effort it would take to get there. Yet I couldn’t imagine myself being there. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from going to university open days with my sister, it’s that some places just don’t feel ‘right’. And Oxford was one of them.
I’m not sure if it’s because I am very self critical when it comes to my acedemic abilities and was constantly questioning why I had been invited on the trip throughout the day, or if it was because Oxford is so different to anywhere else I’ve been and I’d never given studying at Oxford University much thought until the actual day of the trip.

Aside from this, something else visiting Oxford made me realise is that it’s not perhaps as elitest as I thought. Obviously it still is in the sense that their entry requirements and very, very high, but just the fact that my school has been targeted by Oxford as a school that could, and has, provide the university with future students shows that background isn’t as important as it once was. My school itself is in a fairly nice area, but the rest of my town is really not that nice of a place or at least not the type of place you’d expect people to have high aspirations.

Another thing I noticed is that the vast majority of the students from my school, and the other local school that we were grouped with, were female. In fact, there were only four boys in a group of around 30. I thought this was quite interesting as it just goes to show how encouraging and assisting girls to aspire high in terms of education (which is something my school, and probably many others in the UK, had been. doing increasingly over the past few years) has worked. I do feel as though girls do tend to be encouraged to aim high at school more than boys do, but that is a subject I’ll talk about another time.

So, overall, what I learnt from visiting Oxford University is that although it may not be the right place for me, it really does live up to it’s reputation of being a top educational establishment, getting into Oxford requires a lot of hard work and committment, it’s not as elitest as it used to be as it gives the impression that anyone of any background would be welcomed there and it is basically Hogwarts.:)

(Oh and also that there is a bakery in Oxford that makes really nice white chocolate chip cookies – thanks to the awesome teacher-who’s-not-really-a-teacher who bought us all cookies.)