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).
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!