Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Study Abroad at Royal Holloway: Fresher's Week and My First London Experience

Fresher's Week

Fresher's Week, AKA Welcome Week, occurs the week before classes begin and is primarily for first year students. Both the university and the Students' Union host events throughout the week, and every night there are at least two different "official" parties to go to. I prefer a more low-key setting, so I skipped most of the bigger events and hung out with smaller groups to get to know people instead.  I had a lot of fun being able to go out any night of the week without having to worry about class in the morning! The difference in drinking age was a little disorienting at first, since I'm not used to having a university actually sponsor events with alcohol.

Fresher's week isn't only about partying, though. The degree seeking students have introductory lectures for their courses, and other commitments to help them understand the next three years in their department. I didn't have to go to these because I'm a visiting student, so I used my days to get to know the other girls in my hall, learn my way around campus, and explore Egham. 

Part of the High Street in Egham.

Royal Holloway is technically located in Egham, which is a lot like Oxford, OH. It is close enough to walk to from campus, and most of the shops, restaurants, and bars are on one long street. It's really convenient for students studying at Royal Holloway and there are a lot of housing options for upper-class students. There's even a Tesco grocery store, which is like Wal-Mart (but not nearly as big). 

My main motto for this week seemed to by "Buy all the things!" Even though I packed my own suitcase, I think I didn't fully comprehend how little I was actually bringing with me until I got to Royal Holloway and didn't have many of the conveniences I'm used to. Such as full sized bottles of shampoo. And a bed-sheet. And food. Let's just say I've been to Tesco quite a few times.

My First Trip to London

Even though Royal Holloway is part of the University of London, it's actually about a 45 minute train ride to get from Egham to Waterloo station in London. So although it's unfortunate that I can't access it from my doorstep, if I lived directly in London I wouldn't be able to live in my Hogwarts substitute castle, and that would be a shame. 

I made it to London my first full weekend after arriving. I went with two other visiting Americans, Lauren and Kiana. They both go to the University of Florida, but didn't know each other until they got here. Lauren's been to London multiple times on shorter trips, and she showed me and Kiana how to use the tube (it's actually incredibly easy). She  also knew where to go to get the perfect phone booth shot with Big Ben in the background.

Me, doing the tourist thing.

We started the day by just walking around Southbank and taking pictures of the recognizable parts. The crowds were so crazy that it was sometimes hard to keep track of each other. That's what you get for going on a Saturday, I guess.

I didn't ride it on this trip, but I will before I leave!
Keeping with the theme of crazy crowds, we spent the rest of the day shopping on Oxford Street, which is a really long stretch of stores that vary from inexpensive (Primark) to more high-quality (Topshop), but there aren't the super high-end designer label stores there. If you want Chanel or Dolce & Gabbana, you can find them on Bond Street. 

Oxford Street is so long and busy that stores actually start repeating themselves. Walking from Topshop to Primark (less than a mile) I saw many stores three times.

The crowds were crazy, but that didn't mean that I didn't enjoy exploring English fashion. I bought my first pair of ankle boots from a store called River Island. Riding boots, unfortunately, aren't nearly as popular here as they are in America.

One thing I really like about fashion in London, as described by my friend Lauren, is that the philosophy seems to be "if you like it, you wear it." There's a wide variety of what's "in" and I wouldn't say that there's any sort of unofficial dress code at Royal Holloway like there sometimes seems to be at Miami. Most of the students here do dress fashionably, however, so I once again chose a school wear sweatpants are not frequently seen in class. Score.

We were so tired after spending the afternoon shopping that we left London right after we finished on Oxford Street. I'm so glad I have the rest of the semester to go back and see as much as I can before I have to leave, because although I enjoy buying clothes, there's so much more to do in London. Such as spend hours in the bookstores and explore some of the museums. 


  1. You have a blog? :) This is lovely!!
    Really nice post! I've been meaning to write about RHUL for the past week :)

    1. Thanks Catriona! You should totally make a blog, it's a lot of fun!

  2. I have, I have! :) It is http://www.catrionas-lifelenses.blogspot.co.uk :)


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