New Beginnings

Royal Holloway University of London.

I can't believe I have been here for just over a week.
It seems like forever.

This is the view from my new room. Yes, I live in a castle.


AKA: 'Hollowarts'.

I have not been a particularly active blogger during the month of September, and this is mostly due to a last-minute-ish decision to go to university to study film, instead of going to full-time art school.

I will, however, still be doing art classes at Central Saint Martins (part of the University of the Arts London) and Slade School of Fine Art (part of University College London) at weekends or evenings.

This decision was not one that I took lightly, but in the end -  seemed to make the most sense.

September has been a month full to the brim of phone-calls, emails, last minute student finance applications, accommodation applications, bureaucracy, student ID numbers, new passwords, registrations, signings, health centre arrangements, appointments, meetings, waiting for phone-calls to be returned and the general madness that goes with moving your whole life to the other end of the country within less than a month.

Now I have been at Royal Holloway University of London for over a week... actually, come to think of it - nearing 2 weeks. 

It is a beautiful place.
The building (which is now Grade I listed) was founded by Thomas Holloway in 1879.
Holloway was an entrepreneur, and based the building on the architecture of the traditional French Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley.
He and his wife founded the first university that admitted women (initially, only women) in the UK, and it was officially opened in 1886 by Queen Victoria.
This main building is known as the Founders building, and it is home to the Classics department, Politics and International Relations, as well as other subjects (I can't remember them all).
It houses a beautiful old library, the dining hall and is also where several hundred students live.
Including myself.

Royal Holloway is situated just outside of West London, in Egham, Surrey.
It really is leafy suburbia.

I am now enrolled in the department of Media Arts, studying Film, Television and Digital Production - which is a degree with precisely 50% academic / theoretical and 50% practical film production aspects.

I'm never going to be completely creative without any bookish-ness, and like-wise, never going to be an academic book-worm with no artistic flair or ambition.

I know that I am focused on working either as a journalist (with a focus on the arts - especially film), or within the film or television industry itself - either as a production designer, screenwriter or another creative role. This course then, seemed pretty perfect for me.

Old and extensive library to read in all day should I wish to? Check.
Real TV studio and industry standard equipment? Check.
Student radio and TV stations? Check.
Opportunities for student journalism? Check.
Close to London and all the cultural activities that go with it? Check.
A room in a castle for a year? Check.
Tutors on the practical side with experience / current employment with the BBC / ITV / Large film corporations? Check.
Tutors on the academic side with high academic credentials and links / experience with universities such as Yale, Oxford and Cambridge? Check.
A modern library as well as the Harry-Potter-worthy one - so I have a choice of where to study? Check.
A Harry Potter Society? Check.
A train ride away from some of the best art schools and art galleries in the world? Check.
A mandatory (minimum) of 2 films to watch a week? (YAY!) Check.
Opportunities for studying abroad? Check. (I am looking at Sorbonne in Paris, University of Oslo, Yale or one of the Italian universities).
A huge international student population? Check.
Starbucks on campus? Check. (I feel a bit like a capitalist pig for mentioning this - but I'm obsessed with their caramel macchiato.)

Sorry for that slightly boast-y list, but I am just genuinely so happy and excited to be here.

It is really suited to all the things I love: reading, art, film, writing, beautiful places and interesting people.

Saturday the 20th of September - I boarded an early morning train from Edinburgh, London-bound.

After a long and tiring journey, involving changes and delays, we arrived at our destination.

I have never arrived at such a welcoming place.

At every stage there were staff and volunteers making sure that everyone settled in really well and comfortably. At every introduction event or lecture, the emphasis was on the student, making sure that the students knew where to go if they needed support, and a genuine will for the students to succeed.

This is how education should be.
It is also very different to what I have experienced before.
The attitude here is not:

 'guilty until proven innocent' / 'you must prove that you are good enough to stay here',


'we are here to offer you the support you might need in reaching your full academic and personal potential'.

The attitude is:

'we want you to learn and succeed and get as much as you can out of this experience',


 'you will probably fail and you need to work harder, you are not good enough yet'.

People respond much better to positive reinforcement and when others believe in them, than when they are scared into working hard. And the quality of academic achievement here is very high- so I think that tells you something.

I have already learned so much, and have only been in classes for a week.

My room is quite simple, but I like it that way. I have all the things I need and space to be on my own if I want.

I don't think I am ever going to 'get over' this building. 

Every morning I wake-up and think: wow, I actually live and study here - I am so lucky.

My favourite thing is getting up early with a mug of coffee, and walking in the chilly bright morning sun, across the 'quads' (the grass squares around which Founders is built) to the library.

I like to wear hard-soled brogue-style shoes so I can hear my footsteps echo from the stone path to the walls.

The Founders library smells of old books and wooden staircases. It is the sort of place that makes you want to read and learn and think.

The film studies section is HUGE, as is the DVD collection. But my love for the book collection doesn't stop there. I love to sit near the massive tomes of German literature, bound in fraying fabric or leather covers, titles embossed in gold. On the way to the section that I should be reading, there are books on Icelandic poetry, Fine Art, Shakespeare and French. I find it difficult to resist.

They also have the daily newspapers available, so I tend to have a little flick through The Independent while I'm at it.

On the East side of the Founders building are the more modern additions to the university. The Arts building (where I have most of my lectures), the Williams building (which houses the state of the art TV studio, plethora of industry standard film cameras, sound studio and editing suite - with a platoon of the latest mac computers and video editing software), and further down the path are the Student Union, the International building, the Boilerhouse theatre, the science buildings and Starbucks.

Slightly south of that are more halls of residence, the radio station studio, the sports centre, The Hub (which does amazing food) and Imagine - which is this beautifully designed modern sort-of chill-out cafe, and sells 'bubble tea' and other 'fashionable' drinks which I haven't quite worked out what they are yet.

In the evening, back at my room in Founders Hall, the sun casts long shadows across the grass, and peeps through the turrets.

Freshers week was a bit mad.

Particularly strange for me as I have sort-of 'been there, done that' - but at the same time, the Dutch don't really do 'freshers week' in the same way. They have INKOM, but it is more a way for the sororities and fraternities to recruit members, and the introductions from your university mostly consist of: work hard, here's your timetable, have a beer, go and find a place to live.

The people in my hall are lovely, everyone has bonded really well and although I didn't go to all of the freshers events, I still made some great friends.

One of the things that I did go to, was a night out to Pacha London, which was a bit of an odd night all in all - but still really enjoyable.

Now, everybody seems to have 'freshers flu' and most of my lectures and seminars today consisted of a chorus of coughs and sneezes. 

I have joined a bunch of clubs and societies, and I am not entirely sure that I will keep up with all of them (they include: Politics and International Relations Society, Diplomatic Society, Debating Society, Art Society, Harry Potter Society, Writing Society, Left Forum, Film Festival Society, Media Society, Dance Classes/Team, Student TV, Student Radio, Photography Society, Dutch Society, Italian Classes, French Classes, Book Club, Feminist Society, Amnesty International, Student Newspaper & Magazine, Philosophy Society, Nordic Society and there are probably more but I can't remember and that is probably just as well). 

I have been eating ridiculously well. Maybe too well. Founders dining hall had beef stroganoff (is that how you spell it?) today and I had this epic stir-fry at The Hub yesterday. The campus store also stocks a dangerous amount of chocolate and cake and magazines and pot-noodle.

This weekend I am going into central London to see some old friends and some new ones too, to experience Shoreditch/Brick Lane/Camden coffee, Kensington dinner parties, lunch places in Angel and maybe some of the art galleries too.

I have so many things to say and to write and to share photos of, and I have been so caught up in new experiences - so not so great at putting them here - but will as soon as I can.

Mostly I just want to write about my new plants.


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  1. am planning to apply there for film and drama for next year. it looks amazing :)

  2. Oh wowwwwwww!!! What an amazing post! I know I am reading this so late but I hope you are having an amazing time. I did my Masters atRoyal Holloway and this post brought back so many memories. It is so ovewhelming and brilliant to start somewhere you really and truly love! I wish you every success in your degree and can't wait to hear more. Make sure you check out the gourmet food store in Virginia Water and te local parks :) xxxx

    1. Oh thank-you! What was your masters in? I am planning to go to Virginia Water next term :) xxxx



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