London – Royal Holloway, University of London

Reasons people went to this university/place

  • Location: Proximity to London (40 min), but the university is located in a charming small town (lots of restaurants and pubs), shops on main street (Tesco’s, Budgens, Sainsbury’s), larger towns like Windsor & Staines nearby Virginia Waters, a huge park set around a giant lake can be reached by foot from university campus
  • Course choice: offers lots of courses from the Romance languages department, film studies, as well as English Literature courses; I got into more courses than I actually needed; all of my courses were incredibly interesting and well prepared, tutors were extremely friendly and always available during office hours
  • Facilities on campus: Facilities on campus are awesome: there are two libraries (soon a third library will be finished), Bedford Library is very modern, many reading rooms, you can borrow laptops there for free for a whole day, it is open 24/7; Founders library looks like it might feature in a Harry Potter film (the beautiful Picture Gallery apparently really did!). There are so many places to eat or grab a coffee on campus, all different, but charming (e.g. Imagine Café, serves Starbucks coffee, sushi, you can sit in giant deckchairs, and the way it is furnished is so creative and stimulating). And lastly, just have a look at Founders Building – it is like living in a castle!

Recommended semester to go there

  • If possible, definitely a whole academic year. Otherwise, I would recommend the autumn term because everyone is new then, and people only start getting to know each other.
  • I recommend going the winter semester because then you and the other exchange students are all new at the same time. Plus, all the get-to-know each other activities are in the first two weeks. Otherwise, I’d go for the whole year if the semester is too short for you (it’s only three months).

Before going there

Accommodation experiences

  • I rented a private room with a young couple because it was rather hard to find accommodation for just one term. If one stays for the whole year, it should be rather easy to find a shared flat. Otherwise, there’s always accommodation on campus, which are (apart from rooms in Kingswood, because they’re located 20 min. away from campus) really nice. Rather expensive (525 pounds/month, bills incl.), very well equipped, no problems whatsoever with my host family, good location (right behind Tesco’s, which is a 15 min. walk from campus)
  • I lived on campus in Founders Hall. If you only go there for one semester, the only option to live on campus is to live with a roommate. Sharing a room can be super fun but also quite exhausting because it means you’re always together with someone else, but for three months it’s definitely doable. More annoying is the fact that the bathrooms are on the corridor and that most rooms don’t even have a sink. Again, doable for three months, might be much more annoying for a year.

Special items to pack

  • Outlet adapter for the UK
  • Sheets/bed covers
  • Rain jacket (though, Egham is surprisingly not that rainy)

How people who went there handled their finances

  • Apparently it is cheaper to simply withdraw money at an ATM in England than exchange it back home – I didn’t open a bank account, but actually brought a quite large sum of money with me and then occasionally withdrew money at the ATM – worked perfectly
  • I didn’t open a new bank account, but I would recommend having a credit card because you are charged for withdrawing money from an ATM if you have a foreign bank account. Other than that, just keep in mind that Surrey (and of course London) are quite expensive. If you go to London regularly get the Railcard because it saves you a ton of money!

University Information

Rough semester schedule

  • Autumn term: starts mid-September, ends mid-December
  • Winter term: starts in January, ends in March
  • Term 3 (only exams): May – June

Holidays during the semester

  • Depending on which department you study at, there’s reading week at the end of October (no lectures – good for travelling around) students have one whole month off from the last week of March till the last week of April

Number of ECTS the university expected former exchange students to do

  • 18 ECTS
  • Minimum: 22.5 ECTS

    Maximum: 30 ECTS

Course restrictions and when the university informed students about those

  • There is no linguistics department
  • It’s a bit of a hassle to get into the English department because our uni doesn’t have an agreement with them. Ultimately, I got all the courses I wanted but I was originally informed that I couldn’t take some of them – that was about four weeks before I left, which is roughly the time you get your study plan.

Did the university actually offer the classes students originally planned to do?

  • Yes, every single class was offered
  • They did and some additional ones.

    Important note: Everyone’s study plans were not fixed when they arrived at RHUL, so don’t stress if something isn’t the way you want it – you’ll commiserate with all the other exchange students about how much the study plan planning sucks, but it’ll work out in the end (it did for everyone I was there with).

Recommended  courses/modules

  • Creative writing: Structure & Style (aimed at English students, NOT creative writing students) was extremely interesting, especially because RHUL is renowned for its creative writing department
  • Contemporary Britain: Government and Citizenship was also very interesting, as politics, economics and current issues (obviously Brexit when I was there) were reviewed and dealt with
  • If you don’t want to do a huge amount of reading (more than one novel per week), only take one English course and choose something that actually interests you. Other than that, I recommend the Department for Comparative Literature and Culture: I did “Humans and Other Animals in Twenty-First Century Fiction and Thought” which was super interesting and had a great professor!

Exam period

  • Staying only for Term 1: Either it’s all essays or you’ll sit an exam at the end of the term (around the first week of December).
  • If you stay a year, all exams are taken in Term 3 (apart from essays, which are written year- round).

How exams look like

  • I don’t know I only wrote essays.

Important deadlines

  • Deadlines are course specific. The university is very strict about deadlines. You can hand in a first draft version of your essay that you get back with feedback.

Other information

Recommended restaurants, cafes, bars, shopping centers, etc.

  •  The Red Lion (pub), The Happy Man (more down-to-earth pub)
  • On campus: Imagine (café), Crosslands (café/bar), Medicine (club), The SU (club), The Packhorse (pub)
  • In Egham: The Crown (pub), Bar 163 (restaurant)
  • In Staines (4 min by train): shopping (in general), cinema, fast food restaurants

Recommended secret spots in the city/town

  • Virginia Waters, Magna Carta park/walk near the Thames
  • Egham is tiny, so there isn’t much more to it than the things mentioned above. In London, though, you can just spend hours walking through Soho. A great restaurant there is “Muriel’s Kitchen”. The Waterstones at Piccadilly Circus also has a nice café on the top floor that has great scones.

Recommended day trips

  • University organizes lots of day trips, around 15 pounds, including return bus fare (e.g. Cambridge, Bath); otherwise Reading is close by, obviously London, Christmas market at Winchester
  • Brighton: the SU organised a trip there, it’s a lovely town with lots of little shops!
  • Virginia Water: nearby park, great to walk around if you’re bored of the campus and need to move more than just the five minutes it takes you to get to your lecture hall
  • Windsor: a little town, easily reachable by bus (20 minutes), great castle, lots of nice cafés and restaurants

Recommended places or events to meet new people/make new friends

  • RHUL provides so many events to meet new people. There is a Welcome Week before university actually starts (including a petting zoo, jigsaw challenges, movie nights etc.) for free. Also there are more than 100 societies on campus which are mostly run my locals (language societies, Harry Potter society, travel society, fashion society, Lord of the Rings society, creative writing society, comedy society…) and they all present themselves during two consecutive days at freshers fair
  • Another great way of getting to know other people is joining a sports club (there are so many different ones, ranging from rugby, football, horse riding, polo to swimming, yoga, cheerleading and volleyball)
  • There’s a global café one a week, for exchange students (lasts 2h, free biscuits, tea & coffee)
  • Talking to the people on your corridor, chances are they’re also exchange students
  • Visiting Student Social Mixer
  • Joining a society

Public transport offered in the city/area of the University

  • There’s a bus going from the local train station of Egham to university campus (ca. 7 mins.); Train station in town – direct train going to London Waterloo, 1 change to Victoria Direct trains & buses to Windsor, Staines
  • You can get a 16-25 rail card that gives you a 30% discount on every single train journey – does pay off if you travel a couple of times to London already
  • Buses are quite expensive. However, if you want to travel to the North (Leeds, Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Birmingham etc.) there is a bus company called Megabus that offers immensely cheap tickets!
  • There’s a bus (around 1 pound, one way) that gets you from the campus to Egham/the railway station. You can also walk (about 15 minutes).

Other recommendations

  • The Students Union organizes lots of events on a regular basis, as well as the societies and sports clubs themselves (it won’t get boring). There are two places to go clubbing on campus (the SU and Medicine).
  • Get an oyster card for London, it’s much cheaper than buying individual tickets!
  • If you have time and want to go somewhere else a bit farther away, I can recommend Liverpool as a cool weekend trip.

    In terms of housing: if you stay the whole year you might get offered Kingswood, which is technically “on campus”, but it takes a bus to get there – so I’d recommend not taking Kingswood if you want to be directly on campus.

Is this University the right place for me?

You should spend your semester/year abroad at this university or place

  • If you don’t need to do any linguistic courses
  • If you feel comfortable living in a small town
  • If you want to meet a lot of international students, experience life on campus and take interesting courses.
  • Because the atmosphere on campus is great, the people are extremely nice and it’s super easy to meet others.
  • Because there is no linguistics department
  • Because Egham offers everything (except for a bookshop and a cinema, but those are located in Staines, a town next to Egham) – but Egham is a small town. Campus is great, there are lots of facilities, but it is not comparable to cities such as Manchester or Edinburgh. However, it takes only 40 mins. to go to London, so you can benefit from lots of cultural offers there as well!

You should not spend your semester/year abroad at this university or place

  • If you don’t like the trimester structure and can’t bear the thought of sharing a room for three months.
  • If you want to be extremely close to London: the 40 minutes by train aren’t bad, but also you’re in no way “in” London.

(all information provided is based on 2 filled out questionnaire)