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First year at Royal Holloway: Expectations vs reality

How many of these did you fall for?

That summer after getting the all important grades to get into university is one of guessing and presuming about what our futures at our dream universities will have in store for us. During this nerve wrecking time, we are all guilty of building up expectations about what it will be like, the people we will meet, and the things we will be doing.

Here is a break down of the expectations I had about university, versus what first year at Royal Holloway is really like.


Expectation: I will go out every night drinking, partying, socialising and pulling all nighters. "Gosh, this is going to be the time of my life," I thought to myself as I packed my suitcase in September.

Reality: I live for a cosy night in bed with a warm drink and watching my favourite crappy Netflix programme. Which one to choose?

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A rare pic of us out mid-week


Expectation: The first year work will be a breeze – it does not count towards anything. I can skip lectures, seminars and submit second rate essays.

Reality: Whilst first year does not explicitly count towards my overall degree, I do cover a lot of ground work in my course which I guess will help me in my second and third year. I have quickly found myself behind work, drowning in the chapters from my first few lectures which I didn't bother with.

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This is NOT what I signed up for

Social Life

Expectation: I will become an active member of multiple societies and join every sports team I possibly can. I'll be a social butterfly, out socialising with a different group of friends every night. This is the start of my new life. I can be whoever I want.

Reality: I picked up a few leaflets at Freshers' fair, attended the introductory sessions of multiple societies, then only chose one or two which I actually enjoyed. In reality, I don't really have a lot of time to commit to more than two societies.

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My Course

Expectation: All lectures will be interesting, engaging and informative. I'll write multiple pages with extremely detailed notes and become so engaged I get a first class degree.

Reality: There were – and are – quite a few lectures which are boring, tiresome and hard to wrap my head around. But amongst those tedious lectures are ones which I wish would never come to an end. Turns out, it's not that much better than A-Levels.


Expectation: I will live off takeaways and ready meals because they are easy and tasty, and I don't have to eat what my parents tell me to anymore. I can't cook any good meals without my mum. How will I survive without mum's homemade pie?

Reality: There may be a romanticised view of takeaways and ready meals. However, I find that it is a lot cheaper (and easier) to do a weekly food shop and cook for myself on a daily basis. I was surprised at how quickly I learnt how to cook properly and actually enjoy doing it. It is the perfect time to take a break from work and have a breather.

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Expectation: Now I don't have to wear a uniform every day I will have a perfect outfit with matching accessories and a full face of makeup everyday ready to take on what comes my way. This is the chance for me to fully experiment and find my true style.

Reality: By the second week, I was rolling up to lectures in sweats and an over-sized jumper, hair tied in a bun or a messy ponytail with next to no makeup on. No one really cares about what I wear to and from lectures. I just want to be comfortable.


Expectation: I will be best friends with all of my flatmates and stay friends forever with them all being my bridesmaids and groomsmen. I can't wait for a Fresh Meat kind of house to meet my bffs.

Reality: Whilst halls is amazing for making new friends fast, we might not stay friends forever and I know I will gradually find close friends throughout my time at university. But that's fine. That is not saying that the people I live with aren’t my friends and that I don’t enjoy spending time with them, but the stereotype of getting along really well with all your flat mates is very romanticised.

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Expectation: I will meet my future partner within the first few weeks of university. It is going to be love at first sight.

Reality: This is not a Kate and Prince William scenario. There is no rush to find that person and 9/10 people I met during the first few weeks of university I didn't really see again. In my contact list I have numbers and names of people that I met during freshers week and haven’t met up with since. Turns out this is gonna be harder than I thought.