I’m going to try and be anonymous about this because I think that’s probably best but obviously my experiences aren’t universal, and everyone will have different experiences of university life. However, what links me to all of you reading this – is our RHS experience.
Now with a semester and a bit of university under my belt, I’ve got a few things to share, particularly with the Nelsoners reading this, about what to expect when you start university.
1.Even if you’re on the course of your dreams, you will have lecturers and modules that you cannot stand.
It’s a universal truth, that you’re not going to like everything that you have to do. However, I know that I (and a few others I’ve spoken to) definitely didn’t think about how much time I’d end up spending listening to people I don’t like talk about things I don’t care about, and how much time on top of that, that I’d have to spend actively thinking about it because that’s what revision is – actively engaging and thinking and reading about things you might not care about.
2.Exam results take way longer to come back to you than internal exams in school did.
I finished my semester one exams on Wednesday 16th January, my results only come out on Valentines Day. Granted, its not the wait for GCSE or A Level results, but it still feels like an extraordinarily long time compared to the three of four day turn-around of an English Lit mock paper. Say thanks to your teachers for getting work back to you so quickly – I know I wish I had.
3.You will probably spend an ungodly amount of your time alone.
It’s hard to be completely alone at RHS. Really hard. Just ask anyone currently in a relationship at RHS how difficult it is to get some privacy and you have your answer. I thought university would be a chance for me to make new friends and involve myself in societies and go out on nights out etc, but in reality… I’ve spent more time in my room, reading or typing or organising or cleaning or tidying or just sleeping, than I have in any situation where I might interact with other people combined. So yeah, it can be lonely, but mostly its just busy, but not an RHS communal busy, but a solitary ‘I have work to do’ busy.
4.Circuit laundry is evil.
Guys, please please please treasure not having to pay to do your laundry while you can. Circuit laundry is a system that a lot of UK universities use, where a normal wash costs £2.50 and a normal dry costs £1.30, which on a student budget, honestly feels extortionate sometimes. Add to the pricing the fact that when you want to do a wash all the machines are probably taken and/or someone hasn’t come to collect their laundry, and the occasional broken machine and Circuit laundry ends up quite high up on the list of weekly complaints.
5.You will probably sign up for more societies than you can actually handle.
Freshers Week usually involves a society day or something similar, wherein all the societies on offer set up a stall or something and try and recruit for the new year. Taken in by all the flyers, pictures, free pens and fun things they’re offering (often free food), you’ll probably sign up to get emails from about 10 more than you actually end up going to (I’m still getting emails from the Harry Potter and Quidditch society…), however the societies you do end up going to on a regular basis, will allow you to meet people from all sorts of courses and different walks of life that you probably wouldn’t otherwise meet.
A bit like your tutor at RHS but without a tutor group – its really more of an ‘email me if you need help’ type thing. I got extremely lucky with mine and he’s been an absolute godsend, providing the same enthusiasm and motivation that I got from certain teachers at RHS, at university. He’s been crucial in making sure I’ve got the support I need to study effectively, and he’s always up to listen to whatever I’ve got to say – whether its related to my course or not. When you get there, cultivate a relationship with your tutor, because for one it’s nice to have a friendly face around your department or general campus, and for two because they can be extremely useful people who can either help you directly or send you in the right direction.
7.On the topic of support…
No-one told me before I got to university, that if you’re struggling with the transition or with homesickness or anything really, support is so readily available. I expected to get to university and just kind of be released into the wild without a guide. What actually happened is that I emailed my tutor who sent me in the direction of Student Services who helped me talk to the right people to put me on an even platform with my peers who weren’t having difficulty with the same things as I was.
8.If you’re catered for, the food at RHS will be better than whatever you get at university.
I really don’t have much to add here, except that I miss RHS breakfasts so much.
9.Teaching styles are hugely different from school.
This should really go without saying, however I’m going to say it anyway: Your lecturers will not explain everything. They are not teachers. Yes, you can ask if you have a question. But, they are not there to explain everything – you are expected to go away and do the reading or you will be confused and you will deserve it. University is a lot of work, and A Levels do a pretty good job of trying to get you to do some independent work, but university is dependant on it. And don’t even think about waiting to the last minute before your exams to do all the reading because it is simply not possible – it’s a manageable amount if you keep doing it steadily as the modules move on, but if you leave it to the last minute, I cannot stress how overwhelmed you will get or how little you will have absorbed.
10.It goes really really fast.
Genuinely it felt like yesterday that I moved in for the first time, and somehow we’re already half way through the year. Nelson will probably recognise this feeling in relation to how fast the last year of RHS goes, but the idea that September is both somehow only 5 months ago and also 5 whole months ago makes this first semester feel like a whirlwind of getting used to something completely different.
You will spend a lot of the first semester meeting new people and then explaining what RHS is.
The number of times I had to attempt to explain the concept of RHS (in sub 30 seconds in case people got bored) to people who found the idea simply bewildering is staggering. Of course there are the typical ‘you went to boarding school?!’ questions: ‘Do you really have matrons? Is it like Hogwarts? Did you love it? Did you hate it?’ Etc… But there are also ‘naval heritage school’ specific questions: ‘Do you all join the navy? Why do you call them ‘civvies’?’ Etc… I’ve tried and failed as yet to come up with a good, succinct explanation of RHS…
This is actually rather longer than I expected it to be, but I think I’ve covered most things. Anyway it’s part of the experience to walk into it a little blind, right?
Good luck, and enjoy RHS while you’ve got it.