Hopefully a noder will one day find this useful.

Rather than give general 'What you need to know and do when you start uni' advice, which I'm sure has been done to death somewhere, I'll give some specific advice for people starting at Royal Holloway University (in the UK).


Halls of Residence

In your first year you're pretty much guaranteed a place in halls, so long as you send in your application on time. There are however some things you should know about the halls before choosing which one you'd like a room in.

Founders is generally recognised as being the nicest halls. If you're considering going to Royal Holloway you will have seen a photo of the Founders building (they're very proud of it) and it's a nice place to have a room. The rooms are large compared to other halls, with very high ceilings (meaning you can smoke in non-smoking rooms without setting off the alarm). It's on the main campus, so travel isn't an issue, and it has a Main Lecture Theatre which you may be lucky enough to have a morning lecture in (you can crawl out of bed and attend the lecture in your jammies).

Founders has it's downsides though. It's a listed building, you won't get a phone or network connection in your room .. they're not allowed to run new wires through the walls. The walls are also very thick, which means you need a powered antenna to stand a chance of getting a useful TV signal (this can vary from room to room though). And while the walls are thick, the ceilings and floors aren't. Expect to be kept awake every now and again. The pantrys where you can prepare food suck (this is general to all halls) as there is only a microwave a fridge and a kettle (a toaster if it works).

Also, the rooms are old, and hence have more character, but they also have fewer mod cons. Your sink will have mould under it, and there are no ensuite rooms. The shower facilities are average, and the bathrooms have nice large baths. There's no shortage of hot water on campus either.

Kingswood is also a nice hall to get a room in. It's about a 15 minute walk from the main campus along a footpath (which is usually deserted, but it's well lit at night). Kingswood is nicely self contained, it has its own bar (Tapas) and rec room. It also has a better community atmosphere than other halls as it's smaller and more removed from the main campus. The rooms are more modern, it's possible to get phone connections (except in C-wing) and some rooms are ensuite (with a kinda funky little all-in-one pod thing in the corner).

A regular free bus service runs from Kingswood to campus, but it's really not that far to walk. Kingswood also has a small shop 'built in' to its reception. They sell crisps, chocolate, and drinks (as well as other munchy food) and also stamps, phonecards etc. If you want (or simply don't mind) a room off the main campus, Kingswood is the only one to consider.

New Halls, or, as they're more widely known, The Ghetto. Small box like rooms, low ceilings, and an endless rabbit warren of corridors. They are your best option if you're on a budget, and they're really not as bad as people make out.

I have to confess I've never been to the Runnymede halls, but they are apparently nice .. nicer than the new halls anyway.

Reid Hall is a good one to put as your second choice on the accomodation form. It's a nice place, good modern rooms and large pantrys.

My personal choice for the accomodation form would be Founders, Reid, Kingswood (in that order).


Campus Bars

The campus bars can be summed up with one sweeping statement: They're shit.

However, like all sweeping statements, this one isn't totally accurate.


Tommy's is annexed to the main Student Union building, and is usually good for a laugh. One of the less shit offerings. Music is provided via a slightly bizarre mix of MTV and a jukebox, but maybe they'll fix that at some point. No pool tables, and no pub games of any sort .. a TV is all you'll get, and it's only showing MTV.

Crosslands is the laughing stock of the drinking establishment world. All drinks are served in plastic cups (even the pints) and all it has to offer is harsh lighting and an annoying fly zapper thingy that crackles. Bizarrely it's quite popular with certain cliques.

The Stumble Inn won't win awards for it's name, or for anything else come to that. It's an okay bar, and the bottled Tiger beer is passable. They have 'cocktail' offers which are a cheap (if sickly) way to get drunk. It's main advantage is that it's below ..

.. Holloways. Although the bar's tiny, pool tables are in abundance (although they're not the greatest quality) as are arcade machines (silent scope being the house favourite). They've also recently got a big screen TV in, and they show movies most days. The pool tables are 60p a game, and the bar always has change.

There are a few things to know about bars on campus in general. The beer is terrible. It's watered down (or at least tastes like it is) and I have my doubts as to whether they ever clean the lines. Holloways has at least made up for this by providing plenty of other things to do. Tommy's is the usual gathering point for a night out, but also serves as a good place to have a quiet pint on a sunday morning. Perhaps the most damning thing to be said about the campus bars is that if they weren't on campus (ie. they were 'real world' bars) they'd fold in a few days. You get kinda attached to them though (apart from Crosslands). A local's a local, at the end of the day (whatever that means).


General Advice

Before you go, make sure you have at least 6 passport sized photos of yourself. You need a photo (sometimes two) for every card they give you. A cursory glance through my wallet shows I have 5 uni cards. It's a pain, but you need all of them.

Make sure you're there for the first day (and night) the drunken 'getting-to-know-you' corridor parties are always fun. In the first few days I was here some second years organised a treasure hunt, which may sound revoltingly twee, but you get to know people. Your department should also have a social function early on, make sure you're there.

The admin at Royal Holloway is terrible, slow and the right hand hasn't even seen the left hand in well over a year. Use this to your advantage.

Don't bother bringing plates and cutlery, they're easy to steal from the dining halls .. no one will stop you if you simply put your meal on a tray and walk back to your room.

Many places such as the campus shop (think small supermarket) and dining halls are staffed by your fellow first years .. get to know some of them for five finger discounts.

Don't use the fridges provided for you. Even if you sit and watch the fridge, your milk will still be stolen. Instead (if it's practical in your room) open your window slightly and leave it on the window sill. This is England remember, you'll be starting in September, when it's more than cold enough to chill your milk and other produce.

Your room will be routinely inspected by cleaning staff. Once a week they'll come in (regardless of whether or not you're there) and check some simple things. Food is not allowed to be kept outside the window (but is allowed inside); Your bin must be emptied regularly; No inflatable furniture (fire hazard); and no smoking in a non-smoking room. It is therefore good practice to keep things tidy on the surface. The cleaning staff are not allowed to open drawers or search your belongings, they can only survey the room to check that you're meeting the requirements of your tenants contract. They have a lenient policy towards soft drugs, and if they walk in on you smoking a joint they'll tut-tut and that's it. It's a good idea to always be polite and get on with them however, as they can make things complicated if they don't like you.

This may only apply to Founders, but I suspect a similar routine is followed in other Halls.


And that's about it. I'll update this node when I can think of some more advice and have the time to tidy it up a bit. Think of this as a working draft. Oh, one last thing. If you get Founders West 245, drop me a /msg and say hi.

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