I knew from around thirteen years old that I wanted to go to university. My father’s side of the family has always been more traditionally academic, my mother’s less so, but they always encouraged me to do what I wanted and I genuinely did want to go. My sister went to university the year before I did – unlike me, she had been unsure about whether to go. However, the school we both attended was very university-focused, and most of my friends were certain they would go to university at around age fifteen.
I started looking actively at universities a few months after my sixteenth birthday
The last one I viewed (not counting returning for interviews, applicant days etc) was three months after my seventeenth birthday. If I add them up, I think I visited, with various patient family and friends, about thirteen universities. As you can probably tell, I’m both exceedingly picky and extremely indecisive. At first I was adamant I would study either English or History, but I did Classical Civilisation as an A-Level and had studied Latin previously, and over the course of seeking out universities realised that I wanted to study Classics at university.
I visited universities all over England (no offence to Northern Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, but I didn’t fancy being that far away) and managed to cross off several from my list after about an hour of being there because they simply didn’t feel right, despite their credentials. A good example of this is when my mother and I travelled to Birmingham University, which had one of the top departments for my subject at the time, only for me to almost instantly dislike it. We abandoned the open day after a few hours and subsequently spent the rest of the day shopping until our train back. That was a good lesson in that it taught me no matter how good or prestigious or grand the university is, it just might not be for you.
I had a manic spell where I viewed four universities in two days
Culminating at Nottingham University on my 17th birthday where I insisted on wearing a bright summer dress despite the dreary weather and consequently received lots of judgemental stares (I still stand by my fashion decision here – it was June, okay?). The whole experience had been so overwhelming that when we got back to where we were staying I cried for about an hour before celebrating my birthday because I was so stressed and unsure about what to do.
Eventually I narrowed it down between three universities (you are allowed five on UCAS applications) – Leeds, Nottingham, and Royal Holloway – one in the North, one in the Midlands, and one in the South. I put down Leeds twice because at the time it was my favourite, but at the applicant visit day I decided it actually wasn’t for me, and so I put down Royal Holloway as my firm and Nottingham as my insurance. I do still love Nottingham University, by the way. It just didn’t feel the same for me and that’s why it wasn’t my first choice.
I chose Royal Holloway for a number of reasons.
My friends and family warned me about living so far away – Liverpool to Surrey is quite a distance – but I was determined that I could do it. I have always been an independent person anyway; by eighteen I could do almost all basic adult tasks (you would be surprised how many people I met that couldn’t even do laundry), and I wanted to prove to that my anxiety could not chain me to my home city forever. Fast forward to exams, results day, a few major issues that I managed to sort out, and I moved all the way to Surrey. Deep down, I think I knew that I wanted to move at least a couple of hours away from home just to prove that I could. My mother’s side of the family are all home-birds, but my sister and I have always been more free-flying. Perhaps there was a part of me that wanted to see if I fitted in better in the South than the North – the consensus on that, by the way, is that I think I probably do. I still love my home city, but moving so far away allowed me to flourish in an environment I probably would never have experienced otherwise.
I chose Royal Holloway because of the buildings, the department, the course. But, above all, I chose Royal Holloway because it felt like home, and that was good enough for me. When I graduated earlier this year, I remember looking around one last time at the campus, and knowing that, despite all the ups and downs, I made the right choice.
Did you attend university far from home? Tell us in the comments!
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Hey! I am a recently graduated Classics student who loves writing. I post my poetry on Instagram @ rhanireland and I am currently working on my second novel in my spare time. My favourite thing to write articles about are my own life experiences and what inspires me, open letters, fashion, beauty, or things I generally am enjoying at the moment. I am also a slight skincare addict, and love to share what has worked for me with others.