All The Details About Prince William's Unusual College Experience

Prince William's college experience was exceptionally unusual in that a lot of it was actually pretty ordinary. Living in a flat with roommates? Check. Washing dirty dishes and cooking? Check. Fish and chips, beans on toast, and dirty socks on the floor? Check. While this may sound like a typical college experience, the fact that Prince William is a future king and a member of the most famous royal family in the world does raise some eyebrows. Shouldn't he have a butler attending to his every need, living at a palace, and wearing a crown to his classes?

Of course, we can't forget about William's wife, Catherine, Princess of Wales, who he met at college. Looking back at the fateful moment during their engagement interview, Catherine remembered being overcome with nerves. "I actually went bright red when I met you and sort of scuttled off feeling very about meeting you," she shared. It seems safe to say those first impressions stuck. 

Sure, William was no stranger to a royal title, had a beyond famous family, and called the queen "Grannie," but for the most part? He was a relatively relatable student — emphasis on "relatively." Grab your fanciest cuppa or some instant ramen and join us as we break down the most unusual aspects of Prince William's college experience.

Prince William took a gap year before attending St Andrews

Prince William's college experience is straight out of a globetrotting adventure novel; the future king couldn't resist the siren call of a gap year. Hold on to your pearls because William took a wild ride before settling down at St Andrews.

In the year 2000, a young Prince William took a detour from royal duties to experience an adventure far from palace walls, or any walls for that matter. He rolled up his sleeves and jetted off to Patagonia to help build houses away from the glare of camera flashes, and tabloids. While it may sound like the plot of an early 2000s rom-com, William flew over to Patagonia just weeks before Princess Catherine, who took the same gap year experience. Of course, they didn't meet until they were both students at St Andrews.

Playing the (somewhat) villain in the story was Prince Charles who definitely raised an impeccably combed eyebrow at the experience, but that didn't stop William from embarking on his excursion. Royal author Katie Nicholl wrote in her book "William and Harry" that the pair argued about William's plans, with his father noting how stubborn his son was. They agreed that he would join the Welsh Guards in Belize, and he later traveled to Kenya, and the Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues before his time in Chile. Prince William's gap year was full of expeditions, hammers, nails, and heartwarming connections.

Attending St Andrews was a break in royal tradition

Prince William, known for his mother's deep blue eyes and charming smile, took a page out of a rebel's handbook when he decided to go rogue with his university choice. After his gap year full of heavy lifting, outdoor adventure, and sweat, William turned in his gray hoodie for khaki pants and a smart sweater. In a plot twist in the royal saga, William, who was usually the well-behaved and obedient one, threw caution to the wind and waved goodbye to tradition. Shattering a 150-year-old history of royal family members attending Oxford or Cambridge, the handsome blond prince headed University of St Andrews in Scotland.

While this may have seemed like a bold move that could ruffle some royal feathers, apparently, it went over just fine. According to Katie Nicholl's "The Making of a Royal Romance," Queen Elizabeth II was said to be "delighted" by this choice. As if that wasn't enough of a stamp of approval, the Queen Mother, who died the year after William began at St Andrews, had an honorary degree from the school. 

It was here that our dashing prince met the young woman who we now know as Catherine, Princess of Wales . Their journey from campus companions to royal spouses unfolded amidst the hallowed halls of St Andrews, and the rest, as they say, is history — the kind that fills the pages of fairy tales and celebrity gossip columns alike.

The media left Prince William alone

Imagine a world where paparazzi lenses aren't zooming in on every royal move. Well, that's precisely what happened when Prince William headed to college. "William wanted to be treated the same as everyone else, and at St. Andrews he was," Katie Nicholl explained in Vanity Fair. "The media had agreed with the Palace to leave the prince in peace after he granted the world's press a brief interview and photo call the day he arrived."

What's more, his classmates and the faculty reportedly were told to keep a tight lid on it. As one alum told Forbes, "[T]his came with the very real threat of exclusion should any student seek to make their fortune by cashing in on the sale of some (real or fabricated) story to the press, rather than by building our lives honorably, through sheer hard work and study." The prince was granted privacy so he could focus on his studies and make friends.

Now, even though the paparazzi promised not to publish any sneaky snaps of his campus escapades, those promises crumbled when unauthorized images found their way into the spotlight. Catherine, Princess of Wales, and William were spotted skiing together in Klosters in 2004, and the pictures were published on the front of The Sun with the headline "Finally...Wills Gets a Girl." Despite the criticism from Buckingham Palace, the outlet stated (via E! News), "One of William's girlfriends could become Queen one day. Her subjects will be entitled to know all about her."

William and Catherine flew under the radar for a while

Despite the fiasco with The Sun, Prince William and Princess Catherine were able to fly under the radar throughout the beginnings of their love story. When they were just two normal students at St Andrews, the pair enjoyed casual meals, nights in front of the television, and parties with close friends; it was a far cry from the gilded halls of Buckingham Palace, that's for sure.

It all began with that innocent spark of friendship, which later led to moving in together as roommates. Yes, William and Catherine shared a flat before they fell in love. That normal, everyday living formed the bedrock of their extraordinary journey together that would go from beans on toast on the couch, all the way up to waving at royal fans from a carriage with beaming smiles and three children to care for.

Nobody knew about their budding romance for quite some time since the media's watchful eye was effectively blinded. And so, they could enjoy a blossoming love story like any ordinary couple. As for what turned their friendship into romance? Well, Catherine sauntering down the catwalk for a charity fashion show in a see-through dress with William sitting in the front row most likely helped things along.

Prince William went by a different name

While up in Scotland, the future King of England went by a different name: Steve. Yes, you read that right. According to Hello! magazine, Prince William was said to have asked his friends to call him Steve when he was at the University of St Andrews. Evidently, he believed that using a different name would keep some of the attention on him at bay. Or, at the very least, it would let him feel like a totally normal young adult having a totally normal university experience for a change instead of, you know, a prince who will one day take the throne. As for how he landed on the incredibly common name Steve? It is one of the world's greatest mysteries. 

However, when it came time to register, he went with the name William Wales, which was called out during his graduation. We can't begin to imagine what Queen Elizabeth II would've done if she watched her grandson, the future king, collect his diploma under the name Steve. 

Prince William switched majors

Prince William, known for his adventurous spirit, had a somewhat dramatic university journey. It all began with a bout of unhappiness that almost led him to bid adieu to his academic pursuits. Catherine, Princess of Wales, stepped in as the guiding light that changed the course of history, the beginning of her influence on the royal family.

Imagine the headlines — let alone the behind-the-scenes royal drama — if William had dropped out. Alas, this seemed like a real possibility. As noted in "Royals at War" by Andy Tillett, Dylan Howard, and Arsalan Mohammed, the prince just wasn't clicking with his studies. His father, King Charles III, was said to be empathetic, urging him to keep giving college the ol' college try. William agreed to keep at it, as long as he could change his major first. Evidently, Catherine was the one who suggested he switch from art history to geography. Sure enough, the recommendation worked and he earned a degree. With her guidance, Prince William set his compass in a new direction, one that would lead him to academic success and a more fulfilling journey at the University of St Andrews.

The switch didn't come without some criticism, however. In a journal titled Emotion, Space and Society (via Express), Oxford professor Danny Dorling called geography a "soft option" for wealthy families who just wanted to make sure their kids got any degree.

Prince William cooked for Catherine

Prince William is set to be the king of England one day, but he's not exactly the king of the kitchen. Regardless, Princess Catherine was still wooed by his culinary skills — or lack thereof — back when they were students at the University of St Andrews. As the couple shared in their engagement interview, Wills showed his affection for Catherine early on in their courtship by cooking up dinners. Evidently, he had his fair share of kitchen mishaps. "It would always come with a bit of angst and a bit of anger if something had gone wrong," Catherine hilariously quipped.

To his credit, William acknowledged that he wasn't necessarily the savviest chef. "When I was trying to impress Kate I was trying to cook these amazing fancy dinners and what would happen was I would burn something, something would overspill, something would catch on fire and she would be sitting in the background trying to help, and basically taking control of the whole situation," he remembered. The prince went on to say that he believes his cooking has gotten better since they were young coeds, but Catherine's laugh suggested otherwise.

While cooking may not be his strong suit, William apparently has not given up on it entirely. At a 2017 charity event, he reportedly told attendees that he still enjoys getting in the kitchen. As for his favorite dish to make? "I like a roast. So a bit of roast chicken or a steak," he said, according to People.

Prince William took up surfing

In the midst of the chilly weather that blankets St Andrews, a surprising tale emerges of Prince William, embracing the thrill of surfing against the backdrop of the British Isles. The story of his love affair with the waves is a testament to his spirit of exploration and his willingness to dive into unconventional hobbies.

Known for his love of sports, William didn't shy away from the world of surfing — despite the frigid temperature of the water. While studying at St Andrews, he ventured into the art of surfing, defying the weather and immersing himself in the joy of riding the waves. His determination to master this aquatic art left an indelible mark, one that continued to ripple through his life. William told the BB News that it was pretty brutal out in the water, revealing, "It was a bit like putting your head in a freezer when you went under water, but the wetsuit I've got is pretty good." Of course, it appears to be a fantastic respite from the pub lic eye as well, with the prince adding, "There's no noise. It's just you breathing. You're in a different world with the fish."

Fast-forward to a significant chapter in Prince William's journey: his stag do in 2011. The celebration, orchestrated by none other than his brother, Prince Harry, included surfing.

The £200 ticket that would change the prince's life

For a cool £200, Prince William got to sit front row at a charity fashion show that would play a pivotal role in his relationship with Catherine, Princess of Wales. During their days at the University of St Andrews, William and Catherine were not just close friends, but also individuals navigating the intricate dance of chemistry and emotions. In the year 2002, a fashion event became the stage where it all began.

"It was the end of their first year," William and Catherine's college friend dished to E! News years later. "I was there, and in person there were a lot of attractive girls. She was in a very daring dress, in a sheer stocking-like dress. He was sitting front row and his eyes were like stalks." Designed by Charlotte Todd, the blue-trimmed silk dress left little to the imagination. Their classmate also insisted nothing happened between the future married couple that night.

The dress itself became something of a historic artifact, and collectors were apparently ready to drop serious dough on it. According to CNN, the garment sold at auction in 2011 for $125,000.

Prince William was captain of the water polo team

Prince William's athletic prowess extended beyond the realms of conventional sports during his university years at St Andrews. While he was recognized for his skills in horse riding and football, his lesser-known talent shone in the realm of water sports, particularly water polo. He even became the captain of the university's water polo team. And apparently, he was a really good sport. Following a match against St Andrews, a water polo player from an opposing team dished to that he mistakenly head-butted the prince during a match, but the royal took it on the chin. "[William] was sound, a very nice fellow really," he said.

William's interest in water polo spurred on his interest in other aquatic endeavors including scuba diving. He eventually took over the presidency of the British Sub-Aqua Club in 2014, where he continued to advocate for responsible diving practices and marine conservation.

Prince William's commitment to water activities early on aided him later in life where he now utilizes his platform to advocate for the importance of teaching children to swim. As a patron of the English Schools Swimming Association, he championed the cause of reducing drowning incidents by ensuring that children had access to proper swimming education. His dedication to swimming education was underpinned by his recognition of the sobering statistics surrounding drowning incidents, both in the UK and internationally. Through his role as an advocate for swimming education, William played a vital role in raising awareness about the need for water safety.

William and Kate enjoyed good takeaway just like the rest of us

During their time as students at the University of St Andrews, Prince William and Princess Catherine shared a relatable indulgence that many of us can relate to: a good takeaway meal. The couple had a favorite fish and chip shop that held a special place in their hearts from their university days. Anstruther Fish Bar, located in Anstruther, was the go-to spot for the future Prince and Princess of Wales to satisfy their craving for a classic fish supper. This iconic chip shop played a significant role in their university experience.

In 2021, they visited Anstruther Fish Bar for a nice, heaping serving of nostalgia. According to the Daily Mail, the couple ordered a hearty haddock supper, which included fish and chips. To top off their meal, they also treated themselves to ice creams, savoring the simple pleasures that the spot had to offer. This visit wasn't just about satisfying their own cravings; it was also a chance for them to hobnob with the locals. Their down-to-earth nature and their ability to connect with the community was on full display, as was their love of a classic fish and chip dish. 

After they left, the shop posted about the royal visit on Facebook (via Mirror). "We hope Their Royal Highnesses enjoyed a lovely day reminiscing here in the East Neuk of Fife," they wrote. "We know our team and hundreds of others certainly loved getting the chance to meet them both today."