Has the lure of London life become too much for you to resist? Making the journey over to the great capital of the UK is the stuff many students dream of, but if it’s your first time abroad there’s a lot to learn. Read on for advice and tips to help you make the transition from overseas student to London local…
Where to Live
Know this right from the start, London is not a cheap place to live. Housing costs will take a huge chunk of your monthly budget. It’s not just student housing in short supply, in London housing of any type – private rental sector or real estate on the open market, is in huge demand. To avoid disappointment, sort your accommodation out as soon as you get the green light for your course.
Many students find that housing options which have all inclusive bill packages are really helpful for budget management. Student flats with electricity, heating and Wifi included in the rental cost are becoming more widely available, but you need to reserve places early. For student accommodation Camberwell in South London is one area that is very popular as it is close to several universities and colleges and has a lively local arts and cultural scene. If you need student accommodation Camberwell makes a good place to start as it is relatively central and well connected, but not quite gentrified enough to attract premium prices (yet!)
Explore and Discover
Once you have a place to live, you can start exploring. With a fabulous underground system that stretches right across the metropolis, there’s no excuse not to discover the farthest reaches of London. Invest in a student Oystercard which simplifies paying for travel across the London transport network – identify which travel zone you live in and where you will be regularly travelling to, then calculate the best deal for you.
For specific questions about courses, documentation and VISA questions, it’s best to speak directly to the university. There will be trained advisors in place to help troubleshoot common problems international students encounter. The secret is to ask questions whenever in doubt – be pro-active, don’t just expect things to happen smoothly. At the beginning of the term especially, with many new students enrolling, it is easy for your issues to get lost in the chaos. Be a squeaky wheel, and get the oil.
If you are flying in from a warmer climate, prepare for the cold and damp weather in London. Yes, it’s true in summer we can have some good sunny days and enjoy time out in many of the city’s wonderful parks – but on balance, London can be a bit cool. Fill your suitcase with clothes suitable for cold weather, bring a coat, a waterproof jacket, some warm boots, gloves, hat and umbrella. It’s not Moscow, but it’s not Manila either.
Your student status attracts discounts in the UK, so make your money go further by obtaining a NUS card. Savings on anything from train travel to restaurants to clothing can all be gained with NUS membership. Entrance fees to certain exhibitions, shows and festivals can also be secured at a lower student rate when you flash your NUS card.
Explore and discover some of the great cultural ingredients of London life. Yes, there are black cabs, red phone boxes and double decker buses everywhere you look – but there are also interesting back alley pubs, bustling traditional markets and off-the wall theatre performances taking place in impromptu places. Look a little deeper than the tourist-tamed versions of London and you will uncover a fascinating, living, breathing city that deserves its status as a top global destination.
And there’s no need to feel homesick in London. Wherever you come from, you can guarantee to find enclaves of your compatriots dotted around the city. As well as making new British friends, London is a truly international hub where people from every corner of the world congregate. Whether it’s Polish pubs, Vietnamese tea houses or German beer cellars, there will be places to meet up with your countrymen and women. Sometimes there will be sports clubs or language classes and often colleges and universities stage special events to put people in touch.
A British qualification from a top university transforms a good Curriculum Vitae into a ticket to a better future. Prepare well and do your research and soon you too could become an international student with a London qualification.