What I Wish I Knew Before Coming to London to Study

TL-DR version, key takeaways

  • You will share your space with people all the time, unless you’re rich. It takes a lot of time to find a decent house and decent flatmates. Stay in student halls in the first year.

  • Focus on finding supportive friends.

  • Don’t skip studying or you’ll stay a dummy.

  • It’s a race. Can you manage 2-3 internships, one job and your studies? Oh, and don’t forget to volunteer.

  • Learning to cook homemade meals and your country’s cuisine is one of the most important lessons.

  • Travel back home, and travel at home.

  • Money. More money. Did I mention London is expensive?

  • Best city ever. Such good people. Many trains.

Here it goes, Studying in London: The Cheat codes.

1. Sharing your space will be frustrating

Sharing common space in student halls

This is probably a better idea for anyone who doesn’t already live in London. Renting a room, let alone a house in London is very difficult. Landlords are usually unavailable and uncaring towards your needs and estate agents are not the most helpful people either, so finding a decent house will take a long time. Also, around the time students start moving in (around August), there is high demand on flatshares. If you are from abroad and non-European countries, you will need a guarantor to legitimize your need to rent a place (insert rolling eyes emoji).

Staying in student halls in your first year, and not bothering to find a flatshare with strangers is a good idea to make friends, be involved in group activities and learn the importance of own space, as well as how to respect others. There will be many annoying moments when you find yourself talking to dirty dishes left by your flatmates or when there is a party in the common room a night before your important deadline. So, you should find the cleanest and coolest (meaning respectful, helpful and still fun) friends and convince them to rent a flat together.

Street in London

P.S: Renting in London post coming soon. (shortcuts to negotiating with estate agents, best areas, price range and which websites to use)

P.S 2: Favourite/Slightly cheaper areas to flatshare: New Cross, Peckham, Bromley, Hackney, Finchley, Oval, Streatham, Battersea.

Sharing a house with flatmates

Ahhh, joys of adult life. Just like in Friends, right? Well, not quite. You live in Zone 2 or 3 now, and pay 100 per month for a travel card. When you actually do find a 3-4 bed flatshare and move in with your awesomest friends, you will have little fights here and there until you adjust to who does what and how in the house. Remember, it’s not just YOUR house, you are sharing. Everyone deserves a chance to live the way they want to live. You should try to be relaxed and seek refuge in your room when something about the house, like the kitchen being dirty or something, bothers you. Just make sure to keep the communication to maximum and you could establish a cleaning and cooking rota.

2. It's time to find like-minded people and hold onto them for dear life

First time you arrive to London, it can be pretty daunting. Even if you are from a big chaotic city, you will have to adjust how the underg- sorry, 'tube' works, you will learn how to register with a GP for health reasons (even though you will never get proper help from your GP), you will deal with scamming estate agents (unless you are staying in student halls), and many more confusing, I'm-18-but-I'm-still-a-child-please-stop-giving-me-responsibilities situations.

London can be a lonely city when you are an outsider. This is why people will drink all night and feel better by hugging strangers. Don't be upset if the drunken strangers (well, other students obvs) who hugged you don't smile at you the following day. They are embarrassed, I guess. So your best bet is to find incredible and supportive friends who will try to figure out life with you and have your back. These are difficult to find, but you can instantly tell when you find one. This usually happens the first week of uni, so make sure to try and get to know as many people as possible to increase your chances of finding 'the one': the best friend.

Try these: Meet-up groups, Tinder, Going out using Dice and Dojo

If you are a music lover, definitely use Dice (Concert and clubbing app) and Songkick (track your favourite musicians’ concerts, syncs with Spotify), last but not least, Resident Advisor is where you can find the best nightouts (generally 10 pounds entry but for amazing venues and music)

3. Studying is me-time because you are growing as a person

Sure the first year is considered to be a code for "let's fuck shit up" but if you are especially from a non-English speaking country, you need to make sure you write those essays with diligence and study hard on your language skills. Also, focus on your strengths and interests. It's time to discover where you want to be and what you want to do. Trust me, the recently-graduated-you will thank the studious-you a thousand times later on in life.

Studying with an open book

You will figure out during classes what peaks your interest and sparks up your passion. University seems like the perfect place to go on adventures and experience your young stupid self, and it is, but if you miss out on intellectual pursuits, you will never get the same amount of free time and intensive learning experience again. So don't get too caught up on drugs, drinking and other people’s lives, if you get a job in London, this mentality continues in the work place anyway.

Try these resources for studying and making connections: Student’s Union societies, other universities’ societies, open forums, free film screenings, free student art events etc.

4. London is f*cking competitive, so do lots of internships and volunteering in your spare time.

You'll have loads of free time anyway. You'll binge-watch Netflix shows in your room, with your headphones plugged in so you don't hear the couple next door having sex. "Does this guy live there now?" you'll ask yourself when you see your flatmate's boyfriend the 100th time that week. You could have been volunteering at a very excited theatre production instead. London has lots of opportunities for artistic, athletic, charity or any kind of volunteering or work experience opportunities that would help you build your network. Make use of this, because it will help you shine in the crowd and you can make friends in the meantime.

Check these websites out to find internships: Work-in-startups, mediargh (for media), The Dots (for creatives), The Media Directory (for media), The Hiive (mainly creatives.

PS. I will write a comprehensive guide to finding a job or internship in London sometime in the future!

5. Learn to cook, the food is never as good as how it's at home.

You know it will never be. Somehow though, if you gather around friends and cook them something you used to eat back home with your friends and family, it will be satisfying. You are sharing your culture and learning so much about other people. Food brings people together and is a powerful mediator.

6. You will miss people. A lot. Even if you thought you are never the kind of person who misses people.

You will miss the places, the experiences, the comfort zone, the language that flows from your mind to your mouth without any stress. On the upside, you will be extremely proud of your English when you can explain that overly complicated philosophical concept to your English-speaking friends. My solution to this is simply: travel back home, travel at home as well; meaning, go to new cities in your country that you've never been before.

You never know what something means to you before you miss it, before you understand what that lack of friend, place, food, or whatever it is you miss, makes you feel. I believe that once we are aware of this, we'd give 100% more to discover our own city and country as well. You want to do so much more there, so you give it more of your attention and time. This is the beauty of leaving home, because you know now that you always belong there but you can belong anywhere if you can live in a new city with a new life.

7. Work on summer breaks or any breaks really.

Well, London is expensive (as you already know). Unless you are a rich kid who can afford a mind-blowing tuition as well as a condo near Big Ben, you may need to fit in a 4 people flatshare in Zone 2-3 and work regularly on holidays. This is where saving money becomes useful. The working structure is constantly changing. Entry-level jobs in London will not pay for a comfortable lifestyle, so you need to be smart about money and money making.

London is extremely capitalist, and you will witness this daily; homeless people in the streets beside cars and houses that cost millions of pounds. People in London are truly impressive, like, you would meet a part-time model who is also a doctor but travels frequently to help this charity or some ultra-human shit like that. It’s true though. Everyone cares a lot about their image, and they will use their time to build their network and skills. Don’t worry; you can still survive amongst these weird creatures. Just build your career or business strategy, as you will have to talk about it a lot with other people.

8. Finally, London is a city where you can have the most amazing experiences.

Whatever floats your boat, you can find it in London. A Michelin star meal in a fancy restaurant? Sure. A Secret Cinema that offers an interactive theatrical experience that you can act in? Definitely. History, science and technology? They have museums for all that. Best pieces of art from 20th and 21st century? Double-check.

Concerts, raves, dance performances, plays, interesting people, storytellers everywhere, causes to care about and actually connect with, food from all over the world, occasionally seeing your favourite actors in theatres or frequently seeing your favourite musicians having concerts…

Skaters in South Bank

My favourite things about London: Skaters of South Bank, street food in Borough Market, relaxing in Hampstead Heath, going crazy in Camden, families and dogs of Greenwich, dodgy corners of Peckham, hipsters of Hackney, street art and food in Brick Lane, mental nightouts in Soho and Shoreditch including posh themed cocktail bars, jazz and raves. London is alive and breathing down your neck (in a sexy way).

Check this out: Non-touristy Guide to London

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