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Arriving to study in London can feel daunting. The city’s magnitude and the competitive atmosphere surrounding it could leave you feeling lost and apprehensive.

You might not know how the public transport system works, how to save money in an extremely expensive place, or whether you’ll be able to build good friendships with so much going on around you.

Don’t worry.

Almost everyone I know who came to a London university from outside the city shared these feelings, at least partly.

This post’s main aim is to encourage you that, while intimidating, London can be the most exciting place in the country to study. It is vibrant and full of opportunities if you know where to look!

First steps

The most important thing when applying to university is that you choose a course you’ll actually enjoy studying.

You sign into your halls and head up to your room.

What next?

Firstly (after unpacking), get to know your neighbours. The easiest way to do this in big London halls is to prop your door open – the extroverts in the building are sure to come and chat with you.

Secondly, explore the neighbourhood. London can feel huge, so try to ground yourself in your local area. Where’s the nearest shop/pub/park/tube station?

Lastly, get clued in on what your university is doing. Everything will look different in a COVID world, but universities usually put quite a lot of effort into making your first week as good as possible.

No doubt they will have various events, calls, and freshers’ fair-type things that it’s essential to go along to.

Building Community

After a full-on freshers’ week, students in London could feel isolated. Despite the fast-paced nature of city life, it is surprisingly easy to feel lonely.

This is why the most important thing for any student coming to the city is to build good communities.

Fortunately for you, London is a uniquely fantastic place to do this because of the sheer volume of clubs/societies/volunteer groups in every conceivable area. You can easily meet friends at your university, other universities, or entirely outside the university bubble.

The best way to do this is to throw yourself into anything that interests you. I’ve seen friends who have never properly danced before joining the dance society because it intrigued them.

Don’t be shy and stick to things you’ve done before. It’s always fun to try new things, and you meet great people along the way. Furthermore, volunteering is one of the best ways to make strong friendships.

Many people don’t jump at this idea, but it was one of the best pieces of advice I got when I arrived in London and has helped me build some of my best friendships.

Practical advice

The last thing I thought I’d do is give some practical advice I wish I’d known before coming to London.

I’ll briefly talk about money and transport because, while community is vital, it’s also important not to be anxious about the fundamentals.

Money

Prospective London students can worry too much about how affordable the city is. I’m going to say three things to help mitigate these worries.

Firstly, if you are straight out of school and were 18 on the 31st of August, apply for a 16+ zip oyster card.

You get free travel on buses, trams, and discounted tubes, so it’s definitely worth having. If you don’t fit the criteria, still look into oyster cards because you can save a lot of money.

Secondly, you get a bigger maintenance loan than the rest of the country, which should help financially. Lastly, see if your university has any bursaries or scholarships you qualify for, as this can ease the burden.

Getting around

There are four methods of transport in London for a student; walking, cycling, bus, and tube. Usually, the fastest way to get from A-B is using Santander Cycles or getting the tube.

Walking is the most time-consuming but often the most pleasant. Getting the bus can be useful for more obscure routes or late at night.

I think the best way to travel during the daytime is to use Santander Cycles, as long as you feel confident enough to cycle in the city.

I am going into my third year of studying in London and have loved being there. I can honestly say that even with its challenges, I think it’s the best place in the country to study.

As long as you build a good community, handle your money well, and know the right way to get from A to B, I’m sure you will find London a city full of opportunity and life.

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