By: Emily Meny-Gibert, International Department
It’s often said that to really enjoy living in London you need to either be a millionaire, or a student.
Whilst this is disheartening to the rest of us stranded somewhere in the middle; if you are a student coming to spend a summer abroad in London it should be music to your ears!
London is a busy, diverse, multicultural, 24-hour city. The adjectives could run on for days, but suffice to say that it is Europe’s capital city and there is nowhere else in the world quite like it. A summer studying here may seem like a long time now, but once you dive in and take part in what this city has to offer it will pass you by in a flash.
Because of this, you won’t always have enough time to figure out some of the trickier parts of settling in, or finding the coolest little hidden corners of the capital; that’s why I’ve pulled a few of the best hints and tips into one place for you to read before you arrive! You’ll land at Heathrow totally clued up and ready to explore. Enjoy!
Getting around London
Buses, trains and tubes are the three forms of public transport that keep London ticking. You can’t avoid using them so learn to embrace them. To travel easily in London I would recommend you buy an Oyster card. This can be used on all public transport within the tfl travel zones.
If you’re trying to get anywhere around zones 1-3 then the tube system is incredibly efficient and comprehensive. It does have its drawbacks (it’s a little grubby around the edges, a bit expensive, and is prone to slight delays), but on the whole it ferries 10 million people around the city every day of the year with almost no problem whatsoever. It’s also quick, easy to use, and you’ll fit right in to ‘being a Londoner’ as you rub shoulders with everyone as they criss-cross the city on their daily commutes.
Buses are really good for getting around to areas of the city that aren’t serviced by the tube, or if you want to travel in a direction not serviced by tubes or over ground trains. They are also by far the cheapest option, only costing £1.50 a trip. A good tip to remember here is that you only have to tap on with your oyster card – you don't have to tap when you get off.
Overground trains are a really good way to see the south-west of the city. The tube network has really good coverage across the north of the city, but the over ground train network is the best thing to use is you want to see the green leafy areas south of Waterloo, such as Putney, Richmond, or Twickenham. You can also use your oyster cards on these trains!
Once you’ve got your transport sorted you can use it to start seeing some of the best secret parts of the city. The great thing to remember about London is that all of the museums and art galleries are free. So if you are an enthusiast you can spend some times going to see all of them during your stay.
There are also some fantastic free walking tours you can do, which is a great way to get to know the city of ground level. London is a very walkable city and has some interesting lost and forgotten alley ways that are a result of its long and varied history, since its founding in 43AD. London has a little of something for everyone, but below are a few great places that you might like…
You can find this tiny museum on St Thomas Street, SE1. It’s an amazing opportunity to see Europe’s oldest operating theatre, dating back to 1822.
Neals Yard, Covent Garden
If you don’t know which tiny street to turn down in the higgledy-piggledy area of Covent Garden you could easily miss this small square of colourful bliss. Filled with cafes and small health food shops Neals Yard is an unexpected bright splash of colour in the heart of London.
A small pedestrian alley way off Upper Street in the London Borough of Islington, this little passage is filled with antique shops where you can find some beautiful one of a kind items. It also hosts a bustling antique market on Wednesdays and Saturday mornings
This might sound a little on the morbid side, but Highgate Cemetery has some of the most beautiful architecture in the country. It’s a beautifully positioned old rambling cemetery that lets you forget just for a few minutes that you’re in a buzzing metropolis of 10 million people.
What to bring
Finally, the age old question of ‘what to bring’ with you when you leave home to go and study abroad. I’ve listed below a few of the things that you might need to make your summer in London the best it can be.
It’s a sad but true fact of life that you cannot rely on a London summer. Whilst it won’t snow (probably) you can almost guarantee rain. Therefore I’d recommend you bring with you a lightweight rain coat AND an umbrella. Trust me – you will thank me.
As I said, London is a walkable city and you will be doing A LOT of it if you want to get to know it. Therefore I’d recommend you bring a pair of flat comfortable shoes that you can wear anywhere for any occasion!
This might seem obvious – but once you’re here they can be trickier to find. Try and get one before you leave home, or in the airport, because there’s nothing worse than not being able to charge your phone or turn on your laptop.
Something small to remind you of home
Back in my day this would have been a photograph, but I feel the world has moved on a little since then. Now we have photos on our phones, social media, and instant communication, but trust me, having something physically ‘with’ you can be a great comfort if you’re ever feeling a little overwhelmed by your new environment.
Now you are fully equipped with the best advice I can give you for preparing for, and enjoying, your summer studying in London. It will be one of the best experiences you ever have!