So you’re moving to London to start university, you’ve made a great choice! London is the best city to go to university in in the UK. Why? Because we have everything bigger and better than the rest of the country. Ok, I’m being a little biased and big headed. But going to university in London is a lot different to going anywhere else in the country. Not necessarily in a bad way, but there’s something about London that makes it really weird to go to university in.
First of all, unlike any other large sized town or city, the university isn’t the only thing going for it. Mostly because we have about 40 different universities in one city. Hardly any of them are campus based. Meaning your whole uni life can be spread across the city. And unlike places like Sheffield or Warwick, people don’t just go to London for uni. People travel to London from all over the world for tourism, to work, to live, and they don’t immediately think: “university”. Time and time again I have heard Northern family members say: “Why didn’t you go to Manchester to study? Manchester is a student city.” What does that mean, “student city”? Because to me that means there’s nothing else to do except study.
That’s why in my first year I didn’t feel like London offered the real student experience, whatever that is. Whenever I spoke to my friends from school in the holidays who went to other places in the country to study, they always asked: “What is London like?” But I really wondered what it was like to not study there. (They have this thing called “carnage”. What the hell is that?) To me, their uni experience sounded like living in a tiny village. Everyone you met was a student and when you went to the shops, everyone was a student. The only people you met in clubs were other students and when you met a local, they hated you because you were a student. And during uni holidays, the place was like a ghost town. You were stuck having to live on rubbish food from chain restaurants like Nandos and drinking bad filter coffee from the student union because no one had heard of a ‘skinny latte’, let alone been into a Starbucks. Yeah ok, point made. But that’s what I first worried about when I was a fresher in London. I worried I wasn’t getting the “real deal”. Maybe I didn’t, but I think I got better.
Here’s some of my tips on how to make the most out of freshers in London, so you don’t feel too left out…..
Don’t buy your course books from Waterstones
It’s tempting when you’re given your reading list to go out and buy books straight away. And out of all the bookshops, Waterstones sounds like it offers the best deal. For 2 weeks the Gower Street branch offers 10% student discount (omg, how lenient of Waterstones!) in London. They also promise to stock all of your course books – that’s true, they do. But while you start term thinking: “I’m going to buy all my books and read them all and get all firsts”, 2 months later you’ll probably be wondering how you’re £150 into your overdraft already. Books are expensive so buy them cheap or get them on loan from the library.
- ABE books sells secondhand books in decent condition for very cheap – usually students selling them to other students.
- Skoob Books is ideal for Bloomsbury based students (UCL, SOAS, Birkbeck). The shop boasts London’s broadest selection of secondhand books and they’re super cheap. And they do a 10% student discount!
Use Senate House Library
Senate House is a massive grey building that looks like something out of a dystopian world. Funny because George Orwell based his Ministry of Truth in the novel 1984 on it and the Nazis even planned to make it their HQ when they invaded Britain. But besides the unusual exterior, Senate House is a huge library. It is particularly good to use when it comes to essay deadline time and everyone has taken the books out of your university library, no one ever thinks to go to Senate House for their books. Also they have massive tables and hundreds of seats, so it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll have somewhere to work – unlike libraries like UCL where during exam time you will have to fight for a seat. (Also the stairwells have really good views of the London skyline).
Use Time Out for Finding Things To Do
The great thing about London is that there is always something cool and interesting to do. Time Out (which is now free in magazine version) is an excellent guide to the city. If you’re stuck why not try looking at their ‘Hot List’ which is updated every week with ideas of things to do and see in London.
Try Anything Once
During your first week you’ll probably attend the freshers fayre and be bombarded with leaflets and invitations to events. The best thing to do is to try everything and anything that interests you. You don’t have to commit and you don’t have to pay for anything. You can simply attend, try it out, and if it’s not for you, well, you never have to see them again, do you? First year is the best time to try everything out. Trust me, when it gets to second year, you feel kind of lame going to these events. I went to a brunch welcome meeting with my ex-flatmate and when I said I was a second year everyone treated me like I had some kind of contagious disease. I felt like a total loser. Make the most of being ‘fresh’ while you can.
Don’t Get Stuck with People You Don’t Like
The trouble with freshers is that you feel like you are forced to become best friends with whoever you live next to. But if you’re anything like me, the people you live next to in halls might not have anything in common with you. Especially, like me, when it turns out the hall thought Bryonie was a boy’s name and put you on an all boy’s floor and after 30 minutes of saying hello to everyone on your floor you have to ask the least creepy guy, “Er, do you know if there are any other girls living in this hall?”
But if you don’t get that unlucky and you just feel a bit bored, don’t feel like you have to stick around with one certain group or one person. Just because you live in the same place doesn’t make you automatically friends. Freshers friendships are fickle. If you don’t like your hallmates right now, don’t worry.
Try Other Places to Eat
The great thing about London is that we have plenty of amazing restaurants. And the great thing is that they are often cheaper than the chains – like Meat Liquor for example, I often only spend about £10 for a meal. Whereas, if I went to Nandos, I’d end up paying £15. If you’re looking for ideas of where to go, why not have a look at the food section of my blog.
Enjoy Yourself and Don’t Worry
Freshers is the only time you can go to lectures hungover and not do all of the reading for seminars. Just lie and say you don’t know how to find the reading. For the whole 2 weeks of freshers, that excuse sounds genuine.