This month, around 100,000 international students will arrive in London to begin postgraduate and undergraduate courses. As I was one of that great horde last year, here’s some friendly advice for those of you wide-eyed freshers landing in London right now:
1. Remember, you’ve got plenty of time. If you’ve this is the first time you’ve been in London, you might be tempted to try to see and do everything as soon as possible. Don’t! You have at least one year (if you’re here for a Masters) and some of you have three years. Yes, the British Museum, Hyde Park, and a trip to Stonehenge are all calling your name, but they will still be there all year, as will you. Pace yourself.
2. Apply for your Student Oyster and Young Person’s Railcard right away! Both of these will save you a load of £££ if you plan to use the Underground, the Overground, buses, trains — basically any public transport. The application for the Student Oyster is rather straightforward and can be done entirely online. The application for a Young Person’s railcard (for which all students are eligible, even if you’re over 25) is a bit less so, as it requires you to print passport-size photos and, in some cases, get an official stamp from your uni. Because of this, I waited until January to get mine, and although it’s already more than paid for itself, I wish I’d gotten it earlier. Definitely try to get it before you take your first big trip out of London. Which leads me to…
3. Take advantage of free opportunities to get into the countryside. We got to spend a weekend in the Cottswolds through HOST UK. Your uni’s international student office might also arrange trips out of London for foreign students.
4. Look for the Hare Krishnas serving free food. As a student living in London, you’ll probably be trying to save money any way you can, and free food always has a particularly special appeal to student-types. The generous Hare Krishnas pedal all over London in rickshaws every day, distributing free meals at lunchtime., and they even have two spots which are targeted at students — one right outside SOAS and one by LSE. They apparently also give away free food at a few other places every day, as well.
5. Go to public lectures. You might think “UGH, I already go to lectures all the time; why would I seek out MORE lectures? First, if you’re here to pursue a degree, you must have some love of learning. And public lectures are great because you get to learn something from an interesting, possibly famous author/leader/thinker without having to take a test later. Also, these lectures can be a great place to make contacts with people who are already working in fields that interest you. If that’s not enough, these events often have receptions afterward with free food and booze! A great place to find out about upcoming public lectures in London (and around the UK) is The Lecture List).
Those are my tips. Any other current or former students in London have any other tips to offer?