Opportunities Across the Pond

When you first come to London, you might notice a few changes. It won’t be long before you realize that your ‘cookies’ have changed into ‘biscuits’, ‘car hoods’ have become ‘bonnets’ and ‘colors’ is now spelled ‘colours’, with that superfluous ‘u’. The folks living next to you will now be your ‘neighbours’ and the book you loved growing up is now Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, instead of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. But amidst all these ‘little’ changes, you will discover that there is a lot more to London than tea, cricket and the London Eye. It is a whole new world with a rich history of architecture and culture, bundled up in one vibrant city.  

Enjoy the Cultural Hub Full of Attractions

London is widely believed to be one of the cultural hubs of the world, rich in art, music, museums, festivals, all combined with a lively pulsating scene brimming with energy. The West End theatre district hosts a number of mainstream professional theatres with countless productions underway all the time. Other attractions include the renowned British Museum, the Tate Galleries, the National Gallery, The O2 and the Notting Hill Carnival.

Even if you’re visiting London for the first time, you must have heard of the famous landmarks that make up the London skyline. These include the Big Ben, the Buckingham Palace, London Bridge and the London Eye. In addition to these landmarks, the red telephone box, the Routemaster bus, the black taxi and the Union Flag are all evidence of this city’s rich culture.

For first time visitors, the following places are a must-visit:

  • London Eye - An iconic riverside observation wheel
  • The Tower of London - A medieval castle housing the Crown Jewels
  • Tower Bridge - Infamous Victorian turreted bridge
  • Westminster Abbey – Coronation and burial site for Monarchs
  • Buckingham Palace - Home of the British Queen and State offices
  • British Museum - A historian’s dream
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral - Beautifully constructed church
  • National History Museum - Lots of natural phenomenon and hands-on activities for an interactive experience
  • Big Ben - The iconic national timepiece
  • Madame Tussauds, London - A wax museum featuring sculptures of numerous celebrities

Keep in Mind the London Weather

Contrary to popular belief, the London weather is not very harsh, especially if you are coming in from the US. The climate here is temperate, with modest daily high temperatures during summer and winter lows that rarely fall below freezing point. Rainfall is quite regular and occurs pretty much all year round. The city also experiences snowfall during the winters, though this does not typically settle more than a few millimeters.

Tip: Take some time out from your study/internship schedule during the months of July and August, to travel around the city; the summer months make London an exceptional beauty.

How to Get Around in London – The Student Travel Guide

London is a huge city with a vast network of roads and numerous modes of transportation. For students who need to get to class on time or save money with cheaper travel alternatives, here are a few tips that might be of some use:

  • London is divided into 6 zones, with zone 1 in the center. If you happen to be travelling across London, try to avoid zone 1, since it is the most expensive.
  • Oyster cards are going to be your best friend with the cheapest fare at just £1.45 (without this card, you might end up paying £4.75 for a single trip!)

Tip: Apply for a student Oyster Card to save 30% on adult Travelcards and bus and tram passes.

  • Don’t even consider getting a black cab if you have half empty pockets and a weak heart. This cab’s taximeter is no friend of students
  • You may, however, want to grab a black cab after a night out with friends and split the cost. At times like this, it would be better than chasing night buses.
  • Download a transport app in your phone and make sure you plan your journeys and routes
  • Avoid the peak hours (06:30 – 09:30 and 16:00 – 19:00) when travelling by DLR, National Rail or London Overground. The prices at these times would be a lot higher than usual and trains are usually packed with passengers trying to get to or from work.
  • Invest in a bike – the best transport solution for college students. Not only would it keep you in good shape, it would also be the cheapest way to get around.
  • Bus vs. Tube: If you’re not in a hurry, take the bus instead of the tube – it is less stressful than jumping on and off at multiple platforms.

Local London Cuisine, Food Budgets and Nutrition

Being the biggest city in the UK, London offers a lot in terms of food choices. The diversity of cuisines range from Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Pakistani to Lebanese and so on. You’ll find all the big restaurant chains spread over the city as well. But as a student on a limited budget, you have got to plan your eating habits properly. Here are a few tips to help you make your food money go further:

Plan your budget - Make a plan and stick to it. If you get over-excited and eat like a king, you might end up recycling tea bags towards the end.

Compare prices - Remember to always shop around to get the best value for your money instead of buying things right away.

Don’t be seduced by special offers - It’s great to get 30% off a product, or get two for the price of one, but you don’t have to fill up your cupboards just because items you didn’t need were on sale.

Cook in batches - If you buy ingredients separately for every meal, this would end up costing you more in the long run. Cook your food in batches, cool it quickly and freeze serving size portions for later use.

Make sure you get a balanced diet - You should try to get plenty of starchy carbohydrates for a healthy and balanced diet. Porridge oats, bread, potatoes, rice and pasta are good options. In addition to that, fix a quota of fruit and vegetable consumption, and follow it strictly to ensure maintenance of optimum energy levels. Keep your protein levels up with regular consumption of pulses, fish, milk and eggs etc.

Do not try to save money by skipping meals or going on unnecessary diets.

Where to Live in London?

One of the first concerns you will need to deal with when planning to study in London, would be residence. The eventual cost of living in London would depend on what part of the city you want to live in and what kind of a space you are looking into. There are basically two things you will need to consider: the area; and the type of residence (shared flat or a room in a Hall of Residence).

Renting a Flat – If you are renting a flat in London for around 3 persons (as many students do), you are looking at somewhere between £120 - £160 per week (per person) – depending on the location of the flat. One thing you will realize when looking to rent property in London is the disparity in rents across different parts of the city. For this purpose, you might want to look around for a while before settling. Here are a few tips that might help you in the process of looking for a rental flat:

  • Consider the people you want to live with and make plans for apartment hunting at the earliest
  • Decide on the maximum weekly rent each of you can afford
  • Make a list of all the basic facilities you need in a living space – the bare minimum
  • Get in touch with a few estate agents in the area and look around for different options

Halls of Residency - This is a kind of residence that your university might offer. Check for details on the university website. On a general note, the prices for these rooms are usually in the £110 - £150 cost bracket, depending on the location of the hall, whether it is catered and whether you want a single or a shared room.

Other Housing Costs - Lucky for you, full-time students are not required to pay council tax. However, bills may start to stack up soon if you don’t factor them into your budget early on. You are most likely going to be paying for gas, electricity, broadband internet and water. In Halls of Residence, there will almost always be a combined billing system, which won’t require you to pay your bills directly.

Visa Requirements

Every year, thousands of international students come for study abroad programs in London. The UK government is very welcoming to international students and places no limit on the number of students that can be issued this visa. You can find detailed information on the visa application process for international students on the UKCISA website. Here are a few tips you might want to keep in mind:

  • Apply well before you intend to start your course. Many students fail to factor in the time visa application process takes. You can apply for a visa up to three months before the start of your course. It is better, however, to begin your research before that. In most cases, your application will require you to present documents showing your finances and qualifications. In addition to that, you will be required to attend an interview and sit for an English language test.
  • The visa process in itself does not have any vaccination requirements. However, many universities will require you to have certain vaccinations. You should hear from the visa office within three weeks.

Kinds of Visas -

For students looking to do a short course or an English language course for up to 11 months, the following visas would be suitable:

  • Short-term student visa
  • Short term (Child) visa

For a longer term course in London, the following would be suitable options:

  • Tier 4 (Child) student visa
  • Tier 4 (General) student visa

Note: Visa renewal options are also available.

You may be allowed to work while you are studying in London, depending on the type of visa and your sponsoring institute

Study Abroad Programs in London

When planning to study abroad in London, there are several universities you can look into. Depending on your preferences and prior education, the following institutes might be good options:

London Metropolitan University - Offers high quality courses in a variety of disciplines, taught by industry leaders and professionals.

University College London - UCL was established in 1826 to offer education in England for the first time to students of any race, class, color or religion. Since then, it has been the provider of world-class education and instruction.

Imperial College, London - For prospective science and business students, this is the perfect college to apply to. Its International Student Support team works hard to ensure that international students fit right in to the university atmosphere.

Queen Mary University of London - Home to students and staff from over 150 countries, Queen Mary University campuses are the ideal place for international students to feel comfortable and completely at home.

King’s College London - One of the leading research universities, dedicated to the advancement of learning and service to society. The informal academic culture here is very welcoming to students from all backgrounds.

London School of Economics - The University is considered one of the best institutes to go for if you have an interest in economics. Other than that, it also offers various courses in social sciences.

Moving to another country (or continent) for education can sound daunting at first, thanks to the hundreds of little decisions and plans you have to make. But staying on top of matters can help relieve your anxieties and make you see the wonderful experiences and opportunities that lie beyond borders.

London is a wonderful place to go to for college and higher studies. The 2013-14 academic session alone saw London welcome nearly 67,000 international students, almost 18% of the total student population in the capital. The city is such a diverse mix of cultures and students from all over the world, that no matter where you are coming from, you will feel right at home.

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