Having lived in London for most of my life and studied here as a medical student for a few years, I have a love-hate relationship with the city. There are a few misconceptions about what it is like to be a student in London. On the other hand, there are some important factors to consider if you are thinking about studying in the capital compared to other UK locations. In this post, I'll share some of the best and worst parts of studying and living in London.
Since I grew up in London, most of my friends and family live nearby and my social life has always thrived here. This is a very important factor when deciding where to go to university, coupled with the fact that there is SO much to do in London! You are extremely spoilt for choice. This is one of my top reasons for choosing to study here because I can go out and do so many things from bars and clubs to activities and events!
Well-connected travel system
Transport for London (TfL) is fantastic when it comes to travelling around London and to other parts of the UK. This is a hugely attractive factor of the capital (even though it comes at a hefty price). However, you can easily commute to university wherever you live in London which can save you money on rent. I personally chose to move out each year because I valued independence and my own space over saving money.
Hub of opportunities
London is full of opportunities such as internships, jobs, global exchange programmes and more. I have never struggled to find something to sink my teeth into! You will meet so many international students and world-class academics at London universities since it's the capital city. This makes it a lot easier to build an exciting CV and get involved in different activities.
There are so many people from all over the world who come to live in London to study and work, so you will most definitely network with some great people. It can be easy to feel out of place when you look so different to everyone around you (which can be the case in some parts of the UK and a real consideration for people of colour wanting to attend university). I have never felt out of place in London and it has kept my imposter syndrome at bay and allowed me to perform at my best in university and beyond.
'Cheap' rent in London would be around £600-£750 a month. When compared to the rest of the UK, this is actually extortionate for the standard of some of the rooms you get. However, after staying in student accommodation for a few years and moving out to private accommodation (that I found via spareroom.com), I managed to find decent rooms for my budget. Top tip: ALWAYS go and view the property first before paying any deposits and confirming your move. London landlords tend to take the most deceiving pictures and then when you turn up, you genuinely think you're in the wrong house.
High population density
It can get extremely busy in London and this can be off-putting if you like your space and peace. As seen with the spread of COVID-19, high population density is expected for any major city. This can be quite frustrating when it comes to commuting during rush hour times, getting tickets to events, visiting your GP etc. However, once you've lived here long enough. You get used to it!
London can be noisy and since I study at King's College London, I've lived near some of the busiest areas (e.g. London Bridge, Waterloo). If you're near a main road, it can be constant noise at all hours of the day (sometimes you can't even open your windows otherwise you'll just never get sleep). Most places you live will also be shared spaces and noise is inevitable. If you prefer peace and quiet, London may not be the best fit for you.
Slightly different structure to university societies/events
I have found that there is not necessarily a close-knit community feeling within London university societies compared to smaller, campus-based universities where all the students tend to know one another and live close to each other. Most people in London universities commute from home and society events can be hit or miss when it comes to attendance. In addition, most societies cost a fee. Sports societies tend to cost a lot more due to equipment and hiring of grounds (because there aren't many in London) and this can certainly hurt your wallet as a new student, despite some subsidisation. Universities outside of London often allow you to join societies for no cost at all! This is a downside of a city university.
Overall, I enjoy my life in London but I think a huge part of that is due to my long-standing friends and family who have lived here with me. The major downside for me is definitely how expensive it is to live here! But if you manage your finances correctly and manage to get flexible work whenever you can (see my blog post of some of the jobs I've done here) then you can certainly live comfortably as a student.