When choosing your university, getting the location right is almost as important as the course. When I decided that I wanted to study art history, I knew that there would be no substitute for doing it in London. With the greatest number of galleries, artist’s studios and art libraries in the country, it was an ideal place to build a solid academic grounding in the field. But the London uni experience is incredibly different to anywhere else in the country, and there are a number of important things to remember that they won’t tell you at the open day:
The importance of budgeting
Although your student loan will be higher, living in the city is still considerably more expensive than anywhere else. I worked a weekend job throughout my degree, and although this forced me to manage my time better, it could be stressful during the deadline pressures of final year. Financial stress can take a toll on your studies, so it is incredibly important to consider this before you commit to studying in London. Smart budgeting can help you avoid running into trouble, but only if you remember to stick to it! Temptation to spend money exists everywhere in the city, from nights out to buying books for your course. If you want to study in London, make sure you take the time to plan your costs for the year really carefully.
Travel can be a real nightmare
I had not quite appreciated the sheer scale of the city before I moved here. Travelling from Stoke Newington to see a friend that lives in Earls Court can take the best part of an hour each way. Unless you live in the same area, it’s not so easy to ‘pop round’ to a friend’s house as it might be in a smaller university town like Durham. It’s also worth considering this when you choose your accommodation in first year. While most unis offer a halls of residence, they are often not on campus. Be sure to calculate your route time before you commit to a room in halls. It’s far easier to get out of bed for an 8am lecture when you have a 10 minute commute than a 60 minute one! When planning your budget also take into consideration a travel card for your Oyster, these can be upwards of £700 per year. I decided to get a bike in second year to cut this cost (at the same time as avoiding a gym membership) so there are certainly ways around it, but if you’re not willing to cycle, then a travel card is an absolute must.
Not all universities in London offer the same experience
The choice of places to study in London is incredibly diverse. From huge ones offering a plethora of courses like UCL or Kings, to tiny specialised ones like The Courtauld Institute which offers only one subject. Its important to take into consideration whether or not you want there to be a range of choice in sports teams, student bars and trips. I went to a university that only offered art history, which made for a wonderful learning environment, but did at times feel insular. While my university was academically very rigorous, we didn’t have any sports teams. I wasn’t particularly sporty at school, but still found that I missed this when I got to uni! Make sure that you consider what you’re willing to compromise on.
Thrown in at the deep end
However you look at it, London will force you to grow up very quickly if its your first time living away from home. Unlike my friends a places like Cambridge or Durham, there was no canteen in first year, or accommodation provided past second year. From day one you’re forced to fend for yourself in a city that can often seem quite unfriendly, so its important to be honest about whether you think you can cope. But nevertheless, I survived and really enjoyed it once I adjusted!
Distractions are everywhere
While this can be said of any town or city, its important to approach living in London with the correct mind set. Remember that the main reason you’re there is learn, so this should always be your top priority. But the great thing about the constant flow of events and things to see and do is that it never stops! So never compromise a club night over an essay deadline, chances are there will be another one very soon.
With all of this in mind, I can’t recommend studying in London enough. Nowhere else will you find such a concentration of culture and diversity. So whilst it might take a little longer to ‘learn the ropes’ than studying at a smaller campus uni, I can guarantee that it’s worth it in the end!