Studying in London as an international student is an exciting place to be! If you’re coming here for your degree, or even just for a few months as part of it, this guide will give you a few pointers on how to get the most out of your time in the city.
Plan your budget
Spend some time planning out your budget before you arrive, considering how long you’ll be staying. You need to make sure all the essentials are covered whilst having a bit of spending money on the side for enjoying everything the city has to offer. Yes, London can be an expensive place to live – but there is also a lot of great stuff to do for free. Here are a few of our budgeting tips:
- It’s a good idea to keep a monthly budget. That way, you can keep on top of your spending as you go. Try to keep separate spending ‘pots’ – i.e. groceries might be £X per month, so you can allow £X for social drinks per month.
- And when cash does start to run low towards the end of the month, make use of everything London has to offer for free. Apart from free museums like the Tate Modern, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Museum of Natural History, there are world-famous landmarks like Buckingham Palace to see. There are tons of free things to do in London.
- It’s a good idea to open a UK bank account before you get here. There are lots of options for international students.
- And, always make sure you have some accessible funds available in case of emergencies.
If you’re finding your own accommodation for your time in London, it’s useful to know that rental contracts here (and all over the UK) tend to be for 6, 9 or 12 months. If you’re only in the UK for a few months, it can be a little trickier, but there are short-term rentals out there which give you the flexibility of having your own place without having to commit to something more long-term.
If you’re only here for a couple of months, you could also look at travel hosting websites like Airbnb, but just bear in mind this might be a less cost-effective option.
Getting around London
- CityMapper London
London has the Underground and overground trains, buses, bikes, taxis and boats to choose from. Google Maps is handy to have, but the CityMapper app gives you much better all-around A to B travel recommendations as it compares travel times between different modes of transport. The offline tube map is a great feature of this app too. It even has a ‘rain-safe’ option for rainy days.
- Santander Cycles
This is an app for finding and using our ‘Borris bikes’ – the city’s rent-a-bike network. The app shows you where the closest available one is and where you can drop yours off when you’re finished with it.
Many of the major taxi services (like Uber) operate in London. The Cabwise app is for London’s black cabs and minicabs (the licensed taxis that aren’t black cabs) and it tells you where your nearest cab office is. Whichever taxi app you use, just be sure to stay safe and only hop in a taxi that you’ve pre-booked.
- Time Out London
Wherever you are in the city, you won’t need to travel far for something to do. TimeOut.com is a wonderful source of information on everything you could possibly think of that’s happening in London. You can find out about gigs, openings and shows across the city from week to week. It really is the go-to resource for finding out about everything from restaurants, bars, and clubs to shopping too.
Making friends in London
A big part of that is all the people you’ll be meeting alongside your studies. You can look forward to learning about other cultures while studying in a completely new environment. We do understand it can be hard to put yourself out there. So, here are a few pointers on how to meet new people and make friends in London:
- Join clubs and societies
Most universities will have a good selection of societies you can become a part of. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and get to talk about things that are important to you. Plus, alongside the main get-togethers, there are often social drinks or outings too. You might even find a society for people of your home culture.
There’ll be plenty going on outside of university too. If you like to exercise, budget gyms like Pure Gym or The Gym offer a huge range of classes to get involved in and have great deals for students.
- Go exploring with other international students
It’s very easy to move around the UK, especially with the connections from London. So, make the most of your time here and plan some trips to great places outside of the city. You can be sure that other international students will be wanting to see more of the UK too. How about planning a day trip to Brighton seaside with a small group of other international students? It’s a great way to get to know each other and it’s only an hour out of London on the train. You can catch a quick flight up to Manchester and make it back in time for classes on Monday. London’s wonderful, but there’s a lot more to see while you’re here.
Start up conversations with strangers
It can be daunting making friends in a new city, but a lot of other students will be in a similar position as yourself. Try to put yourself out there and start some conversations. By instigating conversations in the classroom, the canteen or your accommodation, you’re more likely to make meaningful connections along the way.
- Find likeminded people online
Apps like Meetup.com or Citysocializer.com are also a great option for finding like-minded people to spend time with.