Dominika Jankowska, originally from Gdynia in Poland, is a law student at Queen Mary University of London. She shares what she loves about studying in the UK capital.
I fell in love with London when I came over on a sightseeing trip when I was 13; I knew I wanted to study there ever since. It helped that, academically, it is one of the best places to be.
The universities are among the best, not only in the UK, but in the world. Equally importantly, all the best employers have offices in London. This is important for a prospective lawyer like me, and probably holds true for other sectors too.
Before applying, I went to London to visit a few universities – I liked the Queen Mary campus straight away. The receptionist in the law building was also extremely friendly and organized a quick tour for me. What finally convinced me was the prestige of the law department, and how international student friendly the university is.
You have to study and read a lot on your own here, but you can also easily approach a lecturer or tutor for help, and they will ask you to call them by their first name. This is different to my country, where the atmosphere is very formal, and many lecturers – who you have to address as 'Mr/Mrs Professor' – are unapproachable!
It is a big help that lecture slides and podcasts are uploaded online and we have easy access to legal databases –especially important for finding case law, legislation and legal articles.
An amazing international mix
London is a great city to be a student in. Something is always happening and one can never be bored. The only issue is that it is expensive. Accommodation, transport, food, going out – everything is a strain for a student's limited budget. I started working part time in my first year and have combined work and study ever since in order to support myself.
Another issue when living in a huge city is that sometimes your friends live quite far away and it won't always be easy to see them.
But I usually see it as a small price to pay for living in London. Locals and other students are mostly very fun and friendly which makes it even easier to adapt to London life.
The diversity of people in London is incomparable to anywhere in my home country, and while in London everyone seems to be speaking a different language, in Gdynia many people on the street look at you with curiosity if you speak English.
There is an amazing international mix here and it’s a lot of fun meeting and making friends with people from all over the world. I would say this diversity is one of the best parts of being a student in London. Hanging out with people from France, Brazil, Bulgaria, Ghana or India, or anywhere else, would not have been possible if I was studying in Poland.
Despite this massive international mix, it was the diversity of local accents and the amazing speed with which most English-speaking people talk which I found most difficult when I first moved here! This was an issue because my lecturers were from Canada, Scotland, the Midlands, Ireland, London – a newcomer really needs some time to get used to that.
Getting a taste of the town
In first year, the university helped a lot when it came to socializing and meeting new people. There is a freshers' fair, plenty of events both during the day and night, cheap tickets and free drinks in popular clubs, and societies and sports clubs, which run open days to get more members and organize fun activities.
To get a taste of London, it’s good to attend some of these events. Perhaps go on a bus tour, see all the 'touristy' places, check out a few museums, experience the nightlife and go 'where everybody goes'. But after that, you should go exploring on your own, as London is much, much more than that.
I signed up to a few societies at university. Through these you can meet many great people and sometimes even gain access to networking and career-related events and placements. I have also made good friends with people I’ve met in my classes, at parties, and at part-time jobs.
The advice I would give new international students is to secure a place in halls of residence in their first year. It is a great way to find friends, and you don't have to worry about learning how public transport works from day one.
Another thing: do not miss your freshers' week. There are not only parties, but also sightseeing bus tours, boat cruises, and information sessions.
Oh, and it doesn't rain as much as they say. It depends where you come from… but I was pleasantly surprised!