4 Realities of Student Life in the City | Top Universities

4 Realities of Student Life in the City

By Laura Tucker

Updated March 6, 2016 Updated March 6, 2016

If you’ve not lived in a city before, moving to one for your degree will be a massive change. Whether it’s Paris or London, New York or Hong Kong, a few things about city living are universal and not necessarily as glamorous as the bright lights at first appear. (But since when has student life been glamorous?)

Moving out of my small home town in rural England, where the only cultural event was the annual local tractor fair, and into a place like London where there are more opportunities and things to do than there are pigeons – and my God, there are a lot of pigeons – was one of the best decisions my pre-university self ever made.

City living is not for everyone however, so here are a few examples of what you’ll have to get used to if you are to enjoy your time studying in one.

1. City life never slows down. Ever.

The pace of city life is something you’ll pick up on as soon as you step off any mode of public transport any day of the working week. You’ll soon see that your fellow city dwellers are completely ready to brutally elbow vast amounts of tourists out of their way to get to wherever they need to be.

In order not to get crushed under a million corporate, highly-polished shoes on your way to lectures, you’ll be forced to walk at a pace similar to a jog at all times. The mantra ‘don’t be a tourist’ is pretty much ingrained into my London way of thinking after studying here for three years and now if I so much as hesitate on the left side of an escalator I have the urge to push myself down it.

It may sound like an aggressively stressful way of living – and it definitely can be – but in many ways city life is perfect for students because it offers a diversity and liveliness that is incredibly motivating for young people still figuring out what they want to do.

2. You’ll never get a quiet weekend.

Cities are heaving with people for a reason; they’re hubs of culture, talent, economy and creativity, but, because of this, they can often feel overwhelming to live in due to the deluges of tourists that visit, especially on weekends or school holidays.

You’ve most likely visited the city you’re interested in studying in before, but unless you’ve stayed for much longer than a weekend at a time then you probably haven’t experienced real city life. The good news is that cities get better and better with time. Once you realize all tourist hotspots should be avoided like the plague on a Saturday and Sunday, I guarantee you that life will begin to look a little bit brighter away from the shadows of a thousand Japanese college students blocking the entrance to Oxford Street tube station.

As a student you’ll probably the time and flexibility, in between lectures, coursework and any part-time job you may have, to explore your city at its quietest. The best thing is, you have three or more years to do this so you can afford to wander down new streets without any set destination, and without having to worry about hotels or suitcases or missing your train.

3. City life can feel lonely.

Often big cities are regarded as the loneliest places in the world despite the masses of people. However, combining city life with student life should mean you have a ready-made community, and the chance to meet many new people from all walks of life who won’t think you’re a weirdo for chatting to them outside of lectures.

Take this chance and run with it, because once you finish your course you’ll be just another stranger on the street trying to chat to people about Dickens or Euclid. Hopefully by then, you’ll have developed a wide network of friends and it won’t have to come to that!

4. Your student loan will barely cover the essentials.

Whether based in a city or not, student life is generally characterized by a lack of surplus funds – even if you get a student loan or grant, it probably won’t last long. So if you’re planning on combining studies with a big city location, you’ll have to prepare yourself for termly panics when you recurrently realize that you have a meager five-fifty to last you a week and a half. And when you’re living somewhere where a return tube journey can cost you this much, then things get tough.

Luckily, cities tend to give back in terms of job prospects. There are thousands of flexible jobs available for students who are willing to work part-time in between their studies, often for better than minimum wage. If you have past experience in any sort of job back home then you should fairly easily be able to find work in, for example, retail, events or catering – trades which are forever booming in the city. If you are willing to work hard then not only will you be able to socialize with people outside of your studies, but you’ll also be able to afford to.

Do you love the idea of student life in a big city? Tell us in the comments below.

This article was originally published in November 2013 . It was last updated in March 2016

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