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How to Make the Most of Studying in London

How to Make the Most of Studying in London main image

By Jenny Scott Russell – Local Leo

London is a whirlwind of a city, it literally doesn’t ever sleep. And living in such a hectic environment can get overwhelming, leading to the very common practice among Londoners of not making the most of what the city has to offer! We tend to head home after a long day of university or work and seek refuge at home. But a bachelor’s degree is only three years’ long, or even less if you’re here on Erasmus or an exchange. Utilizing your time to the fullest is important, but how do you do it when you’re so short on cash, time and energy?!

Read on for my tips on how to make the most of studying in London, let’s hope it motivates you to go out and explore as much as possible…

Take the bus and walk more

Bus in London

The simplest thing you can do to make the most of studying in London is take the bus and walk as much as possible. You’ll get a better idea of the layout of London, save money and see more. Yes, the tube is convenient, but the bus is basically a free tour. Pinpoint areas you want to explore, restaurants you fancy eating at and little pubs to visit at the weekend. Make sure you have an Oyster Card or contactless though, because you can’t pay by cash on London buses.

Maximize your free time

Free time as a student is precious, so try not to spend too much of it watching reality TV or Netflix on your own in your room! Instead, if you crave time to relax in front of a screen, go with friends to one of the Roof Top Film Club locations. Even better, go to the Old Vic with your student discount card and see a theater show for £10. There is so much to do and see in London that maximizing your time is integral to making the most of what the city has to offer.

Join Opera Undressed

Through the English National Opera initiative, Opera Undressed, you can get reduced tickets as well as a pre-performance talk and a free drink. It’s designed to get a younger audience interested in the opera scene but even if you only go once, it’s a great thing to be able to say you’ve done. And you never know, maybe you’ll get into it!

Book tickets in advance

This is regarding trains, shows, concerts, basically anything you need to get a ticket for. If you can, book your tickets in advance to save yourself money. It also means you’ll be able to plan your evenings and weekends and make the most of your free time. Search for good deals online, and London can be very student friendly if you’re thrifty enough.

Accept that the weather can be bad

Accept the weather

In Austria, where I studied my Erasmus, they say ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing’. This is so true and completely relevant to life in London. Invest in a decent waterproof coat with a hood and you’ll be fine. The last thing you want is to be stuck inside whenever it’s raining. You’ll probably end up becoming a bit of a hermit!

Stay in student accommodation

Potentially a controversial one as student accommodation in London can be expensive. But if possible, try to spend a year in student accommodation. It’s the best way to make friends outside of your course and gives you the opportunity to create relationships with people you’re sure you want to live with in the future. Then you can move out together and find a flat share. Student accommodation is a catalyst for fun and being surrounded by similar aged, like-minded people creates the perfect environment to make amazing memories.

Get a Tastecard

Tastecard

Easy enough, just fill in the form online (ideally when they have a deal on sign-up costs!) and wait for your Tastecard to arrive in the post. This gets you 2-for-1 in loads of restaurants all over London which makes eating out much more accessible on a student budget!

Open a student bank account

Super important for national and international students alike, student bank accounts have many perks depending on what bank you go with. Some provide you with a railcard, others even give a Tastecard! But most importantly you’ll get an interest-free overdraft, which is great to have to fall back on, especially when you live in a city as expensive as London. Not that I would advise you to rely on this too heavily, you want to be overdraft free by the time you finish your course!

Spend as much time out of zone 1 as possible

Out of zone one

London is massive and there is so much to explore outside of the central touristy areas. So, try to think of London as different villages mashed together, with every area offering its own distinct character. For instance, East London is nothing like the North or West. You might even find an area you particularly like, I loved Stoke Newington for example and decided to move there!

Get a 16-25 railcard

A railcard gets you a third off train tickets and that includes off-peak tube costs! On a student budget this is really helpful and it also opens up traveling to other parts of the country at the weekends. You can book tickets in advance and with the third off on top it rivals the price of getting a coach and is a lot faster and more enjoyable! That being said, you can get coach tickets from London to Bristol for as low as £5 which is pretty hard to beat!

Download Citymapper

Citymapper is a lifesaver, not only does it show you the fastest route to get you from A to B, it shows you which exit to take from the underground, the cost of the journey and if there are any delays on your way. It makes navigating London an absolute breeze.

Visit all of London’s best markets

Borough Market

I’m talking about Borough Market, Colombia Road Flower Market, Portobello Road Market, Soho Vegan Market and so on! There are so many markets in London to explore and they are always filled with the most eccentric local people and often the best food in the city. You’ll find the bargains of the century in some and visiting a new market is the perfect excuse to explore a new part of the city.

…And free museums

London museums

London is amazing for free museums, with basically all of the biggest and most famous ones offering free entry. However, even the smaller ones that charge, offer discounts to students and London is home to some highest regarded museums in the world. My favorites include the V&A, the Natural History Museum, the Tate and the British Museum. You could spend weeks in just these four so do some research and find exhibitions that appeal to you.

…And parks

Summer at Hyde Park

When the sun is shining, the only place to be is a park. London comes alive in the summer and its parks are at the heart of the change of atmosphere. Regents Park hosts the Open Air Theatre, Victoria Park hosts All Points East Festival and Hampstead Heath is famous for its swimming ponds, to name a few of the great events available to enjoy in some of the nicest of the bunch. Some parks in London also have designated barbeque areas which make them regular haunts of mine!

Enter theater ticket raffles

Cheap theater tickets are not as impossible to come by as one might think! For starters, you need to entre ticket raffles. And if you aren’t lucky enough to win one of those, head down to the theater of choice and in the mornings, as they often sell off unsold seats at a reduced price, even more so for people with student cards!

Invite friends to visit

When your friends come over to visit, you’ll find yourself super motivated to get out and see the city because you’ll want to show off the amazing sights right on your doorstep! Same goes for when your parents visit, you probably won’t do the super touristy sites like London Eye or Trafalgar Square at any other time. Once you’ve lived in London for a while, you tend to avoid these areas.

Go to a summer festival

Summer festivals

As I mentioned before, London has a few great festivals in its parks which are 100 percent worth visiting when trying to make the most of studying in London. Research which one best suits your music preferences and book!

Get a London Library card

There are a few different cards to choose from such as a British Library card, SCONUL Access card or Wellcome Library Reader’s Pass so find out which one is most helpful to you, what libraries are near to where you live and sign up. They are free, give you access to thousands of other books and give you a place to study.

Join student Facebook groups

Making friends in London can be difficult so don’t be shy when it comes to joining online groups. Facebook is a great place to start and if you’re feeling adventurous you can join Couchsurfing hangouts or even Tandem, which is a language exchange app. Don’t get me wrong, I hated the idea of posting on a group like this but keep in mind, everyone is in the same boat when they first arrive and generally, people are nicer than you think.

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Written by Jenny Scott Russell
The author of London-based travel blog LocalLeo.co.uk, Jenny travels the world while working full time in the UK fashion industry. She has a passion for vegan street food and outdoor sports and in 2015 moved to Austria on an Erasmus exchange. She has since graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Textile Design and has visited over 25 different countries.

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