Moving to another country for university is challenging as it is, but moving to such a huge metropolis as London is even more difficult. And while the prospective students are usually vaguely aware what they are facing before making the decision, there are things that they can not prepare for. A few international students and me tried to summarise the things that we wish we would have known at the beginning.
One of the most obvious stereotypes about the United Kingdom is the rainy weather. You may think the same as we thought before coming here from countries with completely different climates: “I will get used to it, it can’t be that bad!’” Bad judgement. It gets more and more annoying every day and even if you didn’t consider yourself a ‘sun-loving’ person, you will miss the sun. However, the many great experiences you will get in London make up for it. But don’t expect yourself to start to love grey skies in the middle of May.
You have most likely always known that the life in London is super expensive, but you will never truly 'know' until you live it. So many possibilities, so little money. Travel is expensive, food is expensive, tickets are expensive. But do not worry, there are many low budget opportunities to have fun: many free galleries and clubs with low entrance fee. You just have to know where to look. All the major museums such as British Museum and the Natural History Museum offer free exhibitions. And if you want to experience London’s nightlife, there are several places with cheap entry in Camden and in Shoreditch, for example. And while the life is expensive, the student part time jobs offer greater minimum wages than almost any countries in Europe, so with a little motivation, you will be fine.
Not many cities have as many tube lines as London. At first it seems scary and confusing, but it is almost impossible to get lost in the tube. If you know which stop you need, you are safe. It may be horribly crowded in peak times, but that should be your only concern. It is especially easy if you have CityMapper downloaded on your phone. This app has saved many new Londoners from getting lost in the past few years. There are several route planner applications for smart phones, but I believe CityMapper is the most reliable one.
Making friends in London is easy and difficult at the same time. Everybody is in a constant rush and people tend to only pay attention to themselves. But thanks to the the endless social opportunities, especially for uni students, I am sure nobody will have any problems with it. One important thing that you have to remember if you are not a native British speaker: don’t be self-conscious about your accent. British people are used to it and the others are in the same situation as you are. So don’t be too ‘embarrassed to talk’ in front of people, and never be ashamed of the way you talk. This is not your first language and it’s completely fine.
One more thought about the accent: talking from experience, you may will be hoping to pick up the British accent in a few years. Sadly, most likely this is not going to happen any soon, but in a few months, you will not pay too much attention to it anyway. Usually, while our pronunciation improves, we tend to preserve our unique, original accent. But nothing is set in stone: You can still try!
Other countries like to make fun of the British cuisine and traditions but don’t be fooled. First of all, English breakfast is undoubtedly amazing, and you are not obliged to eat fish and chips every day. Since London is the most multicultural city in Europe, expectably you can find any type of food you want to. Chinese, Japanese, Italian.. whichever you prefer, you will find a nice restaurant to fit your preferences.
Arriving from a smaller, seemingly ‘less significant’ country, it happens to the best of us too that we are daydreaming about running into our favourite singer or actor, casually walking on the street. There are no statistics or science behind this, but I think it is safe to say it is unfortunately not as likely as it seemed from the distance. Although my friend once met Hugh Grant in a restaurant, so.. But I guess this will not be your main priority when moving in anyway!
But jokes aside, university life in London is one of the most fun experiences you will ever come across, so don’t be scared of the location changes and leaving your family and friends. They will be waiting for you at home, and you will make new friends here as well meanwhile having more freedom than you imagined. You will be so busy with exploring the new environment that you won’t even have time to think about homesickness.