10 Tips for Studying Abroad in London
1. Splurge for the monthly Oyster car
First things first, an Oyster card works like a credit card for public transport. You can pick up a visitor one from most stations; however, in order to take advantage of the discounted student rate (30% off), you’ll have to get an 18+ Student Card. In order to get one of these you’ll have to visit your student union so that you can be put in the system as a student. Then, visit the oyster card website, upload a photo, pay the fee and your card will be mailed to you. Until your photo card arrives, you’ll have to use a regular one that you grab from a dispensary. The monthly card is still pricey even with the 30% discount, but it will be totally worth it when you don’t have to top-up your card everyday. Also, the zone 1-2 card is all you really need unless you live outside these zones. Most of the big sites (Big Ben, The British Museum, Buckingham Palace, etc.) are withing zones 1 and 2.
2. Drink Frugally
Drinks can add up quickly; especially, when you start “feeling it” and deem it necessary to buy everyone drinks. So, if you tend to be that person try drinking at places that offer a happy hour or student discount. Be At One is a bar chain all over London. Most locations offer a student discount of buy one get one after a certain time every day. So grab yourself a drinking partner and head on down to a Be At One to save yourself some pounds. Another great bar to visit is The Roxy on Oxford Street. On Tuesdays, you can get pitchers for £8.50. There is a small cover charge if you don’t show up before 10 with flyer (£3 with a student ID, £1 if you’re on their mailing list).
3. Cross the darn street
Make sure there isn’t a car coming, and if the people around you cross, cross with them. Don’t get me wrong jaywalking is bad, but you know what’s worse? Being trampled by a bunch of Londoners who are trying to make their way somewhere. But hey, if you’re okay with being yelled at and shoulder-checked remain standing on the corner when everyone else has proceeded to walk.
4. Triple look both ways when you cross the street. Something that will take some time to get used to (still getting used to it) is that they drive on the other side of the road. When you’re crossing the street triple look both ways before you cross. Yes, channel your inner 3 year old and look right, left and right again. You’ll be happy you did when you’re not the one getting almost run over on a daily basis.
5. Don’t buy a burner
If you watch crime TV shows you know what this is, if you don’t, a burner is a cheap prepaid cell phone you can dispose of. While many will have you to believe that taking your actual phone abroad is expensive, there are inexpensive ways to do so. For instance, Verizon will allow you to suspend your service for up to six months which means that you or whoever pays your phone bill won’t have to during this period. Instead it will add however many months you suspend your service to the end of your current contract. Then, when you arrive in London sign yourself up for giffgaff. For £10 a month, you can get 500 UK minutes, unlimited UK texts, 1 GB of internet, and free calls to other giffaff numbers. Now, there are rules to this plan, but it will get you through. Also, download Whatsapp or Viber in order to be able to contact friends or family back home. As long as they have the app and you are connected to a WiFi source, your calls and texts are free. You’re welcome.
6. Do MIND THE GAP
As you step on and off the tube you will hear one thing over and over again. This phrase is “mind the gap.” The announcement is made to 1. keep you from hurting yourself and 2. keep you from making a fool of yourself. As you start to feel you’re becoming accustomed to London life, you will begin to think this announcement is silly and that you no longer need to adhere to its warning. However, you will wish you’d kept minding the gap when you find your foot wedged between a train and a platform. While most of the platforms come right to the train and it only takes a simple step to depart from your car, some stations have platforms with a good foot to a foot and a half between the car and the landing. You’ve been warned.
7. Don’t be that person on the tube
Carrying on with dos and don’ts of the tube. Had a wild night out? That’s fine, but the whole tube does not need to know about it, nor do they care to hear about it. Being super loud and obnoxious is a sure fire way to earn yourself a “those loud Americans” look. Think I’m joking? My friends and I were those people once upon a time, and receiving those looks was NOT fun. Opt for being a little modest while riding public transport. What’s funny is that once you feel a part of London, and you see other Americans on the tube being rowdy you’ll think “loud Americans.”
8. Get out the city
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” You’ve probably heard this quote, and let me tell you it is quite true. There is so much to see and do in London, one could never get bored. However, there are some beautiful places just outside of London that can be reached by a short train or bus ride. The city is beautiful, but so is England’s countryside. Take a little day trip and enjoy the wide open spaces. Grab a tour and head to Stonehenge or try a weekend in Bath, Oxford or Cambridge.
9. Read Timeout
Looking for something to do? Timeout is a great way to figure out what’s going on in the city year round. You can browse by the week, weekend or month by month. This is helpful for those days when you want to do something but you’re not sure what, and for planning ahead. Tight on budget? That’s no problem, you can browse for free events in the city as well.
10. Do all the touristy stuff right when you get here. When you first get to London everything is new and exciting and you’ll be motivated to take it all in right away. The longer you let pass, the less likely you’ll be to go out and see the city. Within the first few weeks of getting here, go out and see all the cliche stuff. You can always go back another time too but don’t leave London without seeing all the major attractions!
For more, read: 50 Things Every College Student should know about London