On going home for Christmas after a whirlwind 12 weeks of university, I feel a peculiar concoction of anticipation, excitement and sadness. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first term, attempting to fill every spare moment between lectures, weekly essay deadlines (who told me first year wasn’t tough?) and society commitments with one of London’s endless assets: be it a spectacular view from the summit of Primrose Hill or 30 something floors up The Shard or an infamous tourist landmark. Despite the crowds and despite the pollution, London has truly captured me and upon departure I am already experiencing withdrawal symptoms from being one of eight million in a brilliantly chaotic city.
Reflecting on my experiences of the academic and the recreational, here are five reasons why living in London has made my initial semester special…
- Unique, cost-free opportunities
Yes, London can be expensive. The rent is *insert animated adjective to describe the ever increasing cost of renting a living space so small it hardly qualifies*. But I knew this when I precariously tapped the ‘send’ button on my UCAS form over a year ago – as did the tens of thousands of other hopeful students. On the upside, as far as your free time is concerned, London is THE place to be. The historic wonders that the museums behold, the collection of priceless art in the National Gallery, the sense of significance you feel whilst sitting in the Commons’ viewing gallery: none of this costs a penny, yet it cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world.
- The ‘buzz’
Knowing that The City is only a few tube stops along the river, that national television is being broadcasted from the BBC studios just off of Oxford Street, or that the state of the country is being discussed in Westminster give me a ‘buzz’ that I cannot quite describe, but I know I just couldn’t find being on a rural or suburban campus university. Living and studying in the core of national business, cultural and political activity serves as a great incentive for my studies and future career aspirations. A little naïve and idealistic I may be, but if I am ever lacking motivation, there sure is plenty of it right on my doorstep!
- Extra curricular activities
Since the beginning of the semester, my department and various societies at my university began organising extra curricular events. This is something I didn’t fully anticipate but has proved extremely fulfilling. There is sure to be something tailored to your interests – I have attended talks on business with speakers from big corporations such as Unilever, on politics with members of parliament, on sustainability, and on careers accessible via my degree with alumni. My highlight was indefinitely a wholly inspiring talk from Evan Davis, a guest speaker arranged by the economics society. Next term I have already secured a place for a discussion that is being held at the top of the JP Morgan building in Canary Wharf. Not your everyday classroom! These opportunities are quite literally handed to you on a plate when at university, and being in London even more so – all you have to do is take them.
- Cuisines of every culture
Ready meal warriors think again, foodies watch your wallets – when in London, the choice of food is just something else. If anything is going to tempt you into blowing your budget for the week, it’ll be Brick Lane’s curry, China Town’s scrumptious bakeries or the many markets’ delicious delicacies. The multiculturalism of the city is reflected in the availability of eateries – you will always be spoilt for choice.
- Social life
Surprise, surprise. As if any realistic discussion of the pros of student life could ignore social events. In some ways, attending a university with multiple campuses fragmented within a city loses out on the benefits of a community feel and large union base. However, there is simply so much going on for students that you needn’t ever feel alone. Student events make for an incredible night at some of the city’s most renowned venues at a surprisingly affordable cost. And where else can a student bar boast panoramic views of such a beautiful cityscape but from the banks of the Thames?
Now the term has come to an end I am seriously sleep deprived. At times I have been a little overwhelmed at the madness and the beauty of London. However I am also very much revelling in it. Needless to say, bring on term two!