An Intern’s Guide to Living in London

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Hi there! My name is Jessica, and I am the UK Programme Intern for the UCEAP London Study Centre. In June of 2014, I graduated from UCLA and two months later I moved to the UK to begin my internship with UCEAP. Since I’ve recently had the experience of moving to London, I’ve broken down my top 5 tips for all of our soon-to-arrive UCEAP students…

  • Prepare as much as you can before you leave…

Seriously, this is important. Read all of the emails Monika and Holly (our Study Centre Senior Programme Officer and Programme Officer) send you, and read the entire orientation website. Twice. I was sent the same information when I was preparing to come over, and it is incredibly comprehensive. All those details that seem so far off now will be very useful to you once you’re here. I recommend printing out any and all relevant information, and packing it in your carry-on, so that even in a worst case scenario if your checked luggage were to get lost, you have all the information you need with you and at the ready.

  • …but don’t expect to have it all figured out ahead of time.

luggage-64355_640London is a massive city, and try as you might you won’t have it all figured out beforehand. And by this I mean don’t overpack! You might think you need six different hoodies, but I can promise you that you don’t. The truth is, you won’t really know what you need until you’re here, and trying to navigate the tube for the first time will be much easier if you don’t bring three huge suitcases with you. Pack the basics, and then you can go to inexpensive stores like Primark to pick up anything you realize you need once you get here. Case in point: I packed five different scarves, and once autumn I hit I realized none of them where warm enough and I had to go out and buy a proper one. What a waste of suitcase space!

  • Citymapper is your friend!

If there is one smart phone application that will help you most while living in London, it’s Citymapper. A few of my friends recommended it, but I wasn’t really convinced until I decided to try it for myself. More than other map applications, Citymapper can help you easily navigate London’s sometimes complicated streets. It can event tell you how much a bus or tube journey will cost, and can help you figure out what time to leave your flat in order to make it to class on time. Click here to read more about Citymapper and other smartphone apps that are helpful when studying abroad.

  • Black cabs are expensive, but buses are not.

london-263671_640I really appreciate the public transportation in London. While sometime the tube has delays or traffic can make for a longer bus journey, the network of buses and trains (both overground and underground) is remarkable, especially for someone like me who had been living in LA for the last four years. That being said, it will cost you some money. Buses are less expensive than the tube, and all public transportation is cheaper than a taxi. Take the time to do your research and figure out what kind of travel card makes the most sense for you: how far is it from your housing to your classes? Is there a bus you can take instead of the tube? There are special deals for students that can help cut down on costs, too. Don’t be afraid to walk either – as long as you’re in a safe and well lit area, walking is a great way to get in some exercise while getting to know the city a little better. And it’s free!

  • If you want to save money and make the most of your experience, take the time to really get to know the city.

Traveling is great, and you definitely have the opportunity to do it while you’re studying abroad, but don’t feel bad about spending the weekend here in London. Even beyond London’s numerous incredible attractions, there are hundreds of undiscovered spots waiting for you to fall in love with them. This past weekend, I went out to brunch with my flatmates and discovered a great cafe just down the road from my house. I’d been spending so much time in central London that I’d been neglecting the opportunity to explore my own neighborhood, and everything it has to offer. In such a diverse, global city, there is always something new and exciting to do and see. Make the most of it while you can!