Coming to London for the first time can be incredibly exciting and totally terrifying – but feeling at home can happen quicker than you think. Here are some top tips to help you make the most of your time in London.
1. Get comfortable
It doesn’t matter where you are from, or where you go – feeling at home starts with a simple question: what do you need to feel happy, safe and secure? Everyone answers this differently, and that’s fine. The important part is identifying things you can do to make the move less stressful.
- Not having to worry about accommodation is a common one: make arrangements well in advance to avoid any last minute stresses.
- If sports make you happy, plan how you will get involved with local teams.
- Need to hear from family and friends? Schedule in time to talk so you’ve always got something to look forward to.
Whichever way you usually spend your time or make yourself comfortable, find ways to continue with it when you get here – it’s like bringing a piece of home with you.
2. Try something new
Moving to a new country often means learning everything over from scratch. They use different sockets. People drive on the wrong side of the street. Public transport seems bizarre, and the language doesn’t seem to resemble anything you’ve learned!
Don’t be afraid. In fact, look for things that are different and you might just find something new that you love. Challenge yourself to try something different once a week if you can:
- London is brimming with cuisines from around the globe – pick one you’ve never tried before.
- Try a class in a subject you’re not studying: language, art, dance or even DIY skills. Your university may run public classes, so check there first (it’s cheaper).
3. Make your own transport hacks
A ‘hack’ is a way of improving something everyone takes for granted – like using a drinking straw to de-stalk a strawberry. Finding your own hacks takes a bit of trial and error, but it’s guaranteed to make you feel like a Londoner – and public transport is the perfect place to start.
- London has a large number of underground lines (tubes), trams, trains, buses and boats, so don’t just stick with the same route: there could be a cheaper, quicker or more relaxing way to get around.
- If you always stick to the guidebook, you’ll only go to places that everyone else does – meanwhile, your next favourite park, shop or sunset view could be just around the corner. Best way to find them? Just go for a walk.
- Figure out which tube carriages arrive and leave closest to platform exits, or which ones always guarantee a seat. Being able to do this on any underground line officially makes you a Londoner!
As one singer once put it: “most of my friends were strangers when I met them.” While the song is probably best forgotten, the lyric is worth remembering. Studying in a new country means being surrounded by strangers. Getting to know some of them is the best way to make friends.
- Choose to live in a shared house or student accommodation if you like to be surrounded by people.
- Join a student society: take up a hobby, help a charity or indulge a passion – and meet people at the same time. See what’s on offer at your university’s Student Union.
- Meet the locals: if you want to meet other Londoners, have a look at meetup.com. There is a staggering variety of groups to get involved in, many of which are free or very cheap.
- Get fit for free: Time Out lists free exercise classes, but there’s lots more out there. Check local notice boards or search online.
The easiest thing to do when you land in a new location is to hide away, or only socialise with students from your home country. Of course, that is absolutely fine but remember there is a big city out there waiting to meet you!
Most students, wherever they come from, are just like you. They are in a new place, they don’t know anyone, and for a few weeks, they’re not entirely sure they’ve made the right choice. London, like the world, is a big and beautiful place. Get out there and see what it has to offer!