It’s the beginning of August. There’s sun, sea and holiday on your mind, and there’s nothing in the world that can get you out of that amazing feeling of freedom that only hot summer days bring. But you’ve also been admitted to your dream postgraduate programme in London, and as summer turns to autumn, you begin to experience that oh-so-familiar feeling of excited concern. More and more, you find yourself silently looking over the blue horizon, instead of playfully running along the beach. And in those long blackouts it’s only you and your bright, if ever so slightly uncertain future. No, this is not the beginning of a love novel. It’s how most of you feel about moving to the largest megapolis in Western Europe with nothing but your ambitions and your family’s limited support.
Congratulations. You will soon begin your new postgraduate life in London.
How you’re going to fare in the UK’s capital takes a bit of planning, a good deal of mental preparation and even greater amount of digging on the Internet.
Here are a few quick tips to help you get started.
Look for shared accommodation online
Accommodation will be your biggest concern. Even if you start looking for a place to call home while still in your home country, it might take months before you finally move in.
Your business school or university will offer you to stay on-campus, but be prepared to pay quite a bit of money for this option. If your budget is limited, you will be better off looking for a shared flat or house. But since you can’t visit, you can’t be sure if the place will suit you. The solution for this is to find a hostel, or ideally a friend or relative to stay with, and go to London at least 2 to 3 weeks prior to your first day in school in order to have time to look for permanent accommodation.
We recommended that you begin this process as early as possible. Go online, type “shared house London” or “shared flat London” and keep searching. Every day.
Talk to the landlord/house mates on the phone before visiting
Some of the offers online will be very appealing, especially on week 2 of your search, when you realise that it’s no walk in the park to get a decent room.
Be careful of offers which seem too good to be true with no pictures or pictures that are visually dissimilar (read: “look much more awesome”) to others in your price range.
Don’t send any money in advance and don’t agree to any silly contracts and conditions before visiting and seeing the place for yourself.
Instead, pick up the phone, call, and arrange a visit for any offer you find even slightly suitable. You need to reach a critical amount of options in order to make a good choice.
Also, try to get a room in a flat or house with good transport links, or in walking distance to campus.
Get an Oyster Card ASAP
London’s iconic Tube and red buses can get you anywhere, but their fares are stiff if you’re in “tourist” mode.
So why not drop the “just visiting” attitude and save yourself a lot of cash by being a true Londoner with the just-as-iconic Oyster card – the public transport e-card of choice for 9 million people.
Actually, there’s no “why not”. There’s only “will do”.
And that’s exactly what you should do.
OK, you get the idea.
Just buy an Oyster card from any Tube station. If you don’t see the counter, ask the TFL (Transport for London) employees at the station. You’ll recognise them by the blue and red uniforms. They’ll tell you where you need to go.
Speaking of transport, we also recommend that you plan your time well, because, well, London is massive, as the British would say.
Start socialising with your classmates ASAP – these interactions will be some of the most memorable you will have
You must be reading this and thinking to yourself “I came here for lifehacks, not common sense advice!”, but the truth of the matter is that many postgraduate students don’t pay enough attention to the importance of talking and spending time with their international classmates.
Not only will these interactions enrich you, they will become memories to last a lifetime.
And we’re not even talking about the questionable decision to go for just one more beer that one time on Wednesday after lectures.
Have lunch together, have coffee together, go for a walk on a sunny Sunday afternoon (these might be rare in London). Do whatever it takes to get to know them and draw from their experiences.
You will not regret a moment spent in learning about the faraway countries they come from, or the outlandish thoughts on life they might have.
And last but not least, making friends with someone in your situation will help you cope with your own challenges such as accommodation and cultural shock.
Spend some time just walking around – it’s the best way to get comfortable with a new city
Big cities are tough on your confidence as it is, but big, unfamiliar cities can get you to the verge of depression.
Fret not, though, as we’ve got the perfect solution for you: keep walking.
We wholeheartedly recommend that you spend as much time as you can just walking around in London, and getting to know its landmarks, its people, the places that give you a good vibe, and those that don’t.
This is especially useful if you decide to follow our previous advice and arrive in the city some time before school starts.
Live humbly and be considerate
London is cram-full of people, and sharing space with strangers in the tube, at home, and even in the streets is a challenge in itself. If you’ve not shared space with someone before, we recommend that you think about ways to be more accommodating of yours and other people’s habits.
This is especially true when dealing with your room mates.
“Considerate” is another British buzzword that you will probably hear in your time in London, and it’s our last advice. Learn to be that, and you’ll take away one of the greatest qualities that a great city like London can give you.
Postgraduate education is not only an amazing international experience designed to open the gates to the professional world through academic learning.
In the end, life as a postgraduate student will teach you to be a more accomplished person.
About to be a student in London, Paris or Barcelona? We’ve got you some price lists here: Living Costs in Western Europe: Study the Good Life