In this post, CAPA Alumna Liz shares 5 experiences to have whilyestudying in London to help you get the full experience of being a Londoner.
After spending my fall semester studying abroad in London, I am confident that London is my favorite city in the world. The rich history, diverse culture, great public transportation, and incredible food scene make it a city where anyone can find something they love (normally more than just one thing!). I was very overwhelmed moving to a huge city like London. I attend Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and I’m from a city about the size of Birmingham. That made moving to a big city and learning public transportation a bit daunting for me. However, I want to give you five tips to make the city feel a little bit homier, and maybe you’ll find the one thing you absolutely adore about London!
1. Pick a Random Tube Stop and Go Explore
Okay, okay I know this sounds a little weird, but I HIGHLY recommend doing this. On days that were a bit freer, my friends and I would just pick a tube stop we’d never been to and go explore. We explored so many different parts of London this way. A friend who studied abroad before me recommended doing this, and I think it’s a fantastic way to see diverse parts of London. London is a really safe city, and I personally never felt unsafe, however, always take precautions when exploring a new area. My friends and I always did this during daylight hours, which I recommend. If we hadn’t tried this method, we would have never explored Richmond, which was one of my favorite areas of London!
2. Find Your Favorite Coffee (Or Tea!) Shop
This was general study abroad advice I was given before leaving for London, and let me tell you—incredible advice! I’m a BIG coffee/tea drinker, and I loved having a space that was familiar in a city that was so bustling and often unfamiliar. My favorite place is called Over Under in Earl’s Court. It’s tiny and quaint, and the baristas knew my name by the end of my semester! I have my favorite coffee shops at home and I’m glad I found one in London as well. Having some familiarity is so helpful when moving abroad.
3. Ride The Bus
Riding the bus is completely different than riding the tube (in my opinion). Firstly, riding a double-decker bus is just fun! It’s something that we, as Americans, see in movies all the time. When you live in London, this is something that is feasible and easily accessible. Secondly, a lot of people in London have really long commutes, and more often than not, they have to ride the bus at some point. Many of my colleagues at my internship rode the bus every day and it is slower moving than the tube. I think it provides a good perspective of the commute a lot of “Londoners” make every day. Thirdly, even if you ride the bus to somewhere you’ve been before, seeing the above ground version of that commute is really neat. Instead of just the walls of the tube, you get to see people, homes, businesses, etc. I took the bus a few times in London and I absolutely loved it. I highly recommend.
4. See AT LEAST One Show
Even if you are not a theatre person at all, you HAVE to go see a show when you're in London! Seriously, it’s SO cheap compared to the U.S., and it’s deeply ingrained in the culture of London. While I was there, I saw 9 different shows, and most cost me less than $50. It is incredibly difficult to go see a theatre show in the U.S. for that amount of money. When you go see a show, check out the TKTS box office in Leicester Square. The tickets are super cheap, the cheapest I found in London, and you can get day of tickets. Grab a couple pals and have a theatre night! Recommendations: Hamilton, Les Mis, & The Phantom of the Opera!
5. Explore London More Than Europe!
I know, I know, I know. Traveling to Europe is SO cheap from London, but hear me out. I’m not saying to only stay in London for the whole semester, but I am saying that you should invest more time in exploring and traveling around London than Europe. I was in London for 14 weeks (I think), and in that time, I traveled during our week off, but I only did 3 other weekend trips. I spent about ⅓ of my weekends traveling and ⅔ in London, which personally was a great balance. You are LIVING in London. You don’t want to walk away from this experience feeling like you barely saw the city you called home, and there are so many fun things that happen in London on the weekends. It’s a perfect time to pick random tube stops and explore!
Okay friends, that’s all from me! I hope you love London as much as I do. It was an absolute dream living there and I hope you find these tips helpful as you explore more of London and make it feel like home.
Meet Liz Autry, a Stamford University student studying Human Development and Family Science. She studied abroad in London during Fall 2018 and was a CAPA Ambassador this spring.