So you have decided to study abroad in London, England. Congratulations! You are about to embark on the journey of a lifetime, and you couldn’t have chosen a better location. One of the largest and most vibrant cities in the world, London is famous for combining a rich history with a growing sense of modernity. Whether you’re there for a week or a year, here are five things you need to know before studying abroad in this incredible city.
1. You will never, ever be bored.
This was something I realized the day I arrived for my own study abroad experience in London. There is always- and I mean always- something going on. At times I felt overwhelmed by the number and array of options! If a festival is what you’re looking for, you’re in luck. There’s usually at least one going on at all times somewhere around the city. Try a variety of international foods at Borough Market or Camden Lock, and peruse the antiques at Portobello Market. Also, the excuse “I don’t have money” can never be used because the vast majority of London’s museums are absolutely FREE to the public. With the unbelievable amount of history within theses museums, you’ll be kept occupied for quite some time.
2. The history of the city is incredible, and well worth exploring.
While the museums I mentioned are great ways to get your history-fix in, you can also find it on just about every street corner in the city. From the little places you may not notice if you aren’t looking for them, (pubs built in the eighteenth century, homes where the likes of Charles Dickens and John Keats once lived, old carriage houses, and more) to the big stuff (Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, etc.), history is, quite literally, everywhere.
3. Diversity is everywhere, and it’s amazing!
With a population of over eight million people, London is a melting pot of people, cultures, and traditions from all over the world. This means that the city celebrates holidays from all different cultures (the Chinese New Year celebration in China Town, for example, is one of the largest celebrations in the world). Additionally, you can find international cuisines on every street. Try out Dishoom for amazing Indian food, or The Churchill Arms in Notting Hill for a traditional pub experience.
4. Take advantage of the massive amount of green space in the city!
Regent’s Park, St. James Park, Hyde Park, Primrose Hill, Hampstead Heath, to name a few. London is 47% green space. That’s a lot! Take advantage of this by visiting the parks for a quiet stroll or a picnic. Throughout the summer, many parks host events such as outdoor movies, concerts, and festivals. The parks are also free to the public!
5. The Brits may be quiet and reserved at first, but they know how to have a good time. They’re also some of the kindest people you’ll ever meet!
During my first week in London, every Brit I met told me they knew I was American immediately because of my smile and loud personality. The stereotype surrounding the British people is true as far as I can tell. They aren’t outspoken and seem quite reserved at first. Don’t try and strike up a conversation while on the tube… you probably won’t get much of a response. But once the Brits start to open up (easily done with a pint or two), they are just as loud and raucous as a group of Americans. They’re also as kind as they come. I never felt uncomfortable asking for directions or advice and I was always met with a smile and a kind, helpful response. In short, make lots of British friends!
Natalie is a senior at the University of Kentucky double majoring in Secondary English Education and English with a minor in Psychology. She studied abroad during her junior year in the beautiful London, England at King’s College.