When I left my hometown for London, I was 20 years old and had never lived on my own. Upon arrival in Heathrow airport, I met some of my fellow study abroads, and we rode in a car from the airport through the city to our dorm, laughing and getting to know one another.
As soon as you get to London, be open and welcome to new experiences, and most of all, new people. Within the first day, I met the people that would soon constitute my close group of friends. You will be amazed by how quickly you adapt to a situation so unfamiliar and yet intriguing.
The neighborhood of Kensington was,and is, to say the least, beautiful. The streets are narrow and quiet, and the neighbors are friendly yet mostly keep to themselves. The buildings are old and classic, and the dorm building itself is only 2-3 blocks away from High Street Kensington. You'll spend a lot of time here. Whether it be shopping, pub crawling, or dining, there is plenty to do simply in the surrounding area. Hyde Park, a great place to walk, relax, or play sports, is also within the immediate area. By subway, you are only 15-20 minutes away from the downtown.
Since this was my first time living in a dorm, I cannot sufficiently compare living in Atlantic House to any other experience. It is constituted by four floors filled with dorm rooms, a ground floor with offices and a library, and a basement containing a dining hall and student lounge. I loved living in Atlantic house. Every day, you will see friends and acquaintances walking by, and there is never a dull moment here.
Depending upon your major, class difficulty varies. I took four courses abroad, and they consisted primarily of writing courses. To say the least, I had an immense variety of experiences to write about. My courses were not difficult, yet kept me busy, and contained what I found to be an appropriate level of work so that I could thoroughly enjoy my experience in London.
Each day I went to class. When outside of class, I would take walks around the city, exploring new areas and new neighborhoods by bus and by tube(subway). London is very easy to traverse, and you will have no issue with getting from point A to point B.
In the evening, friends and I would seek the night life. London's night life is the best in the business, and Piccadilly Circus is the epicenter of all the fun. This area of town (likened to Times Square in New York) is loaded with dining, pubs, clubs, movie theaters, etc. I have many wild stories involving this part of town. There are buses that run well into the evening that can take you home. Otherwise, the tube closes at midnight and taxis are available. Be wary, though, they can be expensive.
Of course, if you're not interested in clubbing or drinking, there is still much to do. Plays and comedy shows are always available, and you can spend your time lounging in cafes or in parks. London tourism is always in full operation, so go see the sights. Musical artists and bands are always coming to London, so concerts are always available.
I suppose I should mention the food served in Atlantic House. Well, many of my peers would probably tell you it is not so good. Personally, as a non-vegetarian, I liked the food provided. It is served in a buffet style, though you can only help yourself once, so pile up! They offer an assortment of meat dishes, as well as vegetable dishes. For those of you that are vegetarian or vegan, these options are provided, though not in abundance.
As for the food in London? Don't believe all that you hear. London's food is diverse and you can find nearly everything, especially in Kensington. Whether you're looking for Chinese, Indian, American, Vegetarian, or Italian, you can find it in London.
The staff is incredibly welcoming, and they are there to help you, so utilize their knowledge at any opportunity!
Bring lots of clothing, like long-sleeves, short-sleeves, jeans, khakis, dresses, shorts, flip flops, sneakers, jackets, sweaters, etc. I also brought some books and a journal. You won't need to bring tooth brushes and the like. All of that you'd be better of purchasing once you get to the city. Oh, and bring lots of money! London is expensive, and I spent well over 6,000 dollars there (though you can certainly get by with less).
As for the city of London itself, you couldn't be in a more prime location. It is a place rich with history and life. Not only are you in one of the biggest and most diverse cities in Europe, you are in close proximity to the European mainland, so travel as much as possible!
During my stay in London, I traveled to Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, Barcelona, Athens, and Scotland. Each of these trips was incredible, and I would highly recommend these places as possible destinations.
Go everywhere you possibly can. See everything. Do everything. Talk to everyone. Live each day until your legs ache and your body is forcing you to fall into bed. Then, wake up, and get back out on the streets. Live, live, live, and most of all, enjoy each moment. You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain from an experience such as this.