London, the capital of England, is an academic’s dream, as it is home to scholars from all corners of the world. This beautiful city is located on the Thames River and has been said to be the historic, cultural and business heart of the entirety of Europe. London is home to hundreds of museums and galleries as well as famous and remarkable landmarks (Buckingham Palace and Big Ben to name a few!).
From fun-loving and artistic SoHo to historically dense Westminster to edgy East London, studying abroad in London means finding a home away from home. Whether you’re interested in film, music, art, sports, or business, London will offer an amazing experience unlike any other place in the world!
What makes London a special study abroad destination? For most students, it's that it feels like a home away from home pretty quickly. You might need to adjust to cars driving on the wrong side or learning to use an 's' instead of a 'z' for certain words in your term papers -- but you might also find that yourself enamored with British culture 'across the pond.'
Student Lifestyle in London
Students who travel abroad to London will oftentimes find themselves in a classic British pub. Pubs are the place where Brits gather to drink, eat and enjoy each other’s company. Because pubs do not usually offer table service, expect to order both food and drinks at the bar.
London offers amazing shops including fresh and local grocery stores as well as fancy and fun clothing boutiques. Some great areas to shop are Portabello, Road, Covent Garden and Camden Lock Market.
From Big Ben and Buckingham Palace to the hundreds of free museums and events, London is filled with things to see and do. On top of the sites and attractions, the intellectual and diverse population in London is what makes it truly unique.
Culture Shock & Support
The best part about studying abroad in London is that culture in the U.K. is very similar to that in the U.S. and Canada -- so your chances of having culture shock are somewhat lessened than more 'exotic' or far-flung study abroad destinations.
That said, it's still possible to get frustrated, upset, or even anxious about those British accents, weird spellings, and the lack of peanut butter (or other North American foods). Almost all study abroad programs (whether you're direct-enrolling or going through a third-party provider) have support for students for these feelings, so reach out to your program advisor to get connected with a support system. Also, check your local grocery for the 'American' section -- you may have to pay extra, but sometimes that box of Lucky Charms or bottle of Powerade will be just the treat you need to weather the culture shock storm.
Insider Tips for London
Buckingham Palace, the home of the Queen, is a must see when studying abroad in London. Along with being the Queen's official residence, Buckingham Palace is also known for the Changing of the Guard, where new soldiers in red uniforms and fur skin hats replace the old like clockwork each day. The reverence and diligence of this ceremony is not to be missed.
To get an awesome aerial view of the city, take a ride on the infamous London Eye, the world's largest sightseeing wheel. While riding the London Eye, you may catch a glimpse of Big Ben, the clock tower attached to the House of Parliament. The Tower of London is another sight to see as it is the place that Henry VIII moved his prison site to in 1529. Visitors can take a tour through the Tower of London, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to the many amazing landmarks, London is home to over 300 museums, 200 theaters, and 250 art galleries. London is truly unique in both its quantity and diversity of different attractions that it offers.
There are more study abroad programs in London than almost anywhere else in the world. Once you choose how you're going to study abroad (direct enrollment, direct exchange, or through a third-party provider), London is your oyster! Here are some other logistics to consider.
A lot of program providers will include housing in their package, but some students will need to find housing on their own -- especially if they've chosen to directly enroll in a program. To find student housing in London, UniPlaces is one good website to look at, as is getting in touch with your advisor in London.
Public transportation is the most common and popular way to get around London, so students who travel abroad here will become pros by the end of their stay! The London Underground, or ‘the tube’, is an extremely efficient and inexpensive way to travel. The system may seem overwhelming at first, but it is actually very easy to understand as all the lines are color-coded in accordance with their route/direction. Buses, on the other hand, are a little bit more complicated to navigate than the tube but are also a very convenient way to get around the city.
Once you arrive, get signed up for a student Oyster card. You'll use this to access all public transit at a discount. It's a huge help to staying on a budget in London!
Cost of Living
London is notoriously expensive, so prepare yourself for that now. In the United Kingdom, the primary currency is the Pound Sterling or the Great British Pound (GBP), and it's usually around $1.25 for £1.00. This represents a 25% in your cost of living back home!
You'll feel this impact your study abroad budget from the first day in London, so plan ahead and adjust that budget accordingly. Opt for roommates rather than renting your own flat; shop at groceries for a few meals a week instead of eating at the pub every night; and sign up for any and all student discounts you can.
Students in London require a Tier 4 student visa; it's an involved process to apply, so make sure you get started ASAP once you confirm you're studying abroad. You'll need to apply and provide biometric data (fingerprints and eye-scans) to get your visa. (These are used each time you cross into the U.K.) You'll also need your visa (in your passport, obviously) every time you want to travel, so be sure to keep tabs on that document whenever you're planning a weekend trip to Europe!
Can You Work While Studying in London?
Under the Tier 4 student visa, you cannot work while studying abroad in London. However, there are some special arrangements that may allow you to volunteer or intern, and sometimes you can even receive a special stipend for your time -- but you won't be able to call it work. If you want to intern in London, be sure to look for study abroad programs that offer support with this.
Along with budgeting, students who worry about the cost of studying abroad in London should look into their scholarship options.
- API offers a variety of scholarships for those participating in their programs - and they have two great choices for England!
- The British Chevening Scholarships are funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and administered by the British Council. This scholarship enables overseas students to study in the UK.
- The British Universities Transatlantic Exchange Association offers scholarships of 500 pounds to students studying in England for a semester or a year.