Before Crossing the Pond, Know This:

In London, The Art of Travel Spring 2015, Tips by Michael Frazier

I was looking forward to this post. Since being in London I’ve had so many amazing experiences, but I’ve also had my fair share of obstacles. I came up with over thirty tips, but have reduced them to eighteen (sorry guys haha).

  1. If you choose to come to London, ask yourself why, and what you want to accomplish. I didn’t realize until a month into the program that I was taking classes with all American students. I realized cultural immersion was important for me, and I wasn’t experiencing that by being surrounded by other NYU students. That said, the professors are British/international so they act as a peephole into the culture.
  2. Consider academics. London’s courses are a huge reason why I chose to come here. The literature courses were up my alley, and being able to study in the city/country that has shaped literature in such an impactful way was exciting. That said, the academics at London are really intense—surprisingly so. It was on par if not harder than my NY courses. I read about 1 book each week for 2 of my classes, and my classes were writing heavy. It’s a meet-able challenge, but some of my courses have really difficult graders—which is nerve-wrecking as we come closer to the end of the semester.
  3. Choosing where to live. I suggest choosing Byron or Guilford, because they are NYU owned dorms. They’re cozy, the community is accessible, they’re close to campus, and are spacious.
  4. BUDGET NOW. Students ideally should know a year in advance that they want to study abroad and thus should start saving. Minimum amount of money to save, excluding flights, travel costs, documents fees, etc., would be roughly 3000-4000 dollars. Plenty of people enjoy their time with less money than that, they either eat very basic meals and travel a lot, or travel very little and live comfortably in London.
  5. Eat out less. There are many cheap options for lunch in London. The free curry guy next to SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies which is next to the senate library): Hare Krishna (Monday through Friday afternoons). There’s 3 pound lunch deals in all of London grocery stores (a drink, a sandwich or salad, and a snack). The residential events plan a lot of events that provide free-and sometimes extravagant—food as well. As a RA I made sure most, if not all, of my events included a food aspect. Cooking in bulk is also a great way to save money as well.
  6. Get out of thee NYU bubble. The NYU bubble goes from Bedford square to King Cross. London is so big, don’t get trapped. Try to visit a new neighbored each week. Go to a museum, a royal park, a pub, a tourist icon, etc. The time flies, and now that I have less than a month left, I’m rushing to do all of the must-do things before I leave.
  7. Sign up for student life programs—on time. The student-life hub planned amazing event this semester, and they really enhanced my experience at London. I took trips to Dover and Scotland, saw Swan Lake and Phantom of the Opera, and even went to see Stonehenge. They give you 100 credit points to spend, and you can use them as you please. Some of my friends went on chocolate tours, took a trip to the Harry potter Studio, went on volunteering trips, curry nights, and much more.
    Student life day trip to Bath, England

    Student life day trip to Bath, England

  8. Join a student club at UCL (University College of London). Their academic schedule is different from ours so do this immediately when you arrive. NYU didn’t give us our passes till March, which was really late. I say try to go to clubs even without your student pass. It’s a great way to meet locals and they’re fun. I went to a Writer’s Society in April, but it was their last meeting before going on break before finals.
  9. Pack warm. London doesn’t get a lot of snow, but it’s pretty cold until the beginning of April. Currently it’s around 50-60 degrees every day. Hopefully by May we will have 70 degree weather.
  10. If you’re an international student make sure you have the right visa. I’ve had friends who couldn’t travel outside of the UK, because they didn’t get their Schengen visa. Be diligent with documents such as these, and prepare for the cost. I had to purchase a Tier 4 visa which cost over 500 dollars (it’s so you can work).
  11. Go to markets. London is market paradise, and I’ve been to ten London markets so far (I think I’m going to make a post on my personal blog about London markets). The food is generally cheaper, and you find amazing things. Vintage dinosaur earrings, roller skates, fried Oreos, Scottish eggs—heavenly.
    Chill dining, street food, and good vibes.

    Chill dining, street food, and good vibes.

  12. Make sure you get a credit card or a debit card that won’t charge you heinous international fees. Chase is rude. They charge you over 4 percent of your purchase when used internationally, and they charge you 5 dollars when you deposit cash. I joined the NYU federal credit union before coming to London, and it was the best decision I made. They charge less than 1 percent and don’t charge me to use any atms.
  13. Consider a student Oyster card or a national rail card if you plan on using public transportation in London or England frequently. It adds up rather quickly. Instead of the tube I would either take long walks or take the bus (front seat on the top gives you an awesome view of the city).
  14. That leads me to say, chose courses that have field trips. I believe all of the courses are required to have one field trip, but be smart and choose something you wouldn’t/couldn’t do at home. The students in the Modern Drama course got to see a show or performance every week. My Shakespeare courses has gone to about 6 Shakespeare productions. The architecture and art courses do a lot of museum trips and walking tours. That said, you may get tired of trips, but just think, when you can do this again?
    Field trip to see Romeo and Juliet at The Globe with my Shakespeare Text and Performance class.

    Field trip to see Romeo and Juliet at The Globe with my Shakespeare Text and Performance class.

  15. Utilize your RA. You may feel independent and self-assured, but the RAs are there for you through thick and thin. NYU London is like a school bus. We are all on the NYU bus and everyone is constantly getting off of the bus to travel, do things on their own, etc. The RAs are the chaperones on the bus, and for those who are on the bus they point out key sights and foster companionship and community. You may get off the bus frequently, but they will always be there to support you when you get back on. To put this another way, develop a relationship with your RA because they are the ones planning events for you. I had students come up to me and say that they wanted to do laser tag. A couple of weeks later we went to a bunker near SoHo, played laser tag, and got gelato—all on res life. So my point is, res-life is there for you; utilize them to the fullest extent possible.
    Went to Space Command in SOHO and got gelato afterwards!

    Went to Space Command in SOHO and got gelato afterwards!

  16. Volunteer! One of my most rewarding experiences was doing the Shine Project. Each week I would go into a primary school—year 6 (age 10-11)—and assist in the classrooms. I adore the students, even though I only see them once a week, I feel like I’ve developed some great friendships. The British school system has a lot going for it—at least from the outside looking in. NYUL does a great job providing you with resources and programs to join. I have friends who worked in donation centers, tutored, fundraised, etc.
  17. Don’t buy your books before coming to NYUL. Byron and Guilford have huge recycled libraries. Students who don’t want to take their books home leave them in the lounge libraries for students to use next semester. There’s over hundreds of books; I was able to get nearly all of my books (and I needed nearly 20) from the library.
  18. Afternoon tea, Sunday roast, and English breakfast. Don’t leave without trying all three!
    I took a visit to New Malden, a heavily Korean populated neighbourhood. Quite nice. I'm addicted to tea btw.

    I took a visit to New Malden, a heavily Korean populated neighbourhood. Quite nice. I’m addicted to tea btw.

Image source

  • Afternoon Tea: Michael Frazier
  • London Eye: Michael Frazier