Freshers of 2021, these are the top 10 things no one tells you about going to a London uni

To all those – past, present and future – personally victimised by London prices, we salute you


If you’re reading this – congratulations! You are headed to a London uni next term, extremely exciting stuff.

However, after the emotion and buzz of results day has subsided, you may end up wondering how much you actually know, or are prepared for, everyday London uni student life. Fortunately for you, we’re here to share some words of wisdom, and give you a heads up.

These are the top 10 things no one tells you about going to a London uni:

10. It’s okay not to make the best friends of your whole entire life in the first week (or tenth)!

Okay, you’ve definitely read this one before, but London is a big place and it’s unlikely that your uni has a tight-knit campus environment.

Contrary to popular belief, the random handful of people you’re assigned to live with in first year don’t necessarily have to become your besties. Of course, if they do – congrats – this is insanely convenient, but if they don’t, do NOT worry, you will find your people.

London is big and brimming with opportunities. Do what you enjoy and you will find people with common interests just by being yourself in those spaces. 

9. Despite the fact that your uni is probably internationally renowned, no one apart from other London uni students have heard of it.

There are fourty universities in London. FOURTY. Whether you’re at Birkbeck, Westminster, or somewhere in between the A-Z of London unis, you’ll likely have to explain to all of your extended family and friends that you don’t simply go to “the University of London” and inform them that you actually have no clue who “that person they know who is studying at another London uni” is.

8. Everyone, and I mean everyone, speaks at least two languages.

Okay, I’ll admit, I don’t, but I have never not felt like an idiot for it when with uni friends. One of UCL’s entry requirements is literally having a GCSE in a foreign language. And London unis are full of international students. But don’t go hoping you’ll pick up fluency in French, Italian or Mandarin from any of your multilingual friends. You’ll instead learn plenty of curses and useless phrases like: je suis une fourchette (I am a fork).

7. Do not stress out about looking for a house for next year in November, like all your friends at other unis are

This is London kids, chill. The housing market moves nearly as fast as public transport does here. If you desperately need to find somewhere to stay, you can in a week, and if you’d like plenty of time to flat hunt with your friends you can start comfortably in July to move in August or September.

6. Clubbing is more expensive than the rest of the UK

First, entry is spenny. Going back to the club sounds great, until you’re paying a £20 entry-fee for Zoo. Second, the drinks are even more expensive, you’ll never truly get over the first time you pay £5 for a Jägerbomb. Third, even Spoons will break your bank-account, two cocktail pitchers for £18 is a scam which we all fall for eventually.

If you want what the rest of the UK would call “offensively mediocre” prices, your best bet is the Student Union bar.

Intense pres may be the only hope for your bank balance

5. Unless you are London born and bred, you will never be quite prepared for how big the city is

It would take 3065 hours to walk every street in London, that’s around 127 days worth of walking. You probably won’t see every street in the city before your time at uni is up, but you’ll definitely start thinking a 40 minute to an hour walk (each way) isn’t actually that long. Friends at other unis will judge you for this, be prepared.

That said, it’s actually one of the most rewarding things ever when, one day, all the places you went in Freshers’ Week, random days out, uni open days, out drunk and very lost with friends, come together to form a coherent map in your head.

The size of London is overwhelming, it can be isolating, but its also so full of exciting opportunities, events and potential friends. And when that mental map is finally generated, that’s the real graduation of any London uni student! 

4. You will become very unaccustomed to silence.

When you first move, London will seem terrifyingly loud and chaotic. You can barely breathe without hearing someone shouting, sirens or loud music from somewhere. But by the time you head home for reading week or the winter break the absence of foxes and people screaming will make your home town seem eerily quiet.

3. London is expensive, but with conscientious consumption you can save loads

There’s a reason London has a different living wage and maintenance loan limit than the rest of the country – it’s an expensive city to live in! So here are some brief words of advice:

  1. Food: Coffee and lunch out can easily rack up huge expenses – so get subscriptions and plan ahead for your lunch.
  2. Travel: If you’re under 20, get that 16+ tfl card – free buses will save you SO much. And if you have a 16-25 Railcard add it to your Oyster card, that 1/3 off on the tube will make a massive difference!
  3. Activities: Check out all of your universities clubs and societies, chances are that you can continue your hobbies more cheaply with a uni society than by trying to fund them independently in London.
  4. Social life: Nights and days out don’t have to be expensive – check out this guide of London Parks and tourist attractions that you can do relatively cheaply.

2. Public transport anywhere else will drive you insane

When you’re used to being able to leave your flat without having to plan which bus or train you’re getting, the harsh reality of buses running every thirty minutes to an hour back home will drive you insane. Once your first month in London is up, the tube running behind by two minutes will feel like the biggest delay you’ve ever faced.

1. You’ll forget that you are literally living in the Capital

When you walk past global tourist attractions and world-famous museums everyday it’s easy to forget how lucky you are. You’re going to spend your day-to-day life living in the heart of current events, popular culture and history. There’s always something happening in London and you probably won’t fully realise what an incredible city it is until you have to leave (or desperately try to find a way to stay).

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