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What makes London a great place to be a student

02 Jul, 2018
What makes London a great place to be a student

Former Kings student Ya Gan, who completed her degree at prestigious LSE (London School of Economics and Political Science), shares her thoughts on some of the factors that make London a great place to study.

Earlier this year, London was ranked the No.1 student city in the world by QS. For international students, its diverse and open culture and the abundance of opportunities offered are incredibly attractive.

Having lived in London for 3 years for undergraduate studies myself, what I miss the most about it is what I call "the magic circle of East Asian food" around Holborn and SOHO — affordable and delicious East Asian restaurants within walking distance from school. But of course, that's just my personal preference; student life in London has a lot more to offer. There's something for everyone, whatever you're looking for.

On campus

Universities in London are epitomes of the city itself: diverse, vibrant, and surprising stuff pops up from time to time.

If you’re interested in arts, there are societies for dance, drama, painting among others; if you want to advance your career, there are societies that help you advance your skills and gain insights into various industries; if you just want to mingle with people, there are societies for people from almost any other nationality; there are even societies for niche things like beekeeping, watches and panel reform.

The society I joined and put most of my efforts in was an international youth leadership development organization called AIESEC, which got me into a huge network of students across the globe, inspired me to volunteer in Brazil, and most importantly, helped me find a bunch of amazing people who are sure to be lifelong friends.

There are also many community engagement opportunities. Within the student community, there are peer support programmes and part-time work at the student's unions; outside the immediate student crowd, there are societies like Food Cycle and Student Action for Refugees. The universities offer options for students to get involved in the local communities too, a good example being the Widening Participation programme. It aims to improve social inclusivity in higher education by raising aspirations of students from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds. I worked as a tutor for a year and a mentor for two years in East London and it was a truly an enriching experience. As clichéd as it sounds, I truly feel that I have gained more from this experience than my students, and it really opened my eyes to inequalities that we tend to overlook in this capital city.

Off campus

London is perhaps the place that can offer the most exciting off-campus activities and opportunities for students among all cities in the UK. Musicals, museums, galleries, vintage markets... you name it, London has it.

Studying in London means that touristy spots like Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Tower Bridge become part of your everyday life; my friends living on the South Bank cross the Thames river twice a day for school and my social media feed is always filled with sunset at the Thames.

There are other less well-known places too, which can be more exciting if they are up your alley. For example, if you're into 'hipster' things, a stroll down the streets in Shoreditch or Camden will surely not disappoint.

Also, the city has some of the most accessible and thriving arts scenes in the world: almost all of the museums and galleries are open to public for free, and plenty of shows and events happen just around the corner all the time. If you're willing to pay, world-class musicals, operas, plays, comedies, and concerts are all there for you. There are ways to get cheap tickets as well — I once queued outside the Barbican Centre from 3am to 7am and got a £10 ticket to see Hamlet played by Benedict Cumberbatch and made good friends with people in the queue!

Students in London tend to be very involved in Politics too. From future career politicians in student societies to 'grassroot' activists, there are plenty of opportunities and spaces for debate and action. One of the most unforgettable moments of my time there was the Women's March on London, which gave me a strong feeling of being part of the globalized world and its zeitgeist.

And how can anyone write about London without talking about the food? Contrary to the stereotypical belief that there is no good food to be found in the UK, London offers such a wide range of options of restaurants and international supermarkets that almost everyone can find their home taste here.

Sounds attractive enough? Then why don't you have a look at the Kings London webpage to learn more about studying in this incredible city.