5 Things I Learned in London

Today marks the two year anniversary since I started my year-long adventure in London. While I had hoped to make this post last year on the one year anniversary of being abroad, alas, college and life had gotten in the way and foiled my plans. The timing didn’t really feel right until now, when I finally got a chance to just sit down and reflect on my everything.

I took this picture exactly 2 years ago on Waterloo Bridge

So without further ado, here is my somewhat personal post reminiscing on things that I learned while in London.

1.     Gaining a true appreciation for city living

When I found out I was accepted to study abroad for a whole year at the London School of Economics and Political Science, I was beyond ecstatic. A long time dream of mine was finally coming to fruition. To top it all off, I was immensely lucky to not only be going to school in the heart of London, but also literally living in it (I lived right across from Trafalgar Square). Time was marked by Big Ben’s chimes and the spirit of the city was alive and vibrant, despite the rain and amounts of black/gray that everyone loves to wear. There was always a plethora of things to do around town, new places to see, new people to meet, new foods to try. The energy of London lived up to and exceeded my greatest expectations, and likewise, invigorated my spirit. My eyes were opened to so many new things (people, politics, cultures), and I am beyond grateful to have had the experiences I had while there. To me, there is nothing quite like that quick city lifestyle.

A view I got to see everyday. It sure never gets old.

2.     How to make the most of your money

Being abroad for a year versus being there for a few days or weeks gets a little tricky on the monetary side of things. Not only did I have to open a bank account and deal with an unfavorable exchange rate, but I was now also responsible for handling my expenses completely on my own. There is a sense freedom and independence in that, but as everyone knows, things can get expensive quickly in London, or any city for that matter. Yet, I realized soon enough that London doesn’t really have to be all that expensive if you know how to spend your money wisely. I was definitely not like my other American counterparts who had the privilege of eating out at fancy restaurants everyday or shopping till I dropped, but I did not stop myself from a little splurge now and then (#treatyoself). Instead of eating out all the time, I bought groceries and cooked/prepared meals for myself when I could. Instead of shopping at Waitrose or Whole Foods, I stuck with Tesco and Sainsburys (make use of those meal deals!). I took advantage of the student discounts at stores/attractions when it was offered. And if I wasn’t in a particular rush to get somewhere, I’d skip the Tube and just walk (the bus is another good alternative). There are plenty of ways to keep your wallet happy and let your money go the extra mile. Simply put, using proper judgment can save you a lot, and when you finally do go to that fancy restaurant, it won’t pain you as much to see the check at the end of your meal.

One of my favorite meals while London. Dishoom was worth every penny my friends and I spent.

3.     Managing time, or at least trying to manage it better

Knowing that the British education system is an exam based system, I knew that I could not just brush anything aside. Everything is based on that last exam at the end of the summer term (at least at LSE it is) – so even if you handed in all your classwork, if you fail the exam, you fail the course. Having to adjust to this from a participation/second-chance type system in the US was at first liberating (I hate participating, so really the British system was amazing for me), but also terrifying when you finally understood the intensity and rigor the British system demands of you.

My first few weeks at LSE were frankly more confusing than it had to be. Boiled down, there were a lot of issues between my school back in the States and LSE in terms of course equivalencies/credits. Frankly, I was pissed off that things weren’t starting off on the right foot. Unfortunately, this led me to getting behind in a few classes because I had to switch into new ones a few weeks after our term started. However, the positive thing that came out of it was a firmer establishment of time management. Now that I was behind, I knew there was no room for slacking – and the catch up game was real – it was enough to drive anyone insane. But of course, uni is not the only thing in life, so making sure I didn’t go crazy, I knew blocking out time to actually explore and enjoy/relax was important to have as well. Though I’m still not the best at managing time, the experience definitely forced me to improve – and I can see a vast change even now because of my time abroad.

4.     Learning to let loose

Going hand-in-hand with my previous thought, learning to let go and just have fun is equally as important in life. Being at uni does sometimes stress and tire you out, but there are a ton of ways to take a break in London. The city is literally always buzzing. There’s never a dearth of activities or events to check out. From late nights at the museums to movie premieres/red carpet events (one of my all time favorite things that I got to do) and partying/drinking to trying out new foods, there is definitely something that’ll strike your fancy. It is all within your fingertips, and you just have to go out and grab it!

Some of my favorite things I did to get away from the hoopla:

  • Fangirling at movie premieres at Leicester Square
  • Any sort of event in Trafalgar Square
  • Hanging out with friends & floormates
  • Going for a run around St. James’ Park & Buckingham Palace
  • Simply just exploring and going around for a walk, or taking a longer route back to my dorm from lectures/classes

5.    Travel, travel, travel 

Looking back, London was the perfect place to be based for travel both within the UK and out in Europe. There are a number of airports, rail stations, and coach stations all over the city, so you are bound to find a way to go on your holiday somehow! There are also always a ton of great deals and promotions that pop up (shout outs to Ryanair & National Express). And even if you couldn’t be bothered to leave London, the city itself is filled with an amalgam of things to see. Just like letting loose, learning to explore and dive deeper into the cultures of each area of London provides great insights to the overall multicultural dynamic of the city.

Some memorable places I explored: (there are a lot more, but these are ones that you can read more about!)

My time in London has meant so much to me and has taught me so much more than just these 5 things. I can only look back with the utmost fondness and gratitude – I can’t wait to be back again someday soon!

What are some things you learned while abroad for an extended amount of time? Leave a comment below!

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18 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned in London

  1. Lucy says:

    Sounds like you had a great time there and managed to fit in an awful lot! Despite living there for 5 years I never once went to a premier in Leicester Sq so will have to add it to my bucket list!


    • Radhika says:

      The premieres are so crazy, but a lot of fun if you’re with a good group of mates or if the people around you are friendly! It’s definitely not something you’d really think of doing in London – but it’s a great bucket list item to have!


  2. Sophia Moss says:

    Thanks for sharing 🙂 I just got back to London (I live here) after a month in the USA so this helped remind me how lucky I am to live in this amazing city and how easy it is to get to Europe. Glad you had a good time 🙂


    • Radhika says:

      Wow, that means a lot – thank you for giving this a read! London truly is such a lovely place. I always am raving about public transportation in London & Europe, it’s so much more comprehensive than in the States – I definitely enjoyed the Tube a lot more than I really should have… 😛


  3. dianacechova says:

    I am glad you enjoyed your stay. I have lived for half a year in the UK, 3 months in London like you. I was working there and living in the very suburbs. There are places I love in London, but I definitely wouldnt want to live there. Would you?


    • Radhika says:

      If I could afford to live in the heart of London again, I would do it in a heartbeat! I think I’m too much a city person to refuse a chance to live there again! 😛 But I can see how living in the suburbs might change your mind though, commuting is never really fun (and there isn’t much around the outskirts of the proper city…)


  4. Danielle says:

    I love this! And I can relate when I lived abroad in Milan and Hong Kong, the latter having a favorable exchange rate lol. Definitely make use of your student discounts and ryanair/easyjet.com… and save your student card if it doesn’t have an expiration to use in Europe in the future lol!


  5. Kathi says:

    Moving abroad brings so many valuable lessons – and the ones you mention resonate so much with me! I moved to Scotland four years ago for school, and now I’m still here 😉 Thanks for sharing!


  6. Sophie Nadeau says:

    I used to live in London too and absolutely loved the city (but was definitely happy to leave in the end). London is definitely an amazing place to be in terms of travel- all the airports and train stations definitely made national and international travel easier!


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