My London University Experience – A Foreigner’s Perspective

I graduated from University on the 19th of July 2016 with a BSc in Psychology. It’s been one month since, and I wanted to share a snippet of my experience.

Disclaimer: Every person’s experience is unique.

To better understand my perspective, the reader needs to know a few key facts. I am a Kenyan who had lived abroad a number of years before moving to London for University. I had also visited several times as a child, so I had some awareness of the city. I believe that If I had never had any prolonged contact with a more Western culture, my experience may have been different.

I also never wanted to come to London for University, but as fate goes, it happened. So to start off, I was not particularly excited about moving.

I thought the best way to portray my experience to you the reader, would be to paint you my perspective, in pros and cons.

The Pros:

  • I have always been obsessed with how multicultural London is. I never felt defined by my ethnicity, gender or anything else that could put you in a box. This made settling in a lot easier, perhaps because my energy wasn’t spent on worrying whether I stood out. In contrast, my visits to other smaller regions in the UK at times left me with a feeling of discomfort, like I didn’t belong.
  • Possible the thing I have cherished the most is the transportation options. After living in a country where the only mode of transport was a taxi or your parent’s car (Qatar, get it right!), I have come to appreciate £1.50 buses, trains, my trusty bicycle, and more recently, my totally grown-up scooter. It made me independent.
  • You also have an infinite number of places you can go out to; whether to eat, for a night out, to a museum, or even a festival (Get TimeOut). The options are infinite.
  • Importantly, I enjoyed being an academic at a UK higher educational institution. The lectures provided by City University were enriching. There was the perfect balance of classes and self study, and the research in the Psychology department was phenomenal.

The Cons:

  • Despite having great entertainment options, the infamous student broke-life is real. London is expensive (£12 cocktails? ermmm…let’s just pre-drink)..
  • BUT if you are an economist like me, you will survive. I remember going on night’s out multiple times with only £5 in my pocket, and my oyster card for the all-night £1.5o bus. These cheap nights turned out to be some of the best nights. Not to mention the £10 weekly shops! Budgeting and having a part-time paying job helps.
  • I also don’t think I had your typical University experience, perhaps because my uni was not really campus style. I found it very difficult to meet people I genuinely clicked with. Unlike campus universities which are usually located outside London, straight after class everyone went to their off-campus homes. I felt like there was no community. This may have partly been my fault. I never joined any societies, or put myself ‘out there’.
  • I’m not sure whether this is a London thing or just a uni thing, but when I first started on this journey, I remember meeting dozens of people during freshers events, all vowing to meet up again and ‘stay in touch‘. These were hollow promises, both on my part and the people I met. In hindsight, I should have made more of an effort.
  • To add to this, I was living on my own. Even though this had it’s privileges (Privacy and a clean kitchen), it meant I never really made friends outside uni.
  • My small circle of friends at uni had other obligations and priorities, so I hardly saw them outside of classes.I came to the conclusion that true friendships are hard to come by in a City like this.
  • As a result of all this, I ended up feeling quite lonely and down.
  • Luckily, I had a few close long-time friends living in the UK. They lived outside London and I saw them every now and then. This gave me the opportunity to travel and take a break from the loneliness of the city. I had the most fun during these reunions.
  • I am also very good at keeping myself busy. I immersed myself in my studies (which probably resulted in my first class – bonus), my part-time job and my YouTube channel. Later on, I also had the company of my boyfriend. My extended family was also there, which was a blessing when I missed home and home-cooked meals. When I think about it now, it wasn’t too bad.

When I first came to London, I wasn’t happy. I also faced a few challenges which I have shed some light on. Despite all this, I have to say that I have had an amazing university experience. Partly due to the sense of freedom the city gave me, but mostly due to my close friends and family.

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I wouldn’t be the person I am today, or be where I am, if I never came to this city…

-Sandy x




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