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Thinking of studying in London? 6 things you need to know

“What you resist persists…”

That’s a quote by C.J. Jung – renowned Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist.

Hi. I’m Julia and in my early twenties I couldn’t stand Nigerians. They were loud, abrasive, overconfident and this particular one named Ajijola stole my position as top student in Business Statistics class when her marvelous presentation received an almost standing ovation from the one lecturer whose grade stood between me and my first class honors. I concluded that I would never befriend Ajijola or associate with anything Nigerian. That evening, my father announced that his employer was transferring him to Nigeria and that we would have to move there.

“What you resist persists…” that’s a quote by C.J. Jung.

After completing my undergrad and working for a couple of years in Nairobi, I decided to pursue my masters abroad. USA and Australia were top of my list. UK was a complete no-go. I would envision vicious winters, men with yellowing teeth and coffee shops that only served tea. I rejected the idea of ever going there. My mother shook her head and said, “It’s the only place where you can complete a master’s degree in one year and so it’s the most economical for us.” Six months later I sat in economy on a flight to London.

Need I quote C.J…?

So here’s a couple of things you need to know about London, which is where I studied, before and during your stay should you decide to head up north…

  • For one, the water tastes awful. Slimy and salty. And it doesn’t lather. They say it’s hard water. And so if I were you I would buy shower gel and not bar soap as is commonly used in Kenya because the former can at least work up a foam. Don’t worry-shower gel is cheap. Also, ‘Volvic’ is the one brand of drinking water that tastes closest to home water.
  • It will be completely overwhelming just how multicultural the place is. As a matter of fact you hardly ever hear the British accent. It’s like all of Europe, Asia and the Caribbean (Wagwan Jamaica!) has converged in London. Because of this, I never felt like a foreigner.

Nigerians too.

  • If you happen to arrive in winter like I did, do not for once think that when you see a sunny blue sky in the morning that this means the day is going to be warm. This is not Africa. The atmospheric ques are not the same. Wear your heavy boots and thick 2 meter scarf regardless. It will still be 3°C outside. Carry your umbrella too. You will need all three.
  • Delete the Forex exchange calculator in your brain as soon as you exit Heathrow. An avocado costs £1.20. It’s preposterous. I’ll let you do the math. But if you keep comparing UK costs to Kenyan ones you will die of hunger if not malnutrition.
  • Beware of using all your change to buy Twix, Galaxy, Snickers and the set of four £1.00 muffins from the warm bakery round the corner. The cheapest foods are usually the most unhealthy. I would cook more and eat out less-helps you save a quid or two as well.

And just to save you the headache, I would suggest these as the top 6 things you need to do as soon as you land:

  1. Open a bank account ASAP- Everything runs via your bank account. Payments for your phone, proof of address, online payments…This is very important.
  2. Buy an Oyster card – this is what you use to pay for transport: buses, trains, the subway… Nothing runs on cash.
  3. Get a London tube map either online (download a pdf file) or from the train station. It’s easy to use and helps you connect to destinations using the London transport system
  4. Download an app to your phone called City Mapper. Works like a charm.
  5. Subscribe to Groupon – great for student discounts (wink*)
  6. However you can do this, SAVE money for summer- everything happens in summer: carnivals, festivals, parades, concerts, trips to the beach with friends-it’s unbelievable the difference from winter.
  1. And just as a bonus, make plenty of friends outside of your Kenyan group. You’re in London for chrissake.

In the end, I came to find out that the ‘viscous’ winter was completely bearable, the men have gorgeous teeth (side note* -there’s MILLIONS of beautiful black men in London. Hi there, I understand your preferences aye) and Starbucks has a student discount on all things coffee –sometimes. Pick London.

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