The London side of university

The London side of university

Ellen Sandford O’Neill finds there is more to student life than university.

For some, university means freedom and reinventing yourself. Fresh out of school, brimming with confidence and naivety, you can’t wait to get out there and become a BNOC, with everyone knowing your name after the first week. You eagerly attend the Welcome Fair, signing your name up to a ridiculous amount of societies and attending GiAG sessions and welcome drinks. Your first year is spent in an alcohol-induced haze, mixed with blurry memories of Phineas, Loop and various other mediocre student nights. While there is nothing wrong with spending your time this way, what about the students who feel judged for not wanting to be a stereotypical fresher? The formulaic, campus-centred attitude to university is not all it’s cracked up to be, and leaves many students wondering if there is more out there.

In case you didn’t already know, London is great. Your friends at other universities will try to put you down and say, “But London is sooo expensive!” Well yeah, it is, but it’s absolutely worth it if you know how to make the most of it. When you live in London, you don’t have to make university the main event. It often seems UCL doesn’t consider us all that often, extorting money out of its students, and facing its low student satisfaction ratings with alarming complacency. So take advantage of the position UCL has given you and experience the city you live in as well as the campus you study at. True, London is outrageously expensive, but you’ll probably never be able to live with such freedom and so centrally ever again.

Of course your degree is important; but why not view things from a different perspective? What if your principal activity were living in London, going to university on the side? London is a big place, but the university bubble can quickly start to feel small. It becomes like your hometown, bumping into people you’d rather avoid every time you go out. When you step into actual London, the university bubble and the chants of ‘Burlington Bertie’ seem like a distant memory.

Instead of a night out at Loop, try a late night walk into Soho and get a coffee or a drink at the famous Bar Italia on Frith Street, watching the characters of the West End filter by. Maybe take a trip over to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club or walk on down to the South Bank and see the lights and the ever growing iconic skyline of London. Pick a new area of London to explore, go look at some free art or seek out the sunset from a new viewpoint. London can often seem like a spiky, alienating metropolis, built only for the rich; but it can be enjoyed in the simplest of ways with hardly any money at all.

So, you don’t need to conform to the worst parts of university culture if you don’t want to. At the risk of sounding like a pretentious love letter to the capital…London is there for you, even in its often cold indifference to the human life that mills around the feet of its skyscrapers. It is what you make of it and really is far too good to be wasted.

Featured image credit:

Ellen Sandford O'Neill