18 September, 2014

Things I wish I had known as a student before moving to London part 2

1.       Transport. It’s worth knowing your way around it. Even though you are busy and only here for a short time. I suggest you do some calculations: work out how much you spend and what it is worth buying in terms of travel cards. Buses can be a cheaper way to travel around London than the tube although getting used to the different routes/ times can be tricky also certain times of the day i.e. with more traffic but it’s definitely an alternative worth thinking about and not dismissing.

2.       Getting out and meeting people. London is a huge city with a lot going on but it is very easy to feel lost and lonely at times. Don’t forget that even though students have not already arrived at Imperial if you have classes there it can be a good idea to go to the bar maybe before or after class as bill says in his previous Blog you might meet some British or other international students there. Also I know some of you have been to the ISH bar and been somewhat underwhelmed because not many other students that have started their terms yet, although many will be starting soon, and so there was hardly anyone one there. If this is the case don’t forget that there are lots of different activities that ISH puts on check out their facebook page to keep up to date with what is going on https://www.facebook.com/InternationalStudentsHouse

3.       Sport is also a good way to meet others. Gyms can be expensive but signing up for a cheap trial period is a good way to keep costs down. Gyms usually do introductory offers, and if you can work out something clever out you could just rotate numerous offers so you never have to pay full price membership! Groupon also do gym deals. Look out for cheap yoga listings on the Broke in London website too.

ParkRun is an event held every Saturday at 9am in various different locations. It is totally free: just sign up, print your barcode and go along to join a 5km run round your local park (check on their website to see where the nearest one is to you). It’s very friendly and community-minded, and there is coffee afterwards so you can meet fellow runners (and you’ll see Hannah if you go to the one in Finsbury Park).

12 September, 2014

William’s wayward thoughts on IMMERSION, Part 1

Congratulations everyone. You’ve done remarkable things since your arrival in mid – August: housed yourself in local and more distant places, like trendy Hoxton, Shoreditch and Bethnal Green. Most study abroaders don’t have such choices: some, like those at nearby institutions, are dormed locally. I call them ‘prisoners of SW7.’ Their housing is easier and more expensive, yours stressful but more rewarding.
Image by Wall Gobetz Flickr

Our DIY housing style helps with immersion, i.e., getting to know London and its inhabitants. Around the four week mark every term, we pick up rumours of what’s going on. So far, the telegraph has been silent. We’ve had no news of engagements, elopements, or long holiday weekends in Plaistow, Wimbledon, Ealing Broadway or Cockfosters with the young woman/man from your internship placement, someone you bumped into at ‘Pret a manger’, or, heaven forbid, who was the baritone in Millwall FCs notorious ‘choir of abuse’. I would like to be a fly on the wall when you introduce your parents to ‘THUG’ [real name], the Millwall fan, or Tracy, who has Millwall tattooed on her forehead.

Image by Loren Kerns Flickr
Friday week [there’s a British expression], the 19th, Bill promises, weather permitting, a proper exercise in immersion, playing cricket in Hyde Park. Strollers in the park will stop momentarily to observe our antics.  Dog walkers are frequent fans; if unleashed their fleet footed charges reveal themselves as excellent fielders. Playing the game is an exercise in immersion. It will enable you to chat intelligently about the game which was, apparently, America’s national sport before the Civil WAR.
Image by Alan Stanton Flickr

Cricket introduces you to a whole new vocabulary and rules that seem absurd for those familiar with baseball. AS far as I know, no one can satisfactorily explain the LBW rule. It’s a great chat up line, innocent of gender bias, but penetrating to the core. “Have you ever been given out LBW?” Did the umpire make the right decision? how high up the pad  did the ball hit you? Front leg or back? Unlucky or plumb? were you the victim of a Yorker? a googly? a chinaman? Reverse swing? Where did the ball pitch? Was it a full toss? Was the umpire intimidated by the boozy ‘howzat’ of the slip cordon? Was the umpire blind?

Image by J E Mcgowan Flickr

 Armed with (a) these questions (b) your experience fielding with the dogs in Hyde park and (c)  your knowledge of the lifelong bitterness that accompanies wayward LBW decisions, you will not only become fast friends with Londoners, but you will become their teacher, because none of your interlocutors will understand a word of what you’re saying. If unlucky with the company, you might experience what happens to me at staff meetings with my three British colleagues. When I mention I was again the victim of an outrageous LBW,  they generally stare blankly out the window.

Image by Joe Dunckley Flickr

 Other than joining the royal family [temporary vacancy: morning sickness adviser; permanent vacancy: PR Guru to Prince Charles, I can’t think of any better form of immersion. Sure, by all means hang out at our two student unions,  attend the freshers’ fair, join the pot-holing club. But, getting a sound background in cricket, or joining the royal family might be swifter and better options.

Also quick note from Olivia on he subject of the royal family, as some of you know I am a huge fan of the faux reality show 'Almost Royal' and would highly recommend it. A bit Borat-esque (but much funnier in my opinion): two british comedians play aristocratic siblings Georgie and Poppy Carlton who are on a tour of the USA. It is showing on channel 4 and so episodes are still available on 4oD.

03 September, 2014

Things I wish I had known as a student before moving to London Part 1

1    Everything is insanely expensive and your money will go on the little things, even things as
Photo: Doug88888
necessary as food shopping, so you need to be careful. One or two of you have mentioned that you have been thinking about getting club cards for Tesco or Nectar cards for Sainsbury’s which is a good idea, even though you are only here for a few  months as it doesn’t cost anything and can save you money. Similarly you might want a Boots card, all of these things are good for saving up to buy yourself treats for a rainy day.

The websites Gumtree and Freecycle are very useful for finding cheap second hand or free things that people are getting rid of – just make sure you enter London as your city/region as otherwise you will be paying a lot in postage fees!
Groupon and Wowcher: These are sites you sign up to with daily offers ranging from haircuts and restaurant meals to holidays and helicopter rides. The deals only last a limited amount of time and they send you an email every couple of days with the latest offers.
VoucherCodes.co.uk is a good place to get discount deals for shops and restaurants.
Unidays is a website exclusively for students that gives you discounts online, in restaurants, and in shops. Register and see what deals you can get.
Photo: EchoPlex7
With a Taste Card you can get 2 for 1 on meals at a lot of popular restaurant chains. They’ve got an offer at the moment giving a month’s free membership, so this is definitely something you should sign up for!

As regards food: buy things in reasonable bulk if you can manage to store it and cook! cook! cook! and make packed lunches. The temptation will be to buy food on the go and get takeaways etc but really it is best not to do this.

2   Coffee. As someone who love’s coffee don’t buy it from a big chain coffee shop or even from smaller shops every day. This eats into your money like you wouldn’t believe! It is probably worth making a flask of coffee in the mornings if you have time! And it’s definitely worth investing in some good coffee to keep at home. I like the Columbian (finest) coffee in Tesco’s and, although it is ‘finest’ it will obviously work out cheaper than buying coffee every day. Also a very useful tip from Jess is the free tea and coffee that you can get with a membership to Waitrose supermarket.

Photo: Aleks
3  It is very easy to be in London and not see much of it. Although, as this is part of your Uni work, there should be some opportunities to take advantage of. It is a good idea to make the most of any cheap or free events and/or any chance see the sights. As Samuel Johnson said, “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life”. I will be writing to you in a weekly email  to give you some good (hopefully) ideas about things to do in and around London, but it is also definitely worth keeping an eye on/subscribing to some of the following guides to London:  http://londonist.com/       http://www.timeout.com/london http://www.brokeinlondon.com/ http://londontheinside.com/   http://twentysomethinglondon.com/

One thing that sadly will be a factor in how much of London and its surroundings you get to experience will be transport and the associated cost, for more info on this see part 2 to be posted shortly.
Photo: Doug Wheller
Photo: Andy Bird

Photo: Mark Seton