Hi, my name is Marco, I am a university student who lived an Erasmus experience in London. I hope this testimony can help you in case you decide to start an experience like mine, in one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in the world.
ERASMUS IN LONDON: WHY IT CHANGED MY LIFE!
- Why London?
You know, the postcards with Big Ben, English guards, red-white-blue flag, London Eye, all those bridges… they have always fascinated me and brought out strong emotions. Since I was a child I have always dreamed of seeing London, living it and, and… why not, enjoying it, but for some reason, laziness, high costs, I never imposed myself: “Com’on Marco, pack your bags and go“. Well, at the end I couldn’t resist the “London calling” and you know: when London calls, not answering is impossible.
- Why is London different?
Life, colours, music, street artists, gardens, markets, the London atmosphere, has a charm that no city do have, everything seduces you. About London, you can fall in love with it at first sight and you could start to hate it over time (or the way around). What is certain is that it will hardly leave you indifferent. It has a crazy dynamism, it loads you with adrenaline and fills you with desire to do every day. It has its own rhythms and offers opportunities that other cities do not.
- What would you recommend to do before departure?
Inform yourself! Brexit, sterling, driving on the left, “food” and high costs are just some of the things to consider and study before departure. Today, thanks to the millions available websites, you can do it in a very short time.
- What advice would you give regarding the accommodation search in London?
Take a deep breath and be patient. Renting an apartment is something unthinkable if you want to do an Erasmus experience.
As an Italian student, I started with a rather limited budget, compared to London standards, with expectations for housing totally distorted. Do you know the traditional London houses, with colored door, ladder at the entrance and the very elegant English green lawn? You like, don’t you? They aren’t for you, due to the costs…
My search for the accommodation obviously started on the web, and after visiting several sites and examining different solutions, I inevitably reduced the initial standards that I given myself. No bidet, yes carpet, toilet in a blind room and bed in the kitchen are just some of the many “wonders” that you will have to accept, if you consider the Erasmus student budget.
Among the several options available, at the end, I chose to rent a room to share with other students and I relied on one of the many existing flatsharing sites, called Room Club. Pay attention! Among the numerous online platforms, that offer you apartments at ridiculous prices with a view of Westminster, frauds are very common (in Italy there is the expression “tutto il mondo è paese!” – it means that some bad habits are common all around the world). I must say that I was lucky, since they took care of everything, even before I arrived in London, I only had to pick up the keys and move with my luggage. If you use other sites, my advice is to search constantly, because in London the vacant apartments are available for a very short time.
- And what about the choice of accommodation and the cost?
London is huge, but well connected. Public transport is quite expensive, but it’s really efficient, Italy have to draw on that . To choose the best solution 2 considerations are necessary:
1 ZONE and TRANSPORT: the city is divided into zones, from the 1 (center) to the 9 (suburb). Rents in zones 1 and 2 are higher, while the cost of public transport is lower. If you move to the suburbs the rents decrease and the transport costs increase.
2 The choice depends on the resources you have: TIME and MONEY. Obviously I suggest finding something close to the study/workplace, since you can really save a lot of time and money. Perhaps, for an Erasmus student it is better to live in zone 1-2, in the heart of the city, the most lively and attractive area where you can breathe the true London atmosphere. Consider that if you were to choose accommodation in the suburbs, what you would save on rent would be spent on the transport pass. Think about it!
As far as the choice of the neighborhood is concerned, it is possible to consult the Metropolitan Police London website, which can provide you with information relating to security in the neighborhoods. I live in Shepherd’s Bush, a beautiful neighborhood in zone 2, full of shops, restaurants and even greenery! If you want to save money, I strongly suggest you to rent a room, to consider spending between 650-800£ and not go below 600£, to avoid finding yourself in microscopic basement. Don’t despair if you do not immediately find your “dream accommodation”, as already mentioned the offer is very wide and is renewed day by day. Once you’ve found the right room, don’t hesitate to show your interest, it could get out of your hands at any moment.
- What about the cost of living in London?
High, very high. Everyone knows that London is expensive. Just think that a pack of cigarettes costs 20£ (around 24€)! Fortunately, I’m not a smoker! Even going to drink a glass of beer or wine at the bar has an exaggerated cost, compared to Italy.
- Have you had problems with the language? Have you had trouble conversing with the locals? Do you recommend taking an English course?
My starting level was intermediate, since I came from past experiences, but London English is totally something else. The accent, called Cockney, at the beginning is quite incomprehensible, but don’t get discouraged, with time you will get used to it.
The advice I give you is to try to avoid fellow countrymen, as you will never practice your level of English with them. It is not necessary to follow any course if you speak in English daily. The advice I want to give you is talking, talking and talking. Get out! Know people! Go to the pubs and talk!
- Was it easy to adapt to the London style?
Obviously not, it took a while. The fact that London is multi-ethnic, however, will make you come into contact with completely different lifestyles and cultures, from which you can learn and expand your luggage, it will open your mind. Many of mine Italian traditions are voluntarily remained intact, such as the home corner, the home-cooked food with love and the coffee in moka.
As for the offer of entertainment, London does not lack anything and certainly does not bore you. Consider also that moving doesn’t necessarily require a car or a scooter (very few people have their own vehicles), but you can benefit from an incredibly efficient transport service. Just think of the Oyster Card, a magnetic card that can be recharged anywhere in the city, including via smartphone, which allows you to use buses, Tube, DLR, trams, MBNA Thames Clippers, London Overground and most National Rail services without distinction. It will be difficult to get lost!
- 5 best aspects of London and your Erasmus experience?
Vitality, efficiency and the London atmosphere are certainly among them. Furthermore the possibility of extremely improving the level of own English and the thousands opportunities offered. I’ve been thinking about moving here for a few years.
- 5 negative aspects?
Surely the cost of living, the difficulty in finding the accommodation, cross the road (the first month was a nightmare, you never know where to look and even after checking you will be wrong, you’ll feel stupid; a little smart tip: read on the ground, it’s written there!), the weather (even if it is not true that it rains every day!) and of course the food (even if in supermarkets you can easily find good quality Italian products).
- Would you like to give 5 tips to other students who are starting an Erasmus experience in London?
1 London is huge, but don’t be afraid. Download the Citymapper app, which will help you not get lost, and buy the Oyster Card.
2 As already mentioned, try not to share the apartment with Italian guys. At the beginning it would be much easier to interact, but it inevitable won’t improve your level of English.
3 Try to find university groups on several social platforms. Enroll and get to know other students like you, who will surely are in your same situation.
Travel, every weekend take the bus and move, visit places, live the city!
On the bus, sit upstairs…
- Would you recommend Erasmus as a London destination?
Definitely! Coming here will give you the opportunity to learn a lot, enrich you and make you grow from all points of view. Don’t miss this opportunity!
- See you in London?
See you in London!