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Five tips for settling into London life as an international student

London Bridge © Mat Wright

By Hansika Jethnani 4 March 2016

Hansika Jethnani is an Indonesian student studying BA Photography at the University of The Arts London who has been selected to be a student journalist for the Education UK website. Here she shares her tips for overcoming homesickness in London as an international student.

It’s easy to feel lost entering a new environment as an international student. As diverse as London is, moving away from home on your own to completely new surroundings is definitely nerve wrecking. Thankfully, the city has so much to offer and places to see that it is easy to keep yourself from being homesick.

Join a social group like a society or club at your university or a Meetup group

This will allow you to broaden your network of friends while also giving you the opportunity to learn something new. Generally universities have a lot of country related societies, so you can easily find a piece of home! On the other hand, Meetup is like joining a society but including people from the whole of London instead of just from your university.  From The Movie Meet Up Group to The Philosophy Club - you can find something you’re interested in whilst meeting people from across the city!

Embrace pub culture

English people love their pubs, and a great way to fit in to the culture here is to be a part of it. Don’t worry if you are not a big drinker, everyone here loves tea and it is served in pubs! There are numerous pubs and bars along every street - I guarantee you will never have to walk for 20 minutes before reaching one. Chill out with new friends you’re making and try a Sunday Roast - a traditional British meal consisting of roasted meat, roast potato, with accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, vegetables and gravy. (Super delicious!)

Have yourself a cup of tea

You may have already heard about how British people love their tea. There are many different eateries and cafes that have tea and often a special afternoon tea menu too which includes an array of cakes, sandwiches and, of course, scones - a wonderful traditional British delicacy. Delving into the food is a fun way of learning more about the culture, plus it’s also a great way to hang out with your new friends.

Delve into the extravagant art scene of London

Did you know that most of London’s museums are free? From the Victoria & Albert Museum, to the Science Museum to the Natural History Museum to Tate Modern you’ll find yourself submerged in art, history, culture and innovation from the olden days all the way to the 21st century. From learning about the developments in contemporary science, medicine and technology to falling in love with surrealist, minimalistic and abstract artworks from classics like Matisse at the Tate Modern; there’s always a museum to go to relating to your interests.

The larger museums such as the British Museum and The Royal Academy of Art host really cool events called ‘Lates’, where the current exhibition of the museum comes to live through various performances and installations - it is truly an extravagant part of the art scene in London.

There are also plenty of galleries around London, from the Serpentine Gallery to the Photographers Gallery, where workshops and talks are organised. You’ll always be surrounded by art in London - there is street art everywhere especially in Brick Lane - one of the hip areas of town.

Explore the funky markets

London has so many wonderful markets, from the Borough Market where you can get the most delicious food, to the Portobello Road Market where you can buy fancy antiques; there’s so much to see, explore, and try! Every Sunday, Brick Lane has a food market where they sell a Pad Thai Omelette (how innovative is that?!). It is definitely a must-try for the foodies.

It’s always hard being away from home but London is such that, no matter where in the world you are from, you will always be able to find a piece of home. London is a sublime mix of cultures; there is a part of almost every other country in the world engraved in London somewhere. Through exploring markets, eateries, museums, and making friends, you will come across people from various ethnic backgrounds, and learn so much about their culture. It is impossible to get bored when you’re living in a city like this. From places like Chinatown to the massive Nigerian community in South London, to feeling like you’re in India in Southall, you will never fail to find something new to try outside of the English culture.

London constantly inspires you; it never fails to surprise, and when you live here you’ll never want to leave. Although you may sometimes need a break from the hustle and bustle and escape to the countryside, you will always long to return. Its efficiency, richness in different cultures and history will keep you coming back for more, for when you are in London, you truly feel like you are a part of this world.

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