I am writing this as Lent Term begins, aka my second term at LSE. Over the past few months, I’ve experienced a life totally unlike what I was used to, so I’m sharing some tips (based on my personal experience) on how to survive your first term at LSE. Of course, some of these may or may not work for you, so take it with a pinch of salt!
Find a good study space
I am incredibly proud of the number of unorthodox study spaces that I’ve discovered. Most people just stick to the library, which is so incredibly boring. LSE isn’t a huge campus by any means but there are a number of spaces that people can study in – if you’re willing to explore. My personal favourites are the computer rooms in 20 Kingsway and the Old Building. Invest some time in checking out the various rooms around campus – they will come in handy when exam season comes around and you can’t find a seat in the library.
Talk to people and make friends
University can feel like a really lonely place. Yes, there are always many people around, but none of them are people you can just stop and talk to when you’re bored. As lectures and classes tend to be quiet, it’s hard to make friends there. Your best bet would be through halls or societies on campus. Don’t underestimate the importance of having a strong support network to turn to, especially when things get hectic and stressful. Besides, university is all about meeting new people, so do take the chance to talk to people of different countries, cultures and ethnicities. LSE is very diverse, so you’ll definitely meet people from all over the world. Most students are friendly enough, so don’t be afraid to start conversation with people you don’t know.
Be prepared for the intensity of spring week applications/general career-mindedness
Before I’d come to LSE, I had no idea of what spring weeks were. It was only in my second week when I first heard of it, but imagine my shock when I heard that people had already started applying! Spring weeks, if you aren’t aware, are insight weeks organised by most big banks or consultancy firms to allow first year undergrads an insight into their firm, as well as a chance to be considered for the summer internship in second year. I knew that LSE was career-oriented, but I didn’t expect it to start right from the beginning of term. Career societies will start advertising networking events and presentations from various firms, and there will be a myriad of events on CareerHub that will intimidate you. Be prepared for this, but at the same time don’t be overwhelmed. People might seem like they have everything figured out, but it’s perfectly okay to take your time and research about different careers. Though investment banking and consultancy jobs definitely are more popular, they are not the be-all and end-all of an LSE education. Take the first term to really find out about the various industries. Apply to a few spring weeks, if you can, just to get a feel of the process, but don’t be too stressed if you don’t hear back, as luck plays a rather important part.
Oh, and do prepare your CV before coming to London. It comes in handy.
Be smart about your money
Living in London is expensive. Living in London as a broke uni student is even worse. If you’re someone who spends without an afterthought, you might find yourself crying at the end of the month as you prepare to starve. Food is expensive, so do try to eat in halls or cook as much as possible. (If you can’t cook, learn.) You can pack hall food as lunch the next day too. Sign up for membership cards at your nearby supermarkets (Sainsbury’s or Tesco, Co-op and Waitrose). Iceland and Poundland are great for cheap groceries as well. Keep an eye out for when restaurants are having promotions. By the way, if you’re on a Three mobile plan, there’s an app called Wuntu that has incredible promotions every week (free meals or coffee, anyone?) It also has the most worth-it contract plan in my opinion.
Transport in London is also expensive, so walk as much as you can. My personal rule-of-thumb is, unless it takes more than 40 minutes or there’s bad weather, I will walk to my destination. It’s also a great form of exercise. Consider signing up for the 16-25 railcard, which gives you 1/3 off train travel and which you can link to your Oyster card to give you 1/3 off Tube journeys as well.
Entertainment is pricey as well, but because you’re a student, you get access to all sorts of membership options that allow you to get tickets at a cheaper price. I sometimes can get tickets for a ballet at the Royal Opera House for £4, and watch plays at the National Theatre for £7.50. Even tickets for West End musicals can be obtained for about £20, if you know where to look.
There are apps, such as Unidays, which provide student discounts to many brands. It may be expensive to live in London but you can definitely make your money go the extra mile by being smart about your money.
Manage your time well
In Michaelmas term, I constantly felt like I didn’t have enough time. Which was weird considering that I didn’t have a hectic timetable, and not too much homework. (Though this varies substantially by course.) I soon realised that a lot of time was spent on inconsequential things, such as walking to and from school, buying groceries, cooking, checking my phone, attending various non-school events, and so on. These can add up into a substantial amount of time that’s not utilised properly. It’s important to manage your time well, and plan your time wisely, to make sure things that are higher on your priority list are finished first. Make sure you get into a rhythm in the first few weeks – that makes everything so much easier.
Travel if you can
The best perk of living in London is the easy access you get to the rest of Europe. Plane tickets can be incredibly cheap, and I would say it’s definitely worth it to travel as much as your budget allows. Travelling allows you to explore beautiful countries and different cultures, and there are so many places to go that you’ll be spoilt for choice. Weekend trips or day trips in the UK are also affordable alternatives, as you will find that life outside of London can be very very different.
With all that said, I hope that this post has been informative and useful to some of you. As Lent Term begins, I will be looking forward to what’s in store for me next term!