I was standing at London’s Heathrow airport with four bags in tow. It was 3pm, and my pre-booked cab had refused to pick me up. I had no relatives in London to fall back on, no Oyster card or a local sim. All that I had was some pounds, an Indian debit card and an Indian sim—with a working internet connection, thankfully. My name is Cherry Agarwal, and this is the story of my journey from a small town in India to the United Kingdom’s capital city.
I was standing at Heathrow airport waiting for my luggage. I had just travelled 18 hours from Jamshedpur to London via Kolkata and Doha. As I waited, I started skimming through my mental checklist (read lost in thoughts), only to realise that my pre-booked cab wasn’t coming to pick me up. I was jolted out of a reverie and thrown into a state of mild panic. I say mild panic because I still had working internet on my side and Uber as the last resort. But I would soon find out that Uber in the UK did not accept cash nor did the app recognise some of the foreign exchange (forex) cards issued by Indian banks, including mine. (It does recognise international debit cards—and that is how I was able to get a ride.) So on the very first day in London, I had learnt my first lesson: always have working internet and a credit/debit card on you. I would also recommend checking with your local bank about apps and services that do not accept their forex cards.
Arriving at Sidney Webb House:
I had chosen to stay at Sidney Webb House Student Accommodation while I pursued my postgraduate degree in Human Rights. The reason for choosing student accommodation over private housing was the value of the opportunity—here I could meet people from different countries, learn about new cultures without the hassle of monthly bills and paperwork. (For those considering student housing, do look up Goodenough College. They offer scholarships too!)
If you are an early arrival, the halls would be largely empty. While this can make you feel lonely, it will also give you the time to explore nearby places, shop for groceries without the fear of missing out. I spent this time reading up on the social reformers and co-founders of LSE, enjoying the beautiful colours Fall has to offer, riding the famous double-decker London bus, and exploring different LSE buildings. Doing this allowed me to familiarise myself with London’s transport system, and prepare for Welcome week.
Welcome week is basically where you are inducted into LSE’s way of life. You’ll get the opportunity to meet your peers, your professors, explore local pubs and markets, and attend local historical tours. (PS: For those looking for part-time jobs, this is also the time when the LSESU also begins posting vacancies on its website.)
With my time at LSE being limited, I am looking forward to making the most of it. So far I’ve shopped at Oxford Street, participated in a protest at Parliament Square and explored two university campuses. Like many of you, it’s my first trip to London and I am looking out for the next adventure.