Erasmus in London – Top 10 Tips + Useful links

Erasmus is sometimes sold as the best year of your life; while that may not be true for everybody, it’s certainly true that you will never ever forget your Erasmus year. Here are some tips from Laura about how make the most of your Erasmus experience.

Plus, there’s some links at the bottom of this post that will be super useful if you’re coming to London on Erasmus!

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Having done an Erasmus year myself, here’s my list of top 10 tips for making your Erasmus the best year of your life.

  1. Integrate with your flatmates/classmates. I know from personal experience that it is difficult to integrate when you’re far from home and you just want to stick with other Erasmus, especially those who share your culture and language; however it is important to try your best to mix with the natives. This will not only improve your language skills but will settle you into your new life much quicker, minimising any awkward silences at home and ‘tumbleweed moments’ when the teacher asks you to form mixed groups in class.

 

  1. Buy when you arrive. Try to minimise your luggage allowance and save money by buying things cheaply when you arrive in your Erasmus city. You can buy anything in London; you don’t need to bring much with you!

 

  1. Be sure to take advantage of Erasmus events and join lots of Erasmus groups on Facebook as this is a great way of meeting new people and finding out what’s going on. Also, keep an eye out for Erasmus companies who organise trips to different parts of the country; these are usually really reasonably priced and again, are a great way of meeting people. Most universities will have an international society, this is great for meeting other Erasmus students and they will often arrange touristy trips to cities and attractions around the UK.

3.5. Travel! Make sure you explore the city you’re living in, and also the country. There’s more to the UK than London, we’ve got plenty of other fab cities and they are definitely worth a visit.

  1. Use your SU. Every university in the UK has a Student Union. This kind of institution doesn’t exist at all universities in Europe, but in the UK they are part of a uni’s fabric. Student Unions provide everything you’ll ever need; sports clubs, social societies, events, support, trips. The list is endless, most importantly for an Erasmus student are the societies and sports clubs which will help you to make friends that aren’t other Erasmus students – escape the bubble!

 

  1. Book flights early. Booking your flights early (if you can) will give you something to look forward to if you get home sick. Booking in advance will also save you money; normally you’ll get a better deal than if you book last minute.

 

  1. Try to live with people from other cultures/nationalities. This will really push you out of your comfort zone but will greatly improve your language skills.

 

  1. Be aware that admin week will be stressful. Be prepared! Enrolling for modules and classes at each university is different. During my Erasmus, I found the registration process extremely stressful, as I didn’t realise it would take over a week and various trips to administration. This process can be a nightmare, but trying to stay calm and not worry about it is the best advice: everything will get sorted out eventually.

 

  1. Prepare for culture shock. There isn’t any real way of preparing for this, just be aware that you will experience it, even if you think your native culture and Erasmus culture aren’t that dissimilar.

 

  1. Tandems and Language classes. Signing up for tandems and language courses will improve your language skills and also give you a confidence boost, practising your speaking in an environment where you don’t need to worry about mistakes.

 

  1. Get to class. Be sure to actually attend your university classes. After all, everyone always says the Erasmus year is the party year but you are there to learn as well.

 

OVERALL: ENJOY YOURSELF! Your experience will stay with you for your whole life, and you only get to do it once, so make it count!

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Laura recently graduated from the University of Roehampton. She enjoyed an Erasmus year at the Universitat de Valencia in Spain, and lived with Erasmus students here in London during her final year. Twitter: @Laura_Hodgkins

 

Useful links for Erasmus students in London.

 

www.survivelondon.co.uk – Us! We’re all about providing advice and useful tips to people who have just moved to London, not just Erasmus students, anybody and everybody!

Follow us on twitter @Surive_London to keep up to date.

Finding a Flat in London – What you need to do.

Geoff recently wrote about the process of renting a flat in London, but to do that you’ve got to find one first. Here, Chloe gives some insight and advice into how to go about searching for a place to live, and how to find people to live with.

Before looking for a flat you need to make a choice: how much do you care about where you live and who you’re living with?

If the answer is, “I don’t really care, I keep myself to myself, I don’t want to share your food or eat together or talk about your day at work and how much weight Susan has put on over the summer”, then I’d say take the first clean flat you can afford in the area that works best for you. Job done.
nullHowever, if the answer is, “I/we want a home, want a living space that everyone can inhabit comfortably, I/we want space to create/cook/play music etc etc etc,” then you’ve a lot more work to do.

I’ve just been through this whole stressful and lengthy process and my advice is that if these things are important to you, then you should take the time to first find people you’d like to live with, and then search together for a place that you’d all like to live in.

It depends on your financial means, but most people have two main options when searching for somewhere to live in London: you can go it alone, or you can buddy up.

If you go it alone, you’ll rarely actually be fully alone; you’ll be looking to move into a flat/house share that another group of people have already established.  For me, the main issue with this is moving into someone else’s space and routine. However, sometimes you do find amazing groups of people already living together, and you have the option to join.

If the fit feels right then do it! You don’t want to miss out; these people could end up being friends for life.

Don’t do it just because it’s near work, or the bathtub has really cool bubble jets; proximity and fancy bathing will not make you happy if you really can’t stand the people you live with… After a few weeks or months you’ll be unhappy, be feeling like you want to move out, and therefore have to start this whole process over again. It’ll save you a lot of time and stress to try get it right the first time around.
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Finding Flatmates

If you buddy-up you have the issue of trying to find friends (unless you’re one of those people with hundreds and hundreds of friends.) The solution to this is to advertise online: Gumtree.com/london or Spare-room.co.uk are the go-to sites for Londoners looking for people to live with.

As I see it, when you post an ad, you’ve got two options:

  1. Make it as vague as possible, and get tons of responses Then weed out the weirdos.
  2. Make it as specific as possible and suffer the consequences when you don’t get any replies.

nullFor my partner and I, what worked best was being specific. By doing this you can get all of the awkward stuff out of the way in the advert, quickly can rule out the people that you’ll hate, and by starting out being honest about yourself it ends up being more comfortable for everybody. On the other hand, you might only get one reply (as we did).

It depends if you’ve got time on your side, and if there are things that are important to you. For example, for us it was important that the home environment would work for everybody; it needed to be relaxed, creative and young. This was something we weren’t willing to compromise on.

Of course you don’t have to post an add yourself, you can respond to other ads that have been posted out there. For example, this can be very useful if you’re a member of a minority group, use Gumtree’s search bar to look for like-minded people.

Finding a Flat

Before you start, you should make a list!

Here is the list my partner and I made before be started our search.

–        Oxygen: we needed a place that felt like you could breathe in it

–        Space: we needed to be able to move around the edges of furniture without shuffling, and to practice yoga (we will start doing this…….very soon, I assure you)

–        Good walls: we wanted to be able to hang pictures and we have so many books the walls needed to handle good bookshelves

–        Desk space: we needed to fit a desk in, a big one that would allow us to work surrounded by notes

–        Light: personally, I hate artificial light. I needed a place that had great big windows, that didn’t need to be covered by blinds etc (as so many windows in London need to be for to avoid prying eyes.)

We didn’t get all of these things exactly as we wanted them, but we do have a brilliant balance that works perfectly for us.
nullSo, to sum up, write yourself a list for what you need in a flat, but also do it for what kind of flat mates you’d like too.

If you know you want to be able to share food, write it down and make sure you talk about it.

If you know that the thought of someone owning leather boots fills you with a fiery rage, write it down and make sure you mention it before you move in. If you don’t, and later on you find out that your new flat mate has a large collection of real leather matrix coats, it’s really too late to do anything about all the dead cows’ skins hanging around the place.

If you work nights and need to sleep in the day, write it down and make sure your new flat mate can work around that.

Mention this type of thing in the advert you post, and you wont have to find a way to casually bring it into conversation over coffee – awkwardness averted!

The most important thing is to meet people face to face – in a public space – you’ll know pretty quickly whether you’re going to like living with them, and 99% of the time your gut reaction will be right  – trust it!
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Things I wish I’d known: In the Office

Living and working in a city eight times smaller than London (Bristol, for example), there are certain universally accepted truths:

  • You will bump into that person you’ve been avoiding in the dairy aisle of Sainsbury’s, no matter how drunk you are
  • you will find your way home like an inebriated homing snail, and
  • your corner shop keeper does remember every embarrassing thing you buy…

Small town life – it’s a blessing and a curse. But now you’re off to the big smoke, and everything’s about to change, starting with office life.
Until this point, your working life has probably involved working in a luxury shoebox with colleagues who have the same background as you. Now you’ve got a transfer to a 45-floor building in the City, or one of Silicon Roundabout’s red-bricked basements.

Don’t spend the night before your first day on the job preparing for work. Instead, read our handy guide to the Londoner’s office.

TEA ROUNDS

Hometown: Everyone takes their turn, working to a well-timed system. Your novelty mug is kept warm by the constant pouring of hot liquid. You may contribute to a kitty. One poor bastard is always dealt the devastating blow – finding the milk carton empty.

London: No concept of turns. As the newbie, you’ll be expected to remember the specific orders; tea with the milk in first, tea with a splash of milk last, black coffee, coffee stirred really quickly “to mimic a latte” and a Tetris pile of water bottles. On the plus side, your office provides everything. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a 20lb sack of tea bags.

SECURITY

Hometown: What security? If you’re the last to leave, you’re responsible for locking the windows and setting the alarm. Forget to do it, go to the pub, then make sure you’re the first in on Monday so no-one knows you left them open all weekend

London: Make friends with the security guards. They will be your best friends when you a. forget your keycard, b. need them to let you in after hours when you get caught short in central and c. need them to develop temporary blindness while you carry out a sack of tea…

THE OFFICE MARTYR

Hometown: Exists only in rom-coms. Everyone is honest about the fact they do very little work.

London: Beware the office martyr. Can be seen arriving a convenient five minutes before the boss, owns a collection of coats which feature on the back of a chair in random rotation.

                                    CLIQUES                                         

Hometown: You might have been divided in school, but now you’re bonded by your mutual history. Once-annoying quirks are now loveable office jokes

London: School’s back. Keep your eyes peeled for the jocks reloaded – super health freaks that go on and on and on about their weird protein shake porridge and compete in distance running. The mean girls are back and meaner than ever – point scoring has never been more complicated.
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POWER OF EMAIL

Hometown: Mostly used to share hilarious gifs and images comparing celebrities to cuts of meats

London: Now replacing conversation since 2001. Got something mildly important to say? Email it. Want to announce a meeting? Email it. But just remember this: Everything is recorded. Keep your bitching sessions to private email.
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Have you seen this? Londoners’ 28 worst Office Screw ups… A hilarious collection of cautionary tales; for example, try not to give the CEO of your company a lap-dance at the Christmas party.

Rent London – The Process

Renting in London is expensive. Well, actually, everything in London is mad expensive, but rent is normally the biggest outgoing expense most Londoners have to budget for (freak out about) each month. Whether you’re moving to London from elsewhere in the UK or from abroad, when you start looking for a place to live the price of rent could make you think twice about coming at all.

[[Here’s a helpful Buzzfeed about finding a flat in London]]

Here’s a tip: the sooner you stop comparing the rents in London to those in your hometown, the sooner you’ll stop weeping into your keyboard as you miserably browse flat-share sites.

[[Chloe tells us how to find flatmates (and a flat) in London]]

“Fuck, that much just for a room? In Croydon?! I could rent a whole house in Barcelona for that!” is not a helpful mantra; you’ll do better with “Oooh, it’s got a double bed AND the kitchen doesn’t look mouldy!”
Lower your expectations

So, a quarter of all Londoners privately rent their accommodation, and most of these are under 35 years old – myself included. I’ve actually just done flat-hunting… it sucks, especially at this time of year. Did you know there’s a housing crisis on? Finding a place you like is half the battle, you also have to convince the agent or landlord that you’ll be a good tenant and that they really should rent to you. It’s like the Hunger Games, except the prize is finding a place to live.

So, when you’ve finally found a place to live, that you can afford, with people you don’t hate, in an area that doesn’t scare the crap out of you, that’s only an hour away from where you work, and you’ve somehow managed to convince the landlord/estate agent/dude on gumtree that you are the right tenant rather than the other 50 people who want to live there… There’s still a load more stuff you have to do before you can move in.

Before the flat is truly “yours” – (i.e nobody else can look at it or sign a lease on it) you have to put up the money. This is typically the first month’s rent + a deposit + estate agent/admin fee. This’ll probably total about £1500: here I’m assuming a month’s rent is £500, the deposit is 6 weeks’ worth of rent (£750) and the admin fee could be anything from £50 – £250. You need to have this money available at short notice: there’s nothing worse than finally finding a good flat and then losing it because you didn’t have the money ready.

Wait, there’s more.

You’ll need to provide identification: your driving licence or Passport will usually do it.

You need references from your previous landlord, mostly so they can be sure you’re not likely to smear marmite all over the walls and call it art, or you like to start fires in your wardrobe, etc. If it’s the first time you’re living away from home, or you used to live abroad, or there’s some other good reason why you can’t provide a reference from a landlord, then you need to get a character reference. This can be from your tutor at uni, a family friend, a colleague, etc. Anybody really who can confirm that you’re not likely to start a brothel in the apartment, or have your entire extended family move in once you’ve signed the lease.

You’ll also need a reference from your employer, this is to check that you do in fact have a job and do actually earn enough to cover the rent. If you’re a student, you’ll need to show the proof of your student loan payments. Often, and I hate how unnecessarily intrusive this is, they’ll ask you for bank statements going back 3 months. I’ve no idea how it helps them to know how often you go to Starbucks, or how much your phone bill is, but it’s one of those hoops you have to jump through.

That’s about it! Once you’ve sorted all that paperwork and signed a lease, it’s yours! You can move in! Just try not to think about the fact that you’ll have to do the whole process again in a year… Push that thought from your mind and enjoy your new place!

Welcome

Hello!

Welcome to this brand new site dedicated to providing handy tips and helpful advice to the many thousands of people that move to London each year.

There’s lots of interesting and helpful content coming very soon!

 

🙂