A year in London: final reflections on my year studying abroad

In Reona’s final blog for THE Student, she recounts the highlights of her year abroad, reflects on what she has learned, and offers advice on ensuring a successful exchange

May 29 2018
a year in london

As May comes to an end, my time in London is almost finished. I only have a week left here – how bizarre that feels.

I remember writing my first blog for THE Student. I was sceptical about how much fun I would have and annoyed that my mother had made me come here. Looking back on the year, however, I can only remember the fun I have had. I am pretty pleased with how things have turned out, and I have absolutely no regrets. (Well, there is one – I should have visited Stonehenge…but still.) So I thought that for my final THE blog, I would compile a list of what I have learned and achieved during my year in London.

1. Learn the city

For a girl living in Tokyo with little knowledge of anything that was more than a 30-minute walk away, I’m proud that I managed to make my way around London by myself. Partly because of the central location of my accommodation (I will get to that later), I could walk almost anywhere.

The university, UCL, was obviously an easy route. Some of the major places – such as Covent Garden, Soho, the Strand, Camden and Marylebone – were all within walking distance. My part-time job took me to areas that were a bit further away, like Acton and Kew Gardens. The random walks and views from the bus resulted in unexpected discoveries, which made me feel even more in love with this city.

This grasp of London geography (even if it is far from complete) is one thing I am going to miss the most. I loved how I could walk anywhere without frantically looking at a map. It made me feel like I was a local. I am definitely visiting my favourite place in London – Waterloo Bridge, which spans the River Thames between the Strand and Waterloo station – one last time the day before I return to Japan.

Catch up on all of Reona’s experiences in London here

A year in London: ‘One of the best decisions I ever made’
A year in London: a bittersweet departure
A year in London: expectation vs reality
A year in London: an international student’s perspective on the strikes
A year in London: figuring out this whole job hunting thing
A year in London: what happens during a careers seminar

2. Choose your accommodation wisely

One of the smartest decisions I made was choosing the halls of residence that I lived in. It has en-suite rooms and provides catered meals, but the greatest perk was the location. Right in the heart of London, within a five-minute walk from King’s Cross and Euston train stations, I could go anywhere without worrying about how to get back.

I have taken many journeys back to the hall at night, using the Underground or the buses, yet thanks to the lively pubs and Euston Road, which is always full of people, I was never frightened on the way back home. The location of your accommodation is critical to a fulfilling exchange year.

3. The course choice – syllabus and exams

In choosing the modules for your exchange year, you should always look at the syllabus for the course description and pick the ones that seem the most interesting.

That is a sound option, especially if there is a particular academic area you wish to focus on. However, it could also be a good idea to choose modules partly based on the assessment. Note the emphasis on “partly”. Taking a module that has no exams but bores you out of your mind is a waste of your year abroad, so select ones that interest you and also fit into your intended summer plans. The subjects of my modules interested me, and I managed to have the whole of April and May off. This allowed me to take on an internship for two months, which was such a valuable experience.

I will not hesitate to say that my year in London has been perfect, and I feel like I have had the best time. Whatever your motivation for studying abroad is, once you get there, it is up to you to make the best of it.

Read more: Why I love studying in London


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