Trying to decide where to study abroad can be difficult; there are so many choices, and so many possibilities. If you’re like me, maybe you’re drawn to historic sights, quality food, and most importantly, British accents. If that’s the case, London is the place for you to study abroad (maybe it has even already crossed your mind)!
I thought studying abroad in several different places, but ultimately, London stuck out as the city where I wanted to be, and I’m very glad I chose it. You might be thinking, “Sure, she liked it, but why should I go there?“ It’s hard to narrow down all the reasons why London is so great, but here are ten reasons why you should definitely consider spending a semester, or year, studying abroad in London.
1. Experience history around every corner.
London is a city that perfectly blends together its history with its present. It seems as though everywhere you turn, you are met with a place of historic significance or you’re walking the same streets as an acclaimed individual once did three centuries ago. Scattered throughout the city are historical landmarks, so exploring London’s history is one of the best parts of living in the city. For me, as an American, it’s especially breathtaking to explore sites that date from before the U.S. was even a country -- how awesome is that!? Some of the “must visit“ locations include: Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
2. Free museums (and other free things).
One of my favorite things studying abroad in London was that there were so many museums to visit, and so many of them have free admission! You could easily spend an entire semester in London exploring just the museums. From the classic British Museum or National Gallery to the newer Tate Modern, there is a museum for every taste and every interest. Keep in mind, although most museums are free, there may be an admission fee for special exhibits. The good news is London makes things accessible to students by offering concession rates, which are good to look into for all museums and tourist destinations.
In addition to the free admission to museums, there are loads of other things to explore in London for next to nothing. There are a multitude of markets, which offer a variety of items, such as antiques, clothes, and food. Notable markets to explore include: Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill, Borough Market, Brick Lane Market, and Camden Market. Another location of note is the Sky Garden, which gives you a panoramic view of the city, for free! All you need to do is book a time and then you can see all of London, while also enjoying a drink (if you fancy). For another lovely view of the city, take a small walk up Primrose Hill for a picnic, plus a view.
3. Driving? Forget it.
You absolutely do not need a car while studying abroad in London. Between the Tube, the Overground, and the buses (along with walking), you can get anywhere you want in London. The efficiency of the public transportation system makes London the ideal place to study abroad -- no matter where your university is located, you can easily make your way into central London, pop over to Notting Hill for the Portobello Road Market, or head over to Greenwich to stand on the Meridian Line.
4. Parks in the middle of a bustling city.
London is an active, capital city, and yet, you can still find large areas of green all over the city. The most famous of these is most likely Regent’s Park, which leads into both the London Zoo and Primrose Hill. The park is filled with flowers, and when the sun comes out, picnic goers sprawl the lawns. There is also Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, and St. James’ park (among others), that make for perfect spots to escape the hustle-and-bustle of London.
5. The theatre scene, enough said.
If you’re into theatre, London is definitely the place for you to study abroad. There’s the West End, which offers a great variety of plays and musicals, but there are also smaller theatres all over the city that present an even bigger variety of shows. From fringe theatres to theatres located above pubs to well-known shows, London has it all. Not to mention, unlike in New York, most theatres have a decent amount of affordable seats for each performance, so you can afford to see a ton of shows without breaking the bank, if you plan well, and book in advance. (Hint: Sign up for National Theatre’s Entry Pass to have the chance to book £5 to each of their shows).
[Check out this Shakespeare Focused Study Abroad Program]
I know I barely scratched the surface of the theatre scene during my time studying abroad in London, but I’m pretty sure I made the most of all the shows available to me during my nine month stay, and it’s a massive highlight of my time abroad.
6. Tea, tea, and more tea.
I was a tea drinker before I chose to study abroad in London, but after studying abroad there, tea became a much more substantial part of my diet. I had a proper afternoon tea toward the end of my study abroad experience, and it is definitely not something to miss. There are a multitude of options and places to have afternoon tea, and even some themed teas if the traditional scones and clotted cream aren’t your “cup of tea“ (pardon the pun).
7. Travel abroad without traveling far.
The United Kingdom may not be part of continental Europe, but it still offers easy accessibility to the continent. Not to mention, flights are nowhere near as expensive as they are from the U.S., and if you have the opportunity, the Eurostar takes you to Paris in a quick two hours (Insider Tip: if you book early enough in advance, there are also student rates which are cheaper than normal rates).
Not to mention, the train system in Europe is so efficient that travelling from country to country is smooth, and (relatively) easy! Even if visiting the rest of Europe isn’t something that appeals to you, London is very much connected to the rest of the United Kingdom. Just like the public transportation system, there are trains to take you everywhere on the island, and in just a few short hours, you can be at the beach in Brighton, hiking in the Lake District,
8. The diversity of the people.
Studying abroad in London allows you to meet people from all over the world, not only within the university surroundings, but in the city in general. One of the exciting things London is its multiculturalism, and how these different cultures intertwine within the city itself. Not only that, but the British have a phenomenal sense of humor, and you’ll most likely increase your wit if you study abroad in London, the capital of the country with dry and wry sarcasm!
9. Feast your eyes on all the sights.
London’s skyline is famous within itself but walking along the Thames grants you views of the Eye, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, the Shard, St. Paul’s, and many other noteworthy buildings. London is such a wonderful city to explore, and you’ll constantly find gems to delve into or new places to venture to.
10. An all-around education.
Not only are there wonderful universities in London, such as Queen Mary University, King’s College, and University College London, you’ll also get an education in living in a big city, navigating public transportation, budgeting (London is an expensive city, but by no means impossible to live in), and balancing school life with exploring a whole new, exciting city.
Studying abroad in London could quite possible change your life in a myriad of ways.
Obviously, this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the reasons why you can’t miss out on study abroad in London; but hopefully, it’ll give you something to think as you begin your search for all the wonderful cities to study abroad in across the world. Without a doubt, we’ve answered the question of why you should study abroad in London, so now the choice is yours!
Ready to find a program? Here are the best study abroad programs in London to get you started.
This article was contributed by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), one of the largest universities in London with a diverse student body of over 17,000.