The Bartlett


How to move a long way home to study in London

by Elizabeth Mullner

Two students standing in front of a house with a pile of luggage

Moving away from home can be really challenging as a young adult. Since I did it for the very first time at 17, making a 5,500 mile move across continents, I have some great tips to share on how I acclimated to a new culture and life, all during the pandemic. 

Take advantage of social media and online resources

This is my biggest tip for moving abroad! Whether you’re just a little shy or constrained by a pandemic, social media and online resources are an amazing way to learn about where you’re moving, understand local slang and references, and find new and fun things to do. Watching YouTube videos of what people from my country learned and regretted about their move to London helped me to tune my expectations and avoid costly mistakes. Beyond this, I used social media to make friends and have acquaintances that also attended UCL, which was so helpful because I didn’t know anyone else attending.

Stay in touch with friends and family from home

With time changes and busy uni schedules, it can be so difficult to stay in touch with your loved ones from home, but it’s so important. It's not all that often talked about how isolating it can be going back home for breaks and holidays when you’ve barely talked to your friends at all during term time. Especially because it can be difficult to make new friends in the beginning, make sure you leave yourself some support from home to help encourage you during the process.

Make an effort to not compare yourself to others and their backgrounds.

As a non-selective state schooler, I completely understand imposter syndrome and struggling to feel like you belong at a prestigious university, let alone in your new home. It’s ok to not feel like you ‘fit in’ immediately; it will take time to adjust to such a new environment, but it’s important to remember how many other students in your course share the same struggles. It’s something that will get easier with time as you acclimate, but in the meantime, what helped me the most the first year was to try to avoid joining conversations sharing marks, and know that it’s perfectly reasonable to not want to talk about university all the time with your peers. If you’re stuck with a group that makes you feel inadequate or only ever talks about deadlines, it might not be the group for you.

A statue of Queen Victoria in a royal garden
Understanding budgeting and exchange rates.

My home currency does not measure up well to the pound, and it can be very difficult to balance finances for the first time, especially when many products and stores are unfamiliar to you. I’d recommend keeping track of what you're spending in an app or journal, and over time you’ll learn how much to allocate as a budget. Small changes make a huge difference in saving money; I opt to pack lunch, plan grocery lists, and buy second hand clothes and furniture.

Staying safe in the city.

Moving from a small town or suburb to central London is definitely daunting, and especially because you are far from home, it’s important to look after yourself when you’re out. Not only should you register with a doctor and dentist as soon as possible, but also make sure to note the UK emergency numbers 999 and 111, as you’re likely used to different ones. Beyond this, it’s vital to stick to habits of being wary of your valuables on high streets and on public transport, and going out with people you trust, especially at night.

About the author

Elizabeth is a second year Urban Planning, Design, and Management BSc student. She was born and raised in a suburb of Los Angeles, California before moving to the UK. When not studying, Elizabeth can be found sewing a new outfit to explore London in.

Student posing by an entrance to UCL