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The realities of socialising as a student in London

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC London chapter.

Making new friends at university is hard. Thrown into a completely new environment, surrounded by people from all over the world, living on your own, most likely in a tiny single bedroom with a shared kitchen and bathroom. But Freshers is a remedy to all these anxieties, or that’s how it’s presented to be. You go out clubbing, getting wasted on tequila shots and jagerbombs, chatting and dancing with anyone at arm’s length. Supposedly you make friends for life in this week, or at least you begin your web of connections that lead you to your ’people’. But what if it doesn’t? What if the people you meet, you lose contact with within a term? What happens when you don’t like your flatmates and your course is too daunting to even think about speaking to anyone? How will you ever socialise and make friends?

Coming to UCL is difficult. It is like no other university experience. Not only is the work challenging and the days long, but you are also right in the centre of the capital city, mixed in with the true heart of London. Unlike many other small-town universities, or universities that have a main campus, I feel I have experienced less of a student life and more of a working life. Due to the costly nature of living in London, I, like many, have had a job to support myself financially. Whilst being a full-time student, I am also a part-time nanny. My week consists of lectures, studying, and working. I typically work around three to four times a week. On these days, I will leave campus at around 3 pm and return home around 8:30-9 pm. This, as you can imagine, takes up the majority of my evenings when I may want to socialise with friends or attend society meetings. Regardless of having a job, I still find myself with limited money to spend on going out and therefore tend to assign just one day a week when I may go clubbing or go out for dinner. But who do I go with? After losing touch with friends I made during freshers, holding onto maybe 2 or 3 of those first-year connections, I have had limited time to meet new people and begin to build that sought-after web of ‘my’ people. Whilst yes, I do have those 3 friends, plus a couple more from my High School days, they are all separated and so busy, leaving me with the illusion of having no friends or friendship group at all. 

When visiting friends at smaller universities such as St Andrews or Durham, I find myself feeling jealous of the close bonds they have formed with their ‘uni mates’. With established friend groups, themed dinner parties, boyfriends, girlfriends, and drama; my old school friends appear to have all the things which I so clearly lack in my London life. Not only this, but they also all live within a 5-minute walk away from one another, having an enviable ability to meet up, on a whim, with no worries about the state of TfL or worrying about the commute there and back.. They just trot along the high street and in a flash, there’s their friend, and the socialising commences. 

I can’t help but think that, if I had more money, and didn’t need a job everything would be solved. I could enjoy this amazing city, meet new people, and make new friends. Socialising would be easier, I could Uber to a mate’s house if the buses or tube weren’t running. I wouldn’t have to worry about that £40 cab I’d have to take when going home alone after a boozy night at the club. I’d have free time to attend events, society meetings or career networking opportunities. I could go out for endless coffees and lunches and dinners, tapping away on my Apple pay never glancing at my leftover balance. But that’s what you get when you go to a city university.

After venting, and sharing my reality to a close friend from home, she quickly pointed out to me that, although I live in London and have an excess of non-student-related problems, I also live in LONDON. A place where opportunities are endless, where there are early morning run clubs in every borough free of charge, bougie event shifts you could work, using as an opportunity to connect with completely different people. You can find cheaper alternatives, go to little pubs in the corners of London, take just one friend and meet five new ones. Introduce yourself to strangers at the bar (given they don’t seem creepy or dangerous). Move around current shifts so you can attend a university event at least once a week. Push yourself, go to that impromptu event or pub night even if you’re on your own, you might find the friend that turns your life around in the best way possible. 

So yes, London universities, UCL, Kings, Imperial etc, are hard and challenging. They really push you to grow up quickly, and learn to budget and time manage. But don’t look at these things as something taking away from your student experience, look at it like an experience. You get to practice at adulthood for three (or more) years before actually committing to it. There is no real bubble in London like there is at the more remote and small universities. You are exposed to it all, leaving you much more equipped to deal with the real world after you leave the comforting, familiar?