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How To Survive Being A Broke College Student In London

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at West Chester chapter.

Now, when I first came up with the brilliant idea to study abroad, did I adequately think through the fact that I would be in a different country, by myself, with little financial support? No! Of course not, I was going to be in my favorite country in the world, surrounded by British accents, dark academia core outfits, afternoon tea, and rainy weather. I was more worried about what my outfits would be and what places I need to tick off my London bucket list. I figured I would find my way financially, like I always do. But what a rude awakening it was to arrive in late January of this year, dealing with a different currency –higher than the US one– with little financial assistance. Yeah… it was going to be tough. But I found my way through navigating such a quest with the following tips in mind:

  1. Walk…. EVERYWHERE
  • Before coming to the big city, I was not one for walking around to places. Unless it was for exercise, you could not find me walking down the street for anything. But when the buses are not 100% reliable and you’re in a time crunch to go to class in one of the biggest cities in the world… walking is a blessing, a beautiful one at that! Walking to places like Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, SoHo, became my favorite activity to do in London. The perfect activity to ingest in some nature, invest in some British people watching, and smell the most DELECTABLE treats and coffee shops as you’re making your way to your destination. Walking is a fun, free activity, with some beautiful sights to behold (and great instagrammable photos for your feed!). 
  1. Brita Water Bottle
  • As someone who was used to drinking and going through liters of plastic water bottles in America, I realized quickly that it was not the case in the UK. Fun fact! People in the UK do not do big grocery shopping like we do in America, in fact it is quite the opposite. People go grocery shopping every week with a few tote bags and that is their groceries for the week. Everything tends to go bad faster because there are no artificial preservatives in their foods. But because of this (and due to living on the fourth floor of a student residence) the thought of carrying liters of water bottles on a bus and then walking to my dorm room was just NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Thankfully, before my departure, I invested in buying a Brita Water Bottle, which was a major lifesaver! I did not have to spend any money on water and buying this saved me a bunch, especially when traveling!
  1. Don’t Buy Clothes, Spend it on Weekend Trips!
  • *Sigh* It’s hard not being able to spend your money in one of the biggest fashion districts in the world and not be tempted to just take out your wallet and go crazy, but it is just not worth it. When you live in a city like London and remember you are surrounded by different places in Europe like Ireland, Greece, and Italy…..TRUST! The clothes from Zara can wait. We already know that living in Europe is amazing, but what’s even more amazing is the ability to travel to different places at cheaper rates! Google Flights became my instant go-to for weekend trips as I compared flight rates and planned out trips ahead of time. Sure, it sucked. I couldn’t go wild in Soho buying the most fabulous fashion, but ending up on an island or country at the end of the week sounded so much more appealing! Make sure to save as much money as you can and make it go towards your dream European trip, you will not regret it!
  1. Food Markets
  • In London, I was lucky my program had a class that was literally dedicated to learning about the food culture in London, and because of this, I got to go to some of the coolest food markets in town as part of the curriculum! In class, I learned food markets were a big thing there. They gave small food businesses a chance to shine while also bringing numerous amounts of cultural foods from different ethnicities together. The food market was where I tried my first (and only) fish and chips at Borough Market, and the spiciest, most amazing Chai Latte I had at Shepherd’s Bush. Field trips to these markets were always busy and historically rich, but even more cool to see the various amounts of cultural food options for everyone who came. Food here was also affordable for a broke college student like me. I can wholeheartedly say that it was definitely one of the best classes I have ever taken!
  1. Free Attractions!
  • Here is one of the best things about living in another country: all your social media apps show content from that country specifically, which means you get information from all the events happening there ALL THE TIME! I was pleasantly surprised to find through Instagram accounts and my FYP on Tiktok, that London has tons of pop-up shops and cool attractions for everyone to visit if you have the chance. Sometimes it would be things like art exhibitions, cute photo-ops to do with friends, fashion, and more. I even remember when Penn Badgley (Joe Goldberg from “You”) had a pop up where you could meet him as well, but unfortunately I could not go. Other free attractions include museums like Victoria & Albert Museum, Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, etc. Once again, it is totally Instagram feed-worthy and just surreal to be living in a place with such a rich culture and city life.

Studying abroad in such an incredible place like London definitely made the experience so rich, even with $5 to my name. Truthfully, you can’t even focus on the brokeness too much when you realize “Omg, I’m literally in London right now” because when are you gonna be able to study abroad in such a place again? I honestly would do the experience again, even as a broke college student but also someone who is eager to explore and experience such an amazing culture with so many great things to see and do.

Nikita Chin

West Chester '24

Hi! My name is Nikita, and I’m a senior who is majoring in Psychology with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. When I'm not writing articles for HER Campus, you can find me writing, traveling, drawing, painting, or fangirling over anything that involves romance books or Harry Styles.