Finding your new home in London as a Master’s student

Written by Harsh Gupta, MSc. Advanced Materials Science and Engineering

A couple of days ago marked my nine months of living in London. Admittedly, nine months is not that long but I have learnt a few things in that period. London is a vibrant city, not only when it comes to its diverse range of accommodation options but for its communities that reside here as well. Students can find a load of options in their footsteps. Both student housing and private accommodation offer a range of choices like ensuite and suite bathrooms, shared and private rooms, studio apartments, and house shares. Home students can easily book apartment viewing whereas sites like Rightmove, Zoopla, or SpareRoom help international students to be able to view online their future accommodations, the amenities they offer and their closest links to public transport.

During my hunt for a living space, I was looking for a room to rent in Central London because I wanted to live in proximity to the major attractions, social hubs, and of course, Imperial’s campus. The city is divided into six concentric zones, with zones one and two considered the most central areas. The city has a great transportation system, including underground (tube), buses, and trains, making it easy to navigate the city and travel between different zones. Personally, I wanted to cut my costs for travel since inter-zonal travel can cost up to £5.25 daily. I choose to walk short distances rather than take a bus or tube. Nonetheless, oyster card options have made travel considerably cheaper for the university commute. Additionally, London Overground and National Rail services cover a wider area beyond the Underground network, extending to zones outside central London. Fares for inter-zone travel on these services vary depending on the distance travelled and the specific fare structure of each train operating company. Central London offers major attractions which makes living costs extremely high. To my advantage, I was attending university with my friend, we decided to share a room and in turn, saved significantly on rent. I preferred living in intercollegiate student accommodations; I was hoping to meet students from different backgrounds and the same age group, a combination that would have been harder to achieve through private properties.

Personally, living near grocery stores was essential. Some of the most common supermarkets include Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Co-op; cheaper alternatives include Aldi, Lidl, and Iceland. Living near essential stores such as supermarkets and pharmacies saves time when running errands; this proximity comes in handy, especially during exam seasons.

Choosing a neighbourhood to live in is a hard choice. London’s ethnic communities are an integral part of its cultural fabric, providing a rich tapestry of diverse neighbourhoods.  Most international students who come to London tend to seek the familiarity of their home country in this city. Southall, situated in West London is home to a large South Asian community and showcases an array of Indian restaurants, grocery stores, and traditional clothing boutiques. In South London, Brixton is known for its Afro-Caribbean community and vibrant music scene. Located in the heart of London’s West End, Chinatown is a vibrant enclave that offers a plethora of Chinese restaurants, shops, and cultural events. These are just some of the examples of community neighbourhoods.

The best areas to stay in London depend on your interests and needs. To search for a new home in London, embrace the diversity and richness of London’s accommodation options, explore the cultural enclaves, and enjoy the convenience and excitement of this remarkable city.

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