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Living in London or Commuting – which is better?

NU London Student Blog | December 1, 2022

There are many reasons why commuting might be more practical for you if you want to study in London – it’s generally cheaper, less intimidating, and involves less stress than trying to find somewhere to live. On the flip side, living in London has some fantastic benefits. You’ll be living with your friends, you’re spending less time and money on travel, and there is always something fun to do!

As someone who has done both, I’m in a pretty good place to give you an insight into both sides of the debate, and hopefully help you make a better-informed decision. That being said, you should always decide what works best for you. I’ll explain why commuting made sense for me, but it might not be for you, and that’s okay! I am also lucky enough to live close to London which made commuting far easier, but that’s not the case for everyone. I hope my experience will give you a better insight into commuting to university, and help you make a more informed decision!

Living in London – The Benefits:

Starting with my experience living in London, it’s important to talk about first-year living in Halls. I moved to university in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a major impact on my experience living in London, and it hasn’t always been perfect. That being said, living with my friends was an incredible experience. I truly think living in London (or your university city) for your first year is so important because this is where I made some of my best friends, as well as began to understand my degree and figured out the city where I was studying and living.

I moved back to London for my third year, and since the COVID-19 restrictions have lifted, there has been more normalcy which has meant that I’ve been able to truly appreciate living in London. Living in the same city as my friends is amazing, but there are also so many benefits to living in London whilst studying here. The biggest is the amount of time I have saved on travel. It’s so much easier to get around London when you are living here, which gives you so much more time to do the things you need to do.

Secondly, there is always something to do! I talk about this all the time, but London is the most vibrant city I’ve ever been to. There is always something fun happening; for example, at the moment Winter Wonderland is in full swing and there are so many fun things to do! All year round there is something interesting happening, and often you can do things for free (or much cheaper) such as galleries, museums or even theatre shows!

Lastly, being close to university can be much more beneficial during busy seasons, such as the exam period. You’re in much closer proximity to the library, campus and other resources and if you’re someone who thrives in this environment, it can be really helpful to have the ability to get to these places quickly.

Living in London – The Drawbacks:

As with anywhere, though, there are drawbacks to living in London, and you should consider these carefully.

Without sugar coating it, London can be expensive. Actually living in London (eg. groceries or travel) might not be that pricey, but accommodation can be, and it is sometimes hard to find something that is in your budget. London also doesn’t have a form of ‘student area’, which makes it harder to find good, student-friendly accommodation, although there are areas in which more students and young people live. If you decide to rent privately, you usually deal with landlords who don’t have many student tenants, and this can provide a unique set of experiences. Although like anything, there are exceptions and you can find decent priced accommodation with good landlord, you just have to look a little harder!

There are some great student accommodation providers in the city, and often your bills are included in these which can be a good stress relief, but you might be living with students from various different universities. Whilst this can be initially worrying, it does also mean you’ll have a diverse group of friends. London can also be overwhelming, and if you’ve never lived in a big city before, it can feel a bit much. It’s very busy and whilst a lot of people love that, some don’t, and that’s okay. Before moving to London, it might be useful to spend a day or two in the city to get yourself used to the environment.

NU London recommends accommodation to help you find the right option for the right price. Please see our accommodation options here.

Commuting – The Benefits:

I commuted to university in my second year, and there were definitely some great benefits. For one, I saved a lot of money. Train tickets can be very expensive, but they are infinitely cheaper compared to London rent. Commuting also meant I could put a little bit of money away to make this year a bit easier financially, and whilst some people may not have that opportunity, it definitely has helped.

It also took a lot of the general life pressure off me after a tumultuous year studying during the pandemic. Coming home and not having to worry about bills or food or anything else in that remit was a great mental break from the stresses of my first year. All I had to worry about was my studies and work, everything else was taken care of. I was also able to spend a lot of time with my friends from home which was nice and meant I didn’t miss out on socialising whilst studying.

Commuting – The Drawbacks:

I am lucky enough to live only an hour out of central London, but commuting can be time-consuming, and this is possibly the biggest drawback. Having to wake up early for classes and get home late when a lecture ends in the evening can be draining, and it took some time to get used to. You can often be at the mercy of public transport, and if your train is delayed or cancelled, you usually don’t have another option for getting into London on time. It took a lot more planning and consideration when commuting in, and I wouldn’t say this is a huge problem, but it’s definitely something to consider!

It also meant I wasn’t around my university friends as much and meant I had to rely on them if I wanted to stay in the city and be more selective about where I spent my time. As someone who loves spending time with my friends and exploring London with them, this was difficult and I’m spending more time this year making up for that.

Overall, there are some great benefits to both, as well as some drawbacks. Having done both, I enjoyed each year equally, although they were different experiences. To reiterate, you should always be making the best decision for you, and commuting isn’t for everyone. Get as many opinions as possible and make the most informed decision you can!

By Hannah Smith