Student Life & Why You should Participate

Quote

I believe I am paraphrasing Woody Allen when I am saying that 80 percent of life is just showing up.

Although I just had a discussion way too early in the morning in my kitchen regarding the exact extent to which this statement rings true, I am sure there is a lot of truth in it when you apply the sentiment to university life – especially the first few weeks!

The thought of studying in a big city can be daunting at times and I get that, possibly feeling lost in the anonymity of the crowds flooding the metropolis, and as strange as it might sound, the trick is to immerse yourself in it… the craze, the buzz, the pulse – hey, just dive right in. When you start your course you’re not all by yourself anyway! King’s in one way or another is an anchor, a community for you to make friends and even explore things outside of your field of study.

Find yourself in the heart of the city – make the most of your time at King’s!

King’s will throw a lot of event opportunities at you: department mixers, subject discussions, career workshops, sector insights talks, society events, you name it. Your social calendar (and I mean social in a very loose sense, after all social and academic / professional greatly overlap here) can be as full as you like and I really do encourage you to keep yourself busy! This is where Woody comes back in again: show up, that’s all I’m saying. Things will also calm down as term goes by, so it won’t always be as hectic as the first handful of weeks, but it’s a wonderful time window for you to meet lots and lots of new people and discover what uni life has to offer.

Even if socialising with people you have never met before isn’t your favourite thing to do, I still encourage you to give it a chance! Let’s say you attend a welcome drinks event hosted by your new department, these two scenarios are very likely to happen:

Option A: You are quite the extrovert and you spend the evening happily engaging with new peers, perfect!

Option B: You feel a bit alone in this unfamiliar situation, but guess what, you are definitely not the only person who feels this way, so spot your allies at the event. You can bond over mutual perceived awkwardness. Oh, and it’s always a smart move to congregate around the snacks table I’d say!

Keep an open mind and be curious!

Student societies in particular can be such a vital part of your time at King’s. I remember even going to a KCL Folk Society meet-up in my first year, which didn’t go that well, since I’m neither very familiar with lots of folk tunes, nor particularly good at side reading music. But hey, I found out that wasn’t the right fit for me. However, I had a fantastic time going to events organised by the Film Society, or the King’s Players Improv group. I even got to participate in open mic nights and other musical events organised by the King’s Record and those are genuinely some of my favourite memories! A lot of my friends also got to travel with the societies they’re in as well and not just sports based societies, as the Ukulele Society also went abroad too.

Bottom line line is, as time goes by you’ll find your people, you’ll figure out how you want to spend your time. But the best way to find out is to give it an honest shot. Like Woody said, 80 percent is just showing up, and that is really something very, very doable!

Food Glorious Food (Part 2)

Welcome back to the second part of this miniseries, where I once again attempt to unleash my inner food blogger by giving you some suggestions for eating in London. I’ve learnt from experience not to keep a flock of hungry readers waiting, so I’ll skip the chit chat and cut to the chase!

Anyone who has spent any amount of time with me knows better than to let me choose restaurants during group outings, as I’ve got an obsession with burgers that’s bordering on being mildly unhealthy. It also probably doesn’t help that many burger joints here are incredibly student friendly, such as Byron and GBK which are both close to the Waterloo Campus. The latter even has a dedicated app which rewards you with free milkshakes, burgers and sides if you complete their challenges like visiting different branches or trying out several milkshake flavours.

If you’re feeling a tad bit more adventurous, you could head over to Lord Nelson in Southwark to try out their award-winning burgers, complete with a generous helping of potato wedges and salads all at a student price. Speaking of your privileges as a student, don’t forget to flash your student ID/ UNiDAYS account at the till in McDonalds – you’ll get a complimentary cheeseburger or McFlurry with any purchase of a set meal. In fact, just flash your card anywhere you go as you’ll soon realise that the most unexpected places have special deals for students!

NUS & UNiDAYS

Moving on, I’ll shift the limelight to several Malaysian restaurants that do a great job at quenching my sporadic cravings for home food. Roti King near Euston dishes up the best Roti Canai that I have tasted in London, and their Teh Tarik is top notch as well. The former is a type of flatbread that’s typically dipped in curry, whereas the latter is our national tea with a characteristic frothy top. In my opinion, C&R in Chinatown serves the best Nasi Lemak here – this is fragrant rice, steamed with coconut milk and served with chili paste, anchovies, cucumbers and other ingredients.

Nasi lemak & Teh tarik

Malaysia’s national dish & beverage                    Nasi lemak & Teh tarik

Staying on the topic of Asian cuisine, EatTokyo near the Strand Campus is currently my go-to restaurant for great Japanese food. Their quick service and reasonable pricing make it a viable option for lunch if you’re based at Strand for the day. If your break duration permits, you could make your way to Dozo in Soho which offers a heavily discounted lunch menu on weekdays. Ramen lovers should definitely try out Shoryu and Kanada Ya – their broths are rather different so it’ll be up to you to determine which one appeals to you more!

Other notable student discounts include the ones offered by Leon throughout the day, and Itsu after 3pm. Some Itsu and Wasabi branches even feature a half-price offer near their closing times, so be sure to watch out for those! Furthermore, your NUS card will help you get more bang for your buck at Pizza Express and Pizza Hut, the former of which has whopping discounts of up to 40%. If you need a pick-me-up at the start of the week, head over to My Old Dutch for their aptly named “Monday Madness” offer. Their pancakes are positively delectable!

And that’s it! This is literally all I can write before my entire keyboard gets inundated by saliva, so you’ll have to do a bit of exploring on your own to scout for other great eateries. A helpful tip would be to use Yelp, TripAdvisor and other apps to narrow down places that have garnered good reviews by other patrons. Now go forth and fill your tummy, but just remember to use your good ol’ frying pan once in a while!

Food Glorious Food (Part 1)

Allow me to let you in on a little secret – I can’t cook to save my life. I’m not exaggerating when I say that whipping out a bowl of steamed rice last week was probably the peak of my culinary pursuits. Come to think of it, the recipe handbook that my mother lovingly crafted for me has regrettably not seen daylight since Fresher’s Week (sorry, mum). However, if you’re anything like me, fret not! London is probably the best city for eating out due to the myriad of eateries scattered throughout its busy streets. In these 2 blog posts, I’ll attempt to highlight some of my favourite food spots, as well as several nifty discounts that come with being a student (note that these may be subject to change in the future).

To kicks things off, I’ll start with the most accessible student option during lunchtime – King’s restaurants. Dining here will help you stay on your weekly budget, and you’ll be surprised by the assortment of options available on the ever-changing menu. Anyone who can’t live without their weekly fish and chips – yours truly included – will rejoice at their Friday special, which is usually battered haddock or cod served with chips and mushy peas.

King's Cafe in New Hunt's House, Guy's campus

King’s Cafe in New Hunt’s House, Guy’s campus

Furthermore, there are also on-site cafés for all the sleepy-heads who need a little extra help to stay awake between lectures. Get one of the colourful King’s mugs to save 10p on each purchase, and you’ll be doing both your wallet and the environment a huge favour in the long run! If you’re at Guy’s, you’re spoiled for more options as there’s a burger shack on the beach, a farmers’ market that’s held every Tuesday, and a vibrant student hub called “The Shed” which serves coffee at a very affordable price.

The Farmer's Market, Guy's Campus

The Farmer’s Market, Guy’s Campus

If you crave street food, you’ll be delighted to know that Borough Market is a mere stone’s throw away from Guys Campus. And if you like free things, you’ll most certainly appreciate the complementary samples that some of the stalls give out! My favourite stall there is Pieminister, which serves delectable pies that are the perfect panacea for a chilly London day.

Borough market

Borough market, near Guy’s Campus

Waterloo-based students shouldn’t feel left out either, as the Lower Marsh Market and Southbank Food Market are merely a swift stroll away from their campuses. These are open on weekdays and weekends respectively, so the former would be a feasible option for your weekday lunch. I personally recommend the pad Thai stalls in both markets, although that might just be due to me being a sucker for Thai cuisines!

Southbank Centre Food Market

Southbank Centre Food Market

Meal deals are a staple in most local supermarkets or food chains, and the one offered by Greggs is arguably the best option for students right now. With a mere brandish of your student ID, you’ll get a sausage roll or sweet completely free of charge with your sandwich deal. As if that weren’t enough, you can also collect stamps with your hot drinks which are already part of the deal anyway! You can find one of these branches adjacent to the Strand Campus and another in Lower Marsh. Go a step further by watching out for steeply discounted sandwiches near their expiry dates at your local Boots, Sainsbury’s or Tesco.

Before I divulge the rest of my eating-out habits (there are a lot of them in case you couldn’t tell), I think it’s apt for me to stop here for now. Go grab some snacks and maybe a cup of hot chocolate from our trusty King’s Café, and I’ll catch you in the next instalment of my gastronomic adventure!

5 Social Tips for International Students

Your suitcase is crammed with everything from kitchen appliances to your favourite stuffed animal, your new shoes are polished and ready to trample the streets of London, and you’ve packed every local delicacy that has ever existed in your hometown for the pangs of homesickness that will inevitably strike you. “So, what’s next?”, you might ask yourself. Well, there really isn’t anything else you need to do at this stage, but if you want to be one step ahead of everyone else, here are some tips I’ve compiled that might help to give you a kick-start. The first chunk of this 2-part series will focus on the social aspects of being a student, whereas the next one will be slightly more general.

If you’re stepping foot onto foreign soil for the first time, it’ll be absolutely normal for you to experience some form of apprehension as you wander through the city looking for a familiar face. However, what’s important to keep in mind is that you’re far from being the only international student in the university, and that you’re actually part of a diverse group of individuals who hail from all corners of the world.

A great way to meet new acquaintances (and hopefully, besties) would be to attend the orientation parties held in student halls during the first move-in days. Get to know your housemates as well, and if any of them are locals they’ll be able to lend you a hand in familiarising yourself with the city. You’ll be staying with them for an entire year, so it’s certainly important to build a good rapport with them early on. Nevertheless, in the unlikely event that you don’t enjoy staying at your current residence, you can swap your room with someone else’s after a month – it’s as simple as filling in a form!

You might also want to partake in several Welcome Week events organised by KCLSU, such as pub quizzes, picnics and campus tours. One of the main thing I was worried of before coming here was that I would be excluded from social events since I don’t drink alcohol, but I found that to be entirely untrue! Pubs and bars were rather foreign to me, and I was genuinely afraid of entering them solely due to my fear of the unknown. However, I’ve realised that they’re essentially just more casual versions of restaurants, and non-drinkers can always order an alternative beverage such as fruit juices and nobody will disparage you for doing that. If they do, then they clearly aren’t worthy of being your friends, wouldn’t you agree?

I can’t emphasise my next tip more — attend the Welcome Fair at the Barbican! It was literally a life-changer for my university experience, as it led me to join numerous societies that have been a huge part of my life these two years. As its name suggests, the Welcome Fair puts all King’s societies on display in one massive venue, and the best part is that you’re free to browse through all of them at your own leisure. You might even encounter several societies that you had not previously been exposed to and who knows? You could end up uncovering a hidden talent that might take you all the way to the bright lights of the West End.

Whilst you’re at the fair, I would also recommend scouting and joining your country’s dedicated society at King’s (if there is one). When everything seems all too foreign, it can feel very comforting to know a group of your fellow countrymen who are in the exact predicament as you, and can understand exactly what you’re going through. Besides, one of them can probably whip up a convincingly authentic meal from back home, so that’s a plus! Also, don’t forget to pick up your very own NUS card which would typically be sold at the fair – it’ll get you many student discounts for a variety of essential items and services.

Lastly, attend your induction! King’s has designed a ‘Welcome to King’s Guide’ this year which you can download onto your device. I’ll leave you to peruse that while I put on the final touches for the sequel to this article. Make sure to check that out later!

Exploring London on a weekend – Shoreditch + Borough market

It’s the start of your weekend after a week of lectures and seminars, and you’re thinking ‘I wanna make the most of my weekend so : what should I do? where should I go? where should I explore?’

Hop onto the overground and get off at Shoreditch High street (Zone 1), wdishoomhich if I were to describe to you would be similar to Camden Town only, less busy and is a mixture of ‘upper-end’ atmosphere with an edgy, grunge feel to the area.  If you’re in the mood for good food, I highly suggest Dishoom in Shoreditch (there are a few other branches in London) which is a beautifully, edgy lit up corner restaurant, with its wonderfully aromatic incense burning away and its Bombay-an styled decor, you’ll be whisked away into the streets of Mumbai, where the restaurant originally began its chain. Try the ruby chicken; your tastebuds will genuinely explode with the glorious flavours that are complimented with both a generous mixture of sweet and savoury. With the food under 10 pounds each dish, you’re bound to leave fully satisfied and wanting to come back next weekend! So now that you’re interested in a well-budgeted restaurant that sounds like convincingly good, I bet you’re wanting to know what type of cuisine it is…

It’s Indian.

banksy

Aside from food, you’ve got to check out Banksy’s artwork nearby the street! You can feel the artwork on the wall and admire all the other graffiti sprayed onto the brick walls – past the Banksy’ art is a Taiwanese bubble tea store which, if you love Bubbleology, you’ll realise what you’ve been missing out on: real bubble tea. (Go for the original milk tea with tapioca pearls)

After all the walking, a group of my friends and I headed over to Borough market (Three Crown Square, a 2 minute walk from the tube station: London Bridge borough fruit- northern/jubilee line) which, by the way if you haven’t been to – make your way down there this weekend! Get some fresh fruit and vegetables there if you prefer going to a market (although it’s definitely more pricey than going to a farmer’s market), taste some freshly made burgers or oysters for just under 10 pounds too! If you love cheese, then forget Sainsbury’s or Aldi, try some soft or hard cheese right there in the pop up market stall and buy them – you won’t regret it! If you, like me, can’t eat until at least 2 hours after you’ve woken up – grab a cheeky pastry from any of the many pastry stalls to choose from, which seem to always be owned by Frenchman, and forget about a strict or healthy diet and ENJOY that pastry.

borough market

So go on, go treat yourself this weekend – it’ll end your hard-working week perfectly, and therapeutically get you ready to begin another busy week at King’s.

Quick Q&A with recent graduate – part 2

Author: Julie

julie

Applying to university

  1. What was the most difficult thing for you when you applied to university?

The personal statement was the most difficult thing for me because I only got one chance to impress 5 different admissions teams at 5 different universities. King’s has a pretty good video explaining how you could write a good statement here. In addition, UCAS guidance is interesting as well.

My tip for writing a personal statement is simple – draft it, write it, read it, and write it again. I must have drafted my statement multiple times before I was happy with it! As English is not my mother tongue, I also asked my teachers to proofread my essay and improve it based on their feedback.

Additionally, make sure you do not write more than allowed – UCAS would automatically cut your statement at 4,000 characters.

Also, it is worth start drafting the statement early, perhaps in the summer before your final year of school, so that you are not rushed during the year.

  • How did you go about choosing your 5 UCAS choices? 

The biggest factor for me was the academic programme and how flexible I could be with my career choice (see above). I also looked at university rankings.

The problem with university rankings is that they use different criteria, which makes massive different in rankings of different universities. My advice – no ranking is better than another. You should take them with a grain of salt. If you could visit the university, great! If you can’t, try to get in touch with the marketing team or an alumni and ask them for more information. King’s regularly visits different countries throughout the year as well.

Going to King’s College London

  1. What was your biggest challenge when you first joined King’s?

I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to understand the English accent and people wouldn’t understand my confusing European / American / Vietnamese accent. Thankfully I was proven wrong.

One of the first things I realised was that there was a lot of independent study which was very different from how I used to study in high school. I only went to lectures* and tutorials** for about 12 hours a week in my first year (this got progressively larger as I moved forward in my degree however). The rest of the time was doing compulsory readings and preparing for tutorials. My lecturers and tutors had office hours where students could come in and ask questions.

lecturer

*Lectures – you sit together with every student in your course. I was overwhelmed in my first lecture because my cohort had over 200 students! Lectures are usually 2 hours with a break in between. The lecturers speak and you take notes.

**Tutorials – you are assigned into tutorials of 20-30 students. I was often given a reading or a worksheet to do. You are expected to participate in tutorials. I have realised that international students often do not speak much in tutorials. It could be a bit awkward and embarrassing initially, but it got much better. And it feels really good when the lecturer / tutor knows your name as well!

My experience at Stamford Street Apartments

Author: Boey

Aside from the actual campus itself, probably the most vital element of a student’s university experience is his accommodation. Choosing one would require some substantial research on the student’s part, as there are numerous factors to consider, including its proximity to your campus, the room size and perhaps most importantly, the price you’ll have to fork out for it. Fortunately for first year King’s students, there’s an array of residence halls which have their own plus points and individual charm. The application procedures have been overhauled since my year (I feel positively ancient saying that), so I’ll just skip over that and instead share my residential experience with you.

I was fortunate enough to have been offered a room at Stamford Street Apartments, the closest King’s residence to both the Waterloo and Strand campus. Living in such close proximity of my campus meant that I could literally roll out of my bed into my lecture theatre (albeit not in my pyjamas as I doubt my lecturers would have approved of that). Probably the best perk about this is that if I had ever forgotten to take my safety goggles or assignments, all I had to do was walk 3 minutes back to grab them and still be on time. There are numerous facilities within walking distance as well, including restaurants, a gym and grocery stores.

stamford-street-room

In terms of the room itself, there’s more than sufficient space for all of your belongings – that’s if you’re not a hoarder– and there’s even a wet room and toilet attached to it. Gone are the days when you have to compete with your housemates for your precious shower time. There’s a huge study table illuminated with a lamp, but I personally preferred to revise in the Waterloo library as I was easily distracted by my bed, which I swear was pleading for me to lie on it every 30 seconds. Besides, the library is open 24/7, so if you ever feel the urge to study at 3am, there won’t be anyone stopping you.  Each flat consists of 5-8 students. I stayed with a diverse group of students who came from varying backgrounds and cultures, and this proved to be an eye-opening experience especially since I had somewhat lived within a bubble previously. The occupants share a common kitchen, equipped with a fridge, oven and stoves. There’s a frequent cleaning service which will take care of the trash in the kitchen, but don’t expect anyone to clean your greasy dishes for you! There’s also a self-service laundrette strategically located at the corner of the building where you can wash, dry and iron your clothes. It utilises a card payment system, so don’t ever worry about not having enough coins for the machines.

Security at the residence is pretty tight, and there are officers manning the reception all day. If you find yourself having to make a complaint about your room or flatmates (God forbid that happens), just head down to the reception or give them a call. They’ll even receive the parcels and envelopes directed to you and will notify you promptly to collect them. If you intend to have guests staying over, just notify the receptionists beforehand and you might even get a complementary mattress! The King’s Wi-Fi network is available on all campuses and halls of residences, so you’ll always stay connected to the Internet. There’s also a common room where orientation events and fun parties are held throughout the year. Tenants are free to use it for group discussions as well.                                                                                                                              A piece of advice when planning your budget – there may be more than 4 weeks in month, so calculate your rent accordingly. An annual term should start in September and end in June, and you’re more than welcomed to leave your belongings here during the holidays.

I would highly recommend staying at a King’s residence in your first year, as dealing with landlords and bills is not exactly the easiest thing to do when you’re still new to the city. However, regardless of which halls you’re allocated to, you can rest assured that you’ll meet amazing new friends and perhaps even forge friendships that will last beyond your university days.

Internship at King’s – Undergraduate Fellowship Research Program

Author: Maria

Usually during the Summer I would be laying by the pool side, or the beach, sipping a really cold drink and just relaxing. However, as amazing as it sounds, I would always be bored by the second week of summer and would always end up trying to find a job, internship, you name it. But it would always be difficult because I never had any work experience. This year however, my luck changed.

King’s offers the Undergraduate Fellowship Research Program, having heard amazing things about it on my first year of University, I decided to try it out this year. Therefore, I applied for the War Studies one on how weapons of mass destruction shape international politics. No longer was I sipping a few cocktails, or getting a tan, instead I am coming into office or working at the library and looking into files, congress hearings, classified documents and researching something that I have come to really be passionate about. Some might think ‘I would not trade those summer nights for this’, but trust me, if you really choose your work well, it actually pays off. It is also not like you will not have summer, I will still have a month to relax, but now I actually know I will be really enjoying those weeks.

My reason for applying for this internship was because first, I had applied to all corporate institutions without really wanting to join any of them. They don’t really suit my personality, and I was doing it more because I wanted to get an experience rather than actually thinking why I really wanted to work for it. Clearly, I was not motivated to work in a bank or anything like that. The undergraduate fellowship instead offered me exactly what I wanted: a subject I was interested about and also the ability to really understand what it is like to go into academia. It has not only taught me how to do better researches, but also it gave me an opportunity to foster relationships with academics, to learn more about approaching research projects and essay writing. I have become more familiar with that world. Yes, there is also a side of me that would not mind doing academia and that is also why I tried it out to see if I like it, but also, even if academia is not your ‘thing’, the program will empower you with so many skills that are and will be essential for your personal, academic, and professional life.

Do not worry, I am not trying to make you sign up for this program! King’s also is able to offer you any kind of opportunities during summer, whether it is an internship with them, or somewhere else. King’s is amazing at guiding students to the places they want to go. If you want to do a summer school, or an internship abroad, King’s can make those things come true for you. If you want to stay in London and just work casually or find an internship somewhere else, King’s careers will also help you achieve that. They offer advice on how to make your CV better, how to write cover letters and they even prepare you for the interview. Seriously, one of the best things about King’s is that they empower you to get into the ‘real world’ with the essential skills. They have the services to help you face what sometimes can be quite scary especially as a student going into your first job. Using these services has been one of the best things that I have been able to experience at King’s. And well, if you have it for free, why not enjoy it constantly?

How to spend summer as an international student

Author: LeeAnn

As an international student, I want to live my summer to the fullest in London and Europe because I know that I won’t be living here much longer. Being a master’s student, I don’t exactly have time off because my dissertation is due in August, however that does not mean I can’t enjoy the British summer!

LeenAnn - summer as an international student 1

One of the most important things I’ve learned is that you can do so much as long as you plan your time well. For example, in early June I was able to take a holiday to Denmark. I stayed with a close friend who was born and raised in Aalborg and had the opportunity to explore a large part of the beautiful country. I planned this trip in between finishing lab work and beginning the writing process for my dissertation. This trip was very important to me, not only because I was able to spend time with an old friend, but also because it gave me the mental clarity I needed to get back to work. It is quite difficult to see all of my friends back home and around the world and enjoying beach days when I’m stuck in the library writing all day and my trip to Denmark allowed me to have some fun away from school.

LeeAnn - summer as an international student 2

 Another fun thing London offers during the summer is British Summer Time (BST) Hyde Park. This is a music festival that goes on mostly during the weekend for a few weeks during the summer. I went to see Florence and the Machine and had a lovely time. The outdoor setting really allowed me to enjoy summer during the show and the long days British summer offers makes for a perfect day to be outside.

LeeAnn - summer as an international student 3

Lastly, I highly recommend exploring the city. London has so many markets, many of which are outdoors. Shoreditch and Camden are great places to start if you are in the mood for exploring markets because both have cool vibes and offer something for everyone. You can also walk along the river in Camden and check out some street art while walking to Primrose Hill to watch the sunset. However, you shouldn’t feel stuck in zones 1 and 2 because there are tons of parks and adventures to be had in outer London. Fortunately, London has a great transportation system and you can get to many of these places that truly let you escape London life for a bit in about one hour. Crystal Palace Park is one place I really enjoyed and I have a plan to visit another park that is off the beaten path this weekend. Basically, the adventures to be had during the summer are endless. Take advantage of any free time you have, especially if it’s sunny in London!