Ready. Set. Spring.

I still have not been able to wrap my head around the fact that I only have 3 more weeks of lectures and 1 more week of tutorial to go before I pretty much finish the materials for Frist Year students at King’s. What follows is one month of anxiety, stress, and intensive revision for exams in May. Although almost 6 months have passed, I still remember how my mother told me uni would be ‘incredibly hard because you have to read a whole lot’. I thought she exaggerated it (after all, I took a total of 10 Advanced Placement subjects in 2 years. These classes were uni-level). What I did not think of, however, was how different and interesting life of a student would be. To illustrate my point, let me walk you through what a typical day for me is like.

1. Wake me up (when the garbage truck comes under my window):

Either that or the sound of my neighbors’ kids running to school is my alarm clock. My morning often starts with a warm cup of PG tea with lots of milk and sugar. It is certainly not the famous English tea, but close enough for my taste. I then check my King’s email (my professors managed to drill into my head the importance of checking that account everyday during the first few weeks of university. I actually now use it to write and receive most of my emails). Browsing Facebook, reading newspaper, and briefly talking to my parents complete my early morning. Interestingly, when I no longer live at home, my parents become increasingly interested in details of my life, such as what food I have for dinner or what my plan for the day is.

Packing my own lunch and having a huge bottle of water are very beneficial. I save a lot of money. A meal which includes vegetables, carbohydrate-based food and meat at King’s cafeteria typically costs around 4 pounds. Even when you choose to walk all the way to Sainsbury’s to purchase a three-pound-meal deal (a sandwich + a drink + a snack), that is still more expensive than bringing your own leftover spaghetti from dinner. When you have a long day like I often do, a proper lunch is a must if you do not want to pass out in public.

2. Uni, uni, uni

Because I live relatively close to King’s Waterloo Campus, I always walk. It is amazing what one can experience just by walking. For example, I noticed how jonquil flowers appeared last week and trees started to blossom (or there was a black cat near my flat that stared at me every time I walked past him). Not to mention walking is another way to cut cost. Public transportation in London is relatively reliable unless the workers decide to go on strike like they did a few weeks ago which threw London into chaos.

Anyways, back to the topic of uni. I have lectures 4 days a week in the same auditorium with, luckily, different professors. I prefer paper and pen when taking notes, but others use computers. Not all lecturers allow electronic devices in their session, however. Side notes: notes are often posted on KEATS (King’s online platform) a few days before the actual lecture for students to print out. Because printing is expensive and I do not learn from printed paper, I choose to copy the slides down the way I want them to be. Some say it is a waste of time, but that is the way I learn.

3. E.A.T. (Eat, Appreciate, Talk)

Yes! After 2 hours of lecture (which are actually very short but cover a lot of materials), I always have lunch with my group of friends. Like I wrote earlier, a good lunch is a must and a good conversation is compulsory. If you have not been able to tell, I am a people person (i.e. I talk a lot and I enjoy having others talking to me). My friends and I talk about really random things. The Oscars. The Ukraine. My friend’s pets. Dead rats. Vietnam War. Food in the cafeteria. The tube. Backpacking in Europe. Whatever comes to our mind could be a starting point.

4. Procrastination: the art of keeping up with yesterday.

My afternoon is usually one of the following: 1. attend tutorial; 2. do tutorial work; 3. work; 4. do something that is not uni-related. I wish I could tell you that I was one hard working person and never let my yesterday’s plan interfered with today’s. But of course, I could not. Truth to be told, I am not bad with keeping up with assignments but terrible with reading books (every lecture requires certain chapters to be read). Why? I have no excuse. So yes, if you are going to uni this fall, remember to include in your bucket list ‘read all chapters required right after lecture’ and stick to it. Otherwise you will someday wind up working in the library till 11 PM to prep for a mid-term test.

5. Dinner ready to be served!

I do not eat out all that often to control my budget. I cook 2-3 times a week max  (admittedly, I am not the best cook out there). You might not think food costs that much, but if you eat out every evening, they will eventually add up. Besides, you can choose what you put in your food and how you cook it. Cooking also provides a good break from your table. Struggle to get to know your flatmates? Cook together!

So yes, that is basically how my days run. I will not bore you with more details about my life. But my point is this: studying abroad is not simply about going to an uni to study. It is about adjusting yourself to a new life in which you are completely in charge and your parents are now your safety net and advisors. In addition to studying, you have to control your budget, cook your food, do your laundry, clean your room, and most importantly, balance your time. But do not worry about them now because you have plenty of chance to freak out, make mistakes and learn from them later.


P.S.: On a totally unrelated note, I have been taking a lot of pictures of London lately and really want to share a few of them with you. Please excuse the quality of the pictures!

Embankment at night

Embankment at night

Canary Wharf, view from Waterloo Bridge

Canary Wharf, view from Waterloo Bridge

Canary Wharf during the day

Canary Wharf during the day



10 facts about London you might not know

After spending a lot of time walking in London (as a means to save money and do sports), watching several Youtube videos about the royal family (simply because I am interested in history), and googling cultural events, I have compiled a list of ‘facts’ that I think are interesting/ fascinating/ weird… about this great city!! Enjoy!

1. Westminster Abbey is the chapel of Westminster School, an independent co-educational boarding institution. It is located next to the Houses of Parliament and the Abbey itself. All students there are required to attend services at the Abbey twice a week.

2. Have you heard of the name Tyburn? (I would be very impressed if you have) Tyburn is the name of a stream running underneath Buckingham Palace!

3. Every year, St Paul’s Cathedral holds Christmas concerts presented by professional musicians. This year, I spent 2.5 hours enjoying Handel’s Messiah performed by Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral and City of London Sinfonia. The music was brilliant and definitely got me into the mood of celebrating Christmas. The tickets were free but sold out very quickly. Other churches in London also host various performances annually. Just make sure you look for them as soon as November! I guarantee you will have a memorable experience!

4. London’s annual fireworks display on this year’s New Year’s Eve was the first multi-sensory fireworks ever. It was expected that the audience would be able to ‘taste and smell’ seven fruit-flavored sweets. I was on Westminster Bridge and granted, I did smell a faint scent of strawberry (side notes on New Year’s Eve: the first few hours of the new year are the only time you could use the public transportation for free. But do not try to take the train home at any cost because chances are you will be stuck in a station full of hundreds of other human beings).

5. The Prime Meridian of the World (which is defined as ‘a north-south line selected as the zero reference line for astronomical observations’ and has longitude of 0°) is in Greenwich, London. It is actually not very far away from King’s Waterloo campus (32 minutes by bus).

An absolutely breathtaking view near the Royal Observatory Greenwich

An absolutely breathtaking view near the Royal Observatory Greenwich

6. London has Noses, believe it or not! The Seven Noses of Soho are scattered in marvelous Chinatown in Central London. Myth has it that if you find them all, you will be granted infinite wealth. You can locate them using google map or join one of the walking tours.

7. Greater London consists of City of London and 32 Boroughs. It is the area most people refer to as ‘London’.

8. When you go to London, you will probably visit  Marble Arch near Oxford Street and Hyde Park. It was originally constructed as Buckingham Palace’s gate and then relocated under Queen Victoria’s reign.

9. St Martin’s Theater (a 17-minute-walk from Waterloo Campus) is home of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, the play with the longest initial run of any play in history.

Home of The Mousetrap

Home of The Mousetrap

10. University of London has 18 self-governing Colleges and 10 research Institutes. Founding Colleges? Surprise surprise! University College of London (1826) and King’s College London (1829).

11. Bonus fact no.1: London has so many statues and sculptures. Here is one of the coolest.

Bizarre sculpture. Unfortunately, I cannot recall where I took this picture in London

Unfortunately, I cannot recall where I took this picture in London :(

12. Bonus fact no.2: London has one of the best system of buses in the world! Underground trains do not run overnight, but buses do (unlike in Berlin where it was the other way around. I was a tiny bit confused when I was told that the first time). And they do lock the stations when there is no train running :D

The iconic double decker bus

The iconic double decker bus