10. Water Filter
I must confess that before I cam to London I scoffed at people who bought water filters or, even worse, litres and litres and litres of bottled water. These were usually the people who complain about ‘water hardness’ and wax lyrical about ‘mineral-filtered groundwater’– the proselytising vegans of the aqueous world. Imagine my surprise when limescale turned out to actually be a thing, when the sinks cheerfully spat out bitter mineral-tasting water, and when I found myself ordering a filter from Amazon, much to the envy of my floormates. Plus, there’s something unbearably posh about pouring water from a carafe at dinner.
This one I saw coming; at home, I used our trusty old blender almost every day. Milkshakes replaced meals. I didn’t expect there to be a blender in Halls, and of course there wasn’t (there’s nothing unless you bring it yourself!) The loss hit me hard and I spent months craving the perfect shakes of my past–until I finally snapped and ordered my blender. Peace and harmony have been restored to the universe. Amazon to the win again!
8. Food Shopping
Remember when you’d go to the supermarket with your parents and you could put anything you wanted in the cart? And then eat it later? Rinse, repeat? Well, unless you landed a massive budget (congratulations, and this blog accepts tips!) you’ll have to be a great deal more judicious and survivalist in the shops if you want to last. Häagen-Dazs is no longer viable at almost £6 a tub–your inevitable uni heartbroken binges will have to make do without. Try celery. Those nice, juicy, medium-rare steaks dripping with peppercorn sauce? Chicken. Cake? Reserved for birthdays. Rosemary-infused sun-baked focaccia? Warburton’s white bread. I’m convinced it’s a conspiracy to get you to go home as soon as the cravings get too bad.
When my dad visited a few months and we, in running late for dinner, hailed a black cab, I realised I hadn’t been in a car for months. It’s a wholly different perspective of London. Taxis are scary, scary things for budget-bound uni students–the motor revs and and your bank account drains dry. I’ve been in four taxis since getting to uni: the traditional drunk Freshers’ Week 2am ride home (pro tip: you’ll never see the people you shared the cab with then again, let alone pay them back), one shameful five-minute lift back from the local Sainsbury’s (to be fair, we were all exhausted), that trip with my dad, and one the next night home from the Spring Ball (the bus took seven minutes too long to arrive). £££££££. Seriously, take the tube. Or walk. 3am hikes across large swathes of London proper are the ideal way of seeing the city. Plus you might almost get jumped within shouting distance of the Queen–that was fun.
6. Clothes Shopping
Another thing you must start rationing is your clothes shopping. I’m not a huge shopper myself, but some of my friends have found themselves hopelessly crippled by the harsh London clothing prices.Forget all the brands you’ve grown up with–the only affordable shop on Oxford Street (don’t even bother with Regent St) is Primark a.k.a heaven on earth. If you can deal with the rude employees (to be fair, they’re probably earning about four pence a decade) you can get anything your heart desires at a fraction of the reasonable price: clothes, home goods, onesies for every occasion…just beware Primark Withdrawal on the way home. Don’t enter any other shops until about four hours have passed and your definition of ‘reasonable price’ has recalibrated back up to the (regrettably) ‘reasonable’ London standard.
I hope you’ll really enjoy London, because travelling outside it from uni is both pointless and crazy expensive. Save it for holidays or for going home! As I live in America, travel home sets me (or rather my parents <3) back many hundreds of pounds each trip. It’s definitely been a factor in my decision to stay at Imperial this Easter break (3/10, do not recommend). Flying to Europe is just feasible, at around £100 a trip if you’re clever about the bookings, and trains like Eurostar are about the same. If you’ve a place to go in the UK, that’s anywhere from about £20 to £60, very roughly. So it’s more feasible to go home–as most of my friends have done now–if you live here. Spending holidays in Halls is basically just for the overseas students. At the same time, though you won’t be travelling often, going to uni in London is one of the best choices if you do like travel; the continent and more broadly the Northwestern world is at your fingertips, and your uni time will find you jetting (or taking crappy overnight buses, sob) to wherever you want. I have friends travelling to New York City, Florida, Dublin, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Vienna, and the far East this break alone!
–Especially nice ones! Again, as with everything on this list, this depends on your budget, but for most us it’s safe to say we probably won’t be eating at too many nice restaurants. Sure, the occasional dinner out with mates (my next-year-housemates and I have a rather neglected tradition of eating out together on Sundays), especially for birthdays or for club/society dinners, will happen… but mostly just prepare leave the nice dining for family visits. It makes them so much more magical anyway 😉
p.s. Good sushi especially won’t be a thing any more. Unless your parents are so inclined, just prepare to say goodbye to it!
They used to be a fact of life, like the changing of the seasons, but now if you want your hurr did you’ll have to take care of it yourself–and your London options, of course, aren’t the cheapest, with some of the posher salons in South Kensington stretching up into a hundred quid for a simple cut. You have a ton of options, though! I recently took advantage of Headmasters’ walk-in cut and style for 20 quid and would highly recommend it… classy salon, cheap cut, and ultraconvenient. Otherwise, you could get a friend to cut your hair (some people are crazy like that) or you could cut it yourself (0/10, DO NOT RECOMMEND). You could also take advantage of your student status, either by obtaining a student discount, which most salons will offer in some form, or by heading to a training salon, where you can get your hair cut for free if you’re willing to put up with long and tortuous cuts by trainees.
2. Event Tickets and Nights Out
Nights out, or entertainment in general, are of course not cheap in London. Tickets (usually bought online ahead of time, convenient for you if not for your wallet) for club nights, for example, can run up to 20 quid at London’s poshest clubs, yet still accessible, nightclubs. (e.g. Boujis, barely ten minutes’ walk from the college)! Ladies will often enjoy free entrance, on the other hand. For the cheaper (but no less bangin’) clubs, tickets might cost up to about six pounds, tops. Heaven, one of London’s biggest gay clubs, is almost always free if you know how to get in. Union events are a little easier on the wallet; they won’t cost you more than a few quid for the normal term nights at Beit HQ, and the bigger balls are quite generously subsidised as well. Lastly, your Hall might throw cheap events as well (more during Freshers’ week and then tapering off slowly).
Of course, like the events above, this list wouldn’t be complete without a mention of alcohol–yeah, you “don’t need alcohol to have fun at uni”, but it’s such a big part of uni culture here that it would be horrifyingly inaccurate to leave it off the list. All those club nights only start with you buying a ticket… to buy drinks in the club, even after fighting through some truly gargantuan queues, you’ll still often be faced with “London prices”, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. This is anywhere from 7 quid for a double (I’ve seen 10+ quid at the posher places!) Or imagine you’ve not got tickets for the night, but you’ll just be partying it up in your halls with your friends. If you want to avoid drinking turpentine-like Glens Vodka from Essentials, which is nevertheless quite drinkable with adequate preparations, you’ll need to dish out more money at a supermarket or liquor store. Classy bastard. Of course, you don’t need alcohol to survive, and yet it fuels some of the greatest nights uni can offer… so that’s why it’s rounding out this list as the ultimate luxury uni item.