FIRST IMPRESSIONS ON LONDON
As a Sydney Sider, the feeling of living in a city, marked by hundreds of years of history, is an unfamiliar sensation to me. Whilst Sydney offers unspeakable, natural beauty, London’s historical cityscape offers an endearing grittiness. It seems like an obvious observation, but I’ve found that it’s required me to adjust my everyday engagement with my surroundings. I’m so used to getting my energy from sunny days on the beach… not an option in London. That’s not a complaint. None of us have come on exchange in order to experience what we could easily do in Sydney. What I find engaging about London is that it’s constantly reminding you of its old history. Observing the grit on the walls, stumbling across a 300-year-old pub and shopping at the local market really gives you a sense of the past and present culture.
Arriving in July, I had some time to settle into London, before going backpacking for a couple months. I moved into an apartment in Bethnal Green (East London) with my sister and her boyfriend. Since they’ve already lived in London for a year, it made my transition into living here a lot easier. Arriving at that time of year also meant that I got to sneak a look at an uncharacteristically sunny and warm London.
I spent most of my mini-Euro trip by myself in Norway. Camping around the Norwegian countryside was a beautiful experience in itself but I also found that it was a great time to think about what I want achieve, during my time on exchange.
In Oslo, I stayed with a Norwegian friend, who I met whilst he was on exchange at UTS. I thought that he had some interesting ideas about European winters. Whilst staying indoors, he finds the dark cold a great source of inspiration investing time in personal projects. His perspective on winter really got me excited to properly invest myself in the music that I’ve been working on. After doing some biking in the Netherlands and some scootering/ a lot of eating in France, I arrived back in London, actually excited for winter.
It’s convenient that I got excited for winter, because it is DEFINITELY here now. The days are more grey and it’s a lot colder now, but I really love it. I feel like I’ve settled into Bethnal Green. Walking around the local area, I can visit good cafes and restaurants, experience the bustle of Shoreditch and Bricklane, or hang out in beautiful parks.
One of the great things about London is that there are many different areas, around the city, that cater to lots of different personalities. Some of the other exchange students had settled into areas like Notting Hill, Camden Town or Flats on the University’s Regent Campus. Every one of them has found something in their areas that they engage with. If I was to give future exchange students advice about living in London, based on my experience so far, I would suggest living in an area that you really connect with. I’m studying at Harrow Campus, which is far out west. I know some people who are enjoying the on-campus lifestyle out there. I’m personally happier, living in the East, which is only 45-60 minutes away from campus. Because the tube system is so good here (IT’S NOT CITY RAIL!!) you can really live where every you want.
As cities, London and Sydney offer completely different things. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of finding a different rhythm to what I’m used to, back home. There are things that I love about Sydney that I won’t be able to find in London. BUT, London has so many new things to offer me. I’ve got another few months here and I can’t wait to really get to know this place.