Perfect placement but in London...
I’ve been living in London for 2 months now. This blog is for anyone who, like me, never really fancied living in London but found the perfect placement that just happened to be down south and has to decide whether London is right for them.
Balancing short commute with the price of rent
Firstly, London is as expensive as everyone claims! My full OPTIMA budget went on a very small room in shared accommodation in north London and I am yet to find a G&T for less than £8. Although the room is small the location is perfect. I spent a lot of time on google maps to find the right area in London, I didn’t want to commute for more than 45 minutes and in the end the accommodation I found is only a 20-minute commute to work and I can get the bus instead of the tube. The bus is cheaper (£1.50 vs. £2.40 single), less crowded and only takes me 10 minutes longer than the tube, so for me it’s worth waking up a little bit earlier. To navigate London, I use the “Citymapper” app; it gives you the travel times, price and it can suggest step-free travel options - this was particularly useful when I arrived with a heavy suitcase that I didn’t want to attempt to lug up 100 tube steps. To find my accommodation I used Airbnb and messaged a lot of hosts to find the best option before I booked; I found that even though they were offering long-term accommodation, many hosts don’t give you access to the kitchen or fridge space, so this is important to check! I also checked that the host was ok with my partner visiting a couple of times during my stay, some hosts had strict policies on this so it’s worth checking. I’m staying in Belsize park, which is a very beautiful part of London, next to Hampstead heath with lots of open space and parks. It has shown me that London isn’t as congested as I thought it would be (from the few touristy visits I’ve had to central London). However, this is an area that I couldn’t realistically afford to live in if I wanted to move to London after my PhD. If you want to see what London life would actually be like, Belsize park probably isn’t the place, but for 3 months, it has been perfect.
Catching up with friends and family
I have friends and family in London who have made navigating the city, keeping things affordable and socialising much easier. The company I’m doing my placement with don’t do after work drinks/events like we’re used to as PhD students, so without the connections I already had in London it could have been quite a different experience. Luckily this has been a great opportunity for me to catch up with friends and family that I don’t get to see very often and so far, every weekend has been jam packed; London has plenty of events to get involved with and if you want a weekend away you can get pretty much anywhere in the UK in a few hours!
Like living in Edinburgh during the Fringe, all the time!
Overall London has been an amazing experience, but it is very different to Edinburgh and definitely isn’t right for everyone; Central London is like Edinburgh during the fringe but all the time! Even though I have been here nearly 3 months I still don’t feel like I know London very well at all and speaking to friends who have lived here for years I don’t think that’ll change. However, if you asked me before my placement I would have said I’m not interested in living in London but now I would definitely consider moving here after my PhD if the right opportunity arises.