With Freshers’ weeks getting underway, London is opening its doors to students from all over the world. For many people the city might be completely new, so we asked the Central Students connect group to tell us about their first year experiences, as well as giving us the lowdown on great things to do on your study breaks.
Tan Yuan Rong, 3rd year Chemistry student at Imperial College London
I still remember the excitement I felt when I knew I was coming to London. However, just weeks before flying over, uncertainties and the thought of leaving Singapore, my home, clouded my mind. With God and the encouragement of family and friends, I took a step of faith and embarked on this journey anyway. I am currently a third year Chemist at Imperial College London and studying in Imperial has been a great experience! In particular, I really enjoy the lab sessions. Looking back, the past two years have been nothing short of amazing and I really thank God for this opportunity.
Things to Do: South Kensington
There are three museums in the vicinity and entrance for all of them is FREE! The Science Museum is perfect for those who are interested in science and technology and how it has advanced over the years, while the Victoria & Albert Museum caters to those who are into decorative arts and design. My favourite, however, would be the Natural History Museum. The Natural History Museum attracts about five million visitors a year and it contains many different exhibitions – you can even ice-skate there during winter!
There are also loads of great food places. For burger lovers, you will have a tough time choosing between Honest Burgers and Five Guys (that’s ok, you’ll have time to go to both!). There’s also Bubbleology, PAUL, and The Kensington Creperie, but my favourite has still got to be the Oriental Canteen as it serves Asian food at an affordable price and it never fails to remind me of home.
Anne Tan, 3rd year Law student at SOAS
A few months prior to starting university, the feeling of uncertainty was already etched in my mind. Was this God’s plan for me? Will I enjoy university? Will I be able to live out God’s purpose for me where He has placed me to be?
If you’re feeling the same way, let me encourage you that our God is a God who will never forsake us.
Just as He has led me throughout my first year in university, He will reveal Himself to you in unexpected ways. For instance, in moments during my first year when I felt lonely, God would always bring people into my life to remind me that I am not alone in my journey abroad.
Studying at university abroad makes it easy to neglect some of our spiritual disciplines. It’s easy to sleep in on Sunday mornings and feel that it will be alright to ‘give church a miss this week’. For me, what helped to keep me spiritually disciplined and rooted in church was finding a suitable connect group. The connect group that I joined really helped me stay accountable in going to church and connect group meetings. Finding a church family abroad was especially important to me, and I’m glad that I have managed to find one that I can keep for life.
Being in first year may feel a little daunting at times, but one verse that kept me going in my first year came from Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
Things to Do: Bloomsbury
The Bloomsbury area, where UCL and SOAS are situated, is filled with student-friendly food places and things to do. In particular, the Brunswick would be a great place to have your fill of yummy food as it boasts numerous affordable and great restaurants and shops such as GBK (for burgers), ChaTime (for bubble tea), Hare and Tortoise (for Asian food), Nando’s (for grilled chicken), Carluccio’s Franco Manco (for Italian cuisine) and Pret A Manger (for fast food that won’t make you guilty eating it). With the abundance of amazing food around the area, it’s a good idea to find a gym where you can work off all those calories! Gyms around the area include The Gym and Bloomsbury gym (Energy Base).
Rachel Tjahjadi, 3rd year Social Policy with Government student at LSE
When I was sixteen years old, I visited the UK on a school trip and I remembered standing on the balcony of Tate Modern looking out to the London skyline, thinking to myself how amazing it would be if I could study here someday. Never would I have imagined three years later I would call London my new home, at least for the three years that I would be here for university.
Coming to London was incredibly exhilarating but equally unnerving. I remember spending my first week here being really awed by the beauty of the city, but also battling feelings of homesickness and loneliness. For the first time in a very long time, I found myself being able to fully decide what I got to do during the weekends, without having to consider family obligations or any other prior responsibilities. This freedom, however, was met with much insecurity as well.
What truly helped was when I found a good church where I could belong to. Through ChristChurch London, I joined a students’ connect group where I could meet and connect with fellow students on a regular basis. Week in and week out, we met for connect group meetings where we discussed bible materials, worshipped together, and supported one another with prayer, and on Sundays we went to church where we could meet other Christians from all walks of life. The connect group is where I found a community where I could be loved and love away from home, and a place where I can call my second home.
Things to Do: Holborn:
The Holborn area has an abundance of good food and things to check out. There are numerous musicals around the area (such as Mamma Mia, School of Rock, The Play that Goes Wrong). In terms of food, there is a wide variety of Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Indian and Western food. Hozi sells really affordable and homey Korean food that makes it popular among students, while My Old Dutch has a special promotion of £5 for most of their pancakes on Mondays. For Chinese food, try Sam’s Express and for Japanese, Eat Tokyo is a good value-for-money place to have Japanese food, as well as Kintan, where you can get great lunch deals. Holborn is also very near to Covent Garden and Soho, where there are loads of great cafes. Monmouth coffee sells some of the best coffee in London, while Timberyard is a great place to meet up with friends over coffee and tea, or a quiet place to catch up on work over hot drinks and snacks. If you are looking to have some healthy and nutritious food, 26 Grains is just the place for you. Fleet River Bakery is also a popular option for people around the Holbon area to have some hot food or pastries.
If you’ve just arrived in London to study, or are looking to find community here while you’re at university, we’d love to meet you. Speak to any member of the Welcome Team on Sunday and they’d love to help you get settled and find a student community here. You can email Lauren at to find out more information, or check out one of our student connect groups.