What do I truly wish I'd known before moving to London?
A year later and with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I have narrowed it down to three steps: explore and find your niche, build your home, and embrace.
Exploring and finding your niche
London is not just about the main attractions, but especially about the hidden gems.
Exploring your neighbourhood can be a great way to discover new places and to create a sense of community early on. Often, neighbourhoods will have small family-run businesses, like stores, cafés, or antique shops. Becoming a regular at some of these places can help create a sense of belonging in your new community. The stories you hear from the owners and other regulars will open your eyes to new worldviews and help you make sense of life in London.
For me, one of the most paradoxical things I experienced about London is that, because it is so hectic, it forces you to find your stillness, follow your own interests, and carve your own niche.
The city never stops moving and soon enough you will find that it is simply impossible to keep up with the pace of London – and neither are you meant to. The counterintuitive thing about all this is that it's impossible to be everything and everywhere all at once, and this will make you focus more on yourself.
London can feel overwhelming and I am not here to tell you otherwise. What I will tell you though, is that the things that make London feel overwhelming are also what give it its unique charm.
The city has as many rhythms as it does people, so feel free to define your own and change it up to whatever best suits you at a given point in time. This is one of the great things London has to offer – the freedom to be someone new everyday, and in doing so, becoming even more yourself.
Building your home
Although London holds countless exciting possibilities, you may find yourself missing your past. As an international student in London, homesickness is not a foreign feeling.
It is important to maintain ties with your family and friends from home, or feelings you would normally associate with ‘home’. Things such as scheduling calls with your family or catch-ups with your friends seem obvious but can often get lost in the sea of new experiences.
Decorating your room with elements that remind of home, and listening to music or reading literature in your mother tongue can be a great and easy way to remember the connection to your roots.
It comes as no surprise that London has an incredibly vibrant international community. This means that you will have the chance to meet people from your culture far more often than you’d initially imagine.
Chances are you’re not the only one who feels homesick! The diversity of King's allows you to engage with other international students navigating the same journey. King's has a range of resources to support new students on Student Services Online, such as tips on managing homesickness.
The variety that London has to offer also means there will always be restaurants serving traditional dishes from your home country, art or events that will remind you of home. Or you'll find small corner shops hidden away from plain sight selling food you thought you’d only see again in your childhood memories.
Home is a feeling. How can you cultivate your feeling of home, or expand it to encompass your new experiences?
Finally, no matter what London has to offer, embrace it. There will be moments of joy, confusion, excitement, homesickness, cultural shocks, and each of these moments will become a part of the mosaic of your new life. Embrace them with an open heart and a curious mind – this way, no matter what comes, you’ll find a way to make it work in your favour.
I hope at least some of the things in this article resonate with you. If they didn’t quite hit the spot, take this as an opportunity for you to share your own experience – others may need it more than you think.
This article is part of a two-article series about things I wish someone had told me before coming to London. This was the one with the cheesy stuff! If you are interested in the more pragmatic aspects such as renting, transport, and discounts, head over to Things I wish I'd known as an international student at King's.