The Basics of Student Accommodation
As soon as I got accepted to a University in London, there was a list of things I had to very quickly understand, sort out, and do. One of the biggest things on that list was finding out where I would be living while in London. Compared to US schools, the London living situation is a bit more complicated, but I’ll lay out the basics for you right here. Oh, and it’s called accommodation over here, not dorming or apartments.
The biggest difference is that the main schools in London don’t have true campuses. There are no dorms just a walk from the lecture halls with grass and trees in between. Besides the parks in London, it’s pretty much all stone and buildings. There’s also no room, especially in the popular and central areas of London, which are where these Universities are located. Because of that, schools offer accommodation, but often students will choose to find their own places to stay. I like to think of it in tiers of student housing, each a little less related to the University, with many different options.
The first tier is to stay in school accommodation. This is the most tied to the school and I live in kind of accommodation. Each university has their own way of allocating and offering accommodation, but students can rent directly with their university. This is a way to live with people who only go to your school, unless it’s a special inter-collegiate dorm.
Rooms here are usually comprised of a bedroom and shared bathroom and kitchen, a bedroom with a bathroom and shared kitchen, or a studio which has all three right there. Sometimes there are gyms or music rooms in the building as well. They tend to be more expensive the less shared areas there are as well as how close they are to the University. King’s has several locations 20 minutes away by tube from campus as well as several that are 40 minutes away.
The second tier is to stay in private student accommodation. This is less related to your university and more to just being a student in London, because anyone from any university can live in these halls. They’re private companies that rent out to only students. Staying here, you’re guaranteed a diverse group of people living around you but it can be a bit isolating.
My friend lives in this kind of accommodation and has enjoyed it so far. Rooms here are generally studio style flats and a bit small. Often times, since it’s run by a private company, there will be large common rooms, gyms, and/or music rooms. These kinds of living quarters are scattered all around London, so you can find a few close to Uni or farther away.
The third tier, and least related to the University, is to simply rent a flat. Students aren’t barred from renting a general flat in London and students almost always do that their second and third year of study with friends. Often it’s cheaper than renting through the University or private accommodation, but there can sometimes be less perks because the landlords don’t care that you’re a student. In addition, there will be extra expenses for utilities, so make sure to budget that in if you’re searching for a flat.
Three of my friends and I are planning on renting a flat next year. We’re dreaming of location and what it will be like to have our own place. Because there’s four of us, we can afford to have a bit of a larger flat but still keep the cost down. The most important things for us are living in a nice neighborhood, being close to a tube stop, liking the actual flat, and being close to campus. I’ll definitely be updating the blog as it gets closer to us actually finding a place to live.
There are also a fair number of students who commute. Unless you have family living just outside of London, if you’re coming from the US or any other foreign country, then you definitely won’t be doing this. Some students stay at home with their parents for the first year or two and commute on the tube to campus on days they have class. The downside to this is generally a very long commute but the upside is saving a lot of money on accommodation and food expenses.
Those are the different types of living in London for students, but there’s one other thing that I’ll mention, specifically for the school and private accommodation. Almost always, these are non-catered. This means that there is no mess hall, no food plan, and no meals provided. That means that you’ll be making all your own meals in the kitchen. Often, you’ll have one option of living that is catered, which means that you pay for a meal plan and they provide your meals, but for the most part I’ve heard that it’s very expensive and not worth it. Because almost no places have this, the places that do are not very good.
It’s not that bad to make your own food, but it can be a bit of a shock to go from making some of your meals to every single one every time. I’ll be sure to write an article on that soon.
Let me know your thoughts below about accommodation in London! I’d be happy to answer any other questions and I’d love to hear your opinions. Or, if you’re living in London now, how do you live?