Accommodation Awards: Courtney

When deciding where I wanted to study abroad, I knew I wanted to choose a big city to live in. However, the main drawbacks of choosing a city as opposed to a smaller town or a University town is that things can get a little more expensive – especially accommodation-wise. I would personally recommend staying in University accommodation over finding somewhere yourself, as it usually tends to be cheaper and more central. Along with this, it usually includes all bills, so all you need to worry about is buying food for yourself, and paying rent – no extra costs included. It also provides a great way to meet other students, both those local and other study abroad.
 
In saying that university accommodation is cheaper than most private rentals, London is still expensive. Fortunately, most residences at King’s are in Zones 1-2, which means an easy commute into Uni each morning. The location on each though, does depend. I personally live in accommodation situated about a half hour bus ride into the city – although I know some that consist of a 20 minute tube ride, 10 minute bus ride  and 20 minute walks. It all depends on your location and what public transport is available to you. Obviously, you’ll be paying more the closer you are to the centre of the city (and therefore closer to the University). I don’t mind travelling into the city, particularly as much of the time I am travelling with friends.
 
Now I can only speak for King’s residences, and of that I have obviously only lived at one. I have visited (and heard of) a few others due to friends living there, so I will give a rundown of these the best I can. So as follows, here are the Accommodation Awards for KCL Residences 2017:
 
Furthest Away, Most Modern and Highest Concentration of Woodland Creatures: Champion Hill
My residence, and arguably the furthest away is Champion Hill. Located in the suburb of Denmark Hill, it is connected by the Overground, National Rail services and buses. While the bus takes longer in London due to traffic, it has the advantage of being the cheapest. £1.50 will get you as far as you need to go – no zone charges, unlike the tube or rail. The absence of an underground does mean sometimes it takes slightly longer to get somewhere, but in a city as large as London, almost everyone has a long trip at some point.
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Because the residence is quite far out (although in London terms, its as close to the city as Mount Eden or Parnell), it has quite a suburban feel. I love this about the area, as you feel like you can get away from the hustle and bustle of it all and relax. Even better – the amount of squirrels and even a few foxes living in the area! Much to the amusement of my American and British friends, who are used to seeing these, I find it very exciting every time I see one! Now that we’re fully in Spring here in London, they seem to be out and about more, to help me get my fix of woodland creatures.
 
Rooms here are pretty spacious – similar to that of Carlaw Park Student Village/University Hall at UoA, although slightly narrower. The best part about these rooms is whilst it is classed as a non-ensuite, you still get your own shower and hand basin, sharing a toilet with around 4 others on your floor – which is great. Champion Hill does offer rooms with their own toilet as well, although these are slightly more expensive. Like the other residences, they come with a shared kitchen which you share with some of your flatmates.
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I cannot speak for the other residences, but I will say that there are very few events put on by the halls, so it can be difficult to meet others in your hall. Apparently this is due to the fact of my arrival time – I have heard they have lots of events in O week in September, and I arrived for the second semester in January. So if you are relying on those kind of events to meet people, I might suggest choosing to go for the Fall semester. However I will say that it is not impossible – as long as you put yourself out there, you will definitely be able to meet some people. Remember – your hall experience is what you make of it!
 
Highest Percentage of Study Abroad Students: Great Dover St
Located very near to London Bridge, this is a really nice centrally located hall. I have friends who reside at this dorm, and have visited it a few times. Mostly first year students live here, although a large majority of study abroad students are placed here – making it a great community to meet other like-minded study abroad students. However, it might be slightly harder as a result to meet British students, as they tend to put all the study abroad students together. The rooms are slightly smaller than that of Champion Hill, but they have full ensuites in all of the rooms. The rooms are organised into groups of about 8, which all share a communal kitchen. The location means its about a 20-30 minute walk to the Waterloo Campus, and slightly further to the Strand Campus. However if you’re placed at Guy’s campus – it is very close by!
 
Best Suburb Name: Julian Markham
This first year dorm also hosts other study abroad students in a similar set-up to Great Dover. It is located in a zone one suburb of Elephant and Castle, which arguably has the coolest name of an area I’ve found so far in London. It’s a 20 minute walk again to Waterloo campus or a very short bus ride if you’re running late! The rooms are similar size to that of Great Dover with a similar layout – ensuites with a shared kitchen.
 
Laziest Commute: Stamford St Apartments
You can imagine my envy, when on the first day of classes after a busy 40 minute bus ride into the Waterloo campus for class, I look directly across the street and see a KCL residence. Students that live there and have classes at the Waterloo Campus literally have to roll out of bed and they’re already at class – which I was beyond jealous of! Although – no excuse for missing class! While it’s a great timesaver and very convenient, the apartments cost an extra£40 per week (around $80NZD) and being that central means they are probably pretty used to lots of noise. Definitely something to weigh up though if you like your sleep!
 
From the Residences that I have seen, most seem to offer a good way of living, all in similar circumstances. However, the nicest ones are arguably Angel Lane in Stratford and Champion Hill – some of the furthest out, but recently renovated so they offer a few more modern additions.  While London is expensive, it is an amazing hub of culture, art, history and business. It is incredible to be living and studying in the heart of such a city, you barely notice the transport times or accommodation costs. If you’re an urbanite like me – I can definitely recommend living in London while studying abroad. 
 
More perks of living in London – it is such a great hub to get to other places in Europe! I’ve currently visited Scotland, Denmark and Sweden. I’m then off in a week to visit a friend in the Netherlands, followed by a trip to Cologne and Berlin, Germany with some study abroad friends! 
 
Until next time,
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Food, glorious food: Courtney

Let’s face it – one of my favourite things when I’m exploring a new place is to find the best eats a city can offer, and going abroad was no different! Thankfully, London hosts a smorgasbord of different international cuisines, thanks to it being a melting pot of so many different cultures. This results in London’s huge variety in different foods, so you’re never out of option. Whether its having the cult classic Nandos (I swear it tastes better in the UK), or shopping around one of the many food markets in London, you’ll find something you like. I love Borough Market in London Bridge, it has as many food stalls, ranging from international cuisines, to coffee, bakery, cheese and dessert stalls. In terms of lazy food, my personal favourite is Deliveroo, a delivery service, which for £2.50 or often free, you can get local restaurant food delivered to you. My personal favourite is Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which is UK wide and actually Kiwi owned – they have a Kiwiburger on the menu or even L&P if you’re feeling a bit homesick!

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Amazing Brunch (complete with Cold Brew Coffee) at The Breakfast Club in London Bridge

A must-know for anyone living in London (or the UK for that matter) – the coffee is terrible. The great thing about this is that I’ve dramatically decreased my caffeine intake, but sometimes when you’re getting up at 5am to head out to Luton for a 10am flight, you just want a good coffee. On the bright side – the expat Kiwi community here has meant quite a few Antipodean places have been set up by Kiwi’s and Australians alike (which thankfully, Australians make a pretty good coffee). So definitely have a search around London for some Kiwi classics, although, they are generally located in the city centre, so if you don’t live close, you need to be pretty dedicated to the cause! Because of this, I’ve slowly moved over to hot chocolates – which help to keep you pretty warm in the low temperatures. One of my favourites so far was actually a Galaxy Hot Chocolate on a train to Scotland (Galaxy is a chocolate brand but way better than Cadbury’s!). I’ve also had a pretty good one at Dark Sugars in Shoreditch, which smells incredible!!!

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Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate at Dark Sugars in Shoreditch – complete with chocolate shavings!

A classic stereotype of England is sipping tea and eating scones, one I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve tried! For a friend’s birthday we attended high tea in Marylebone. The cakes, scones and finger sandwiches were incredible, and was funny to watch my American friends discover scones with clotted cream for the first time! We were however, confused when my friend from Ecuador asked the waitress for some salt – we first assumed it was for the sandwiches. However, further questioning revealed she was confused why the ‘butter’ tasted sweet, and was going to use salt on it to make it more savoury. We soon realised she was talking about the clotted cream – and we broke the news to her it was actually cream and supposed to be sweet – but was definitely a cultural confusion for her.

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High Tea in Marylebone

Now unfortunately due to being a student, I sadly cannot afford to eat out every single night. So,  my local supermarket (Sainsburys’) has become my best friend. I will say that the food (even with the awful exchange rate) at supermarkets is much cheaper than at home. I can easily do a week’s shop for £20, which is a great money saver! That then means I can save more money for my travels, or even discovering a few more great food joints! A handy tip for anyone heading abroad – join your supermarket’s loyalty program! I’ve only been here 4 months, and I’ve already managed to rack up £20 worth of points, which you can use towards groceries or even on eligible train tickets, which is paying for me to visit the Lake District later this month! I know some people don’t like to sign up for them and have to carry a card with them, but if you’re on a budget like I am, it can really come in handy!

In the 4 months I’ve lived away from home, my culinary adventures have not been limited to that of London and the UK. I’ve been fortunate to visit several European countries, and so here is a wee follow up of my faves!

The Netherlands: Stroopwafels
I was fortunate to spend a long weekend in the Netherlands with a friend, who is a Dutch native. Her family introduced me to Stroopwafels, and I immediately fell in love (and am now having major withdrawal now I am back in London). They are pretty common there, and can be found in pretty much all supermarkets. They consist of this thin soft cookie-like outside, with a delicious caramel gooey centre.

Germany: Soft Pretzels
Now I know you can get soft pretzels both back home and in London, but I think being in the land of Pretzels make them taste better (a theory in progress). Not only that, you can find them on almost every street corner, and they’re all so cheap! The two girls I were travelling with and I exclusively lived on pretzels the 3 days we were in Germany!

France: Do I even need to say it?
Macarons, bread, pastries, wine – I never want to leave! The culinary adventure in France could almost outweigh the cultural experience – almost. Make sure if you visit to leave some time to have some proper meals – the French take their mealtimes pretty seriously!

However, with being adventurous and trying lots of new food around the world, comes the risk of ordering something not quite what you were expecting. This happened to one of my friends while we were in Cologne. She thought she was ordering fish, however what came out were two raw herring filets – not quite what she was expecting! So if you’re unsure, my top tip is to always ask! (Or at least have a google translate app handy…)

Its exam season here, so I’m off  to find a few good coffee shops to get my study done! If you need any top food recommendations, feel free to ask!
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My O-Week Experience: Courtney

Greetings from London!!

After 30+ hours travelling straight from Auckland, I arrived in the UK on a very dark, foggy afternoon in London. That’s something that was not mentioned to me – due to the UK’s high latitude, it gets dark around 4pm in January! Thankfully this means longer summer nights – which I will definitely be looking forward to. I arrived about a week and a half early, and fortunately was able to stay with my cousin in Wimbledon until I moved into my residence. This gave me a good opportunity to get over my jetlag and get myself acquainted with London.

I highly recommend going early if you can, particularly if you are travelling to the UK or Europe. The jetlag is not fun, and I’d met some poor souls from Australia trying to stay awake at orientation having arrived the day prior. I explored all the classic London tourist spots in that week – even if it meant leaving early in the day, as you wouldn’t see much past 3:30pm when it started to get dark.

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This is Somerset house, which in December hosted an ice skating rink! This beautiful historic building is right next to the Strand Campus, and nice for a bit of solitude in the busy city during the right times!

My first week at King’s was rather eventful, to say the least. Monday morning, first day of orientation we were greeted with a tube strike. Not just a few lines, but the entire underground system, which millions of Londoners require to get into the city each day, as only a few thousand actually live in the city centre. As you can imagine, the streets were gridlocked with replacement buses, causing me to be an hour late to orientation (along with many others!), as I ended up with a 45-minute walk when my bus got caught up in the madness.

Orientation was rather unstructured at King’s. We had a few morning sessions, welcoming us, informing us about British Life and Culture, and the school system. It runs fairly similarly to the New Zealand system, although the grading is a little different – 40% is actually a pass here! Although unfortunately it doesn’t mean it’s easier, as the way they grade means anything over an 80% is near impossible.

I quickly learned at King’s that you would definitely need to put yourself out there to meet new people. They offered a few events in orientation week, however many were group based and often people would quickly form groups – which is quite intimidating if you’re not comfortable with meeting new people. However, it is a great way to put yourself out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself!

Friday of orientation week I also got another surprise – Snow! An extremely exciting event for someone who rarely sees snow. Unfortunately, London being slightly warmer than up north, meant that the snow didn’t settle. I’ve also managed to spot a fox that lives around my residence a few times – which again is exciting for someone who’s never seen one before. I’ve found I definitely get strange looks freaking out over squirrels (which are everywhere).

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Big Ben is just a short walk from the Strand campus. I made sure to visit it during orientation week because it is scheduled to have scaffolding go up soon, as it is under repair for the next three years!

Unfortunately, my residence has yet to do anything about any activities or meeting people, which is quite different to what I’m used to, living at Carlaw Park Student Village previously. I assume much of this is to do with the fact that I started in their second semester (January), and so many residents already know each other from orientation in September.

My orientation experience is only going to be relevant to King’s, however if you have any questions about UK Universities, feel free to contact me at cyul074@aucklanduni.ac.nz, and I might be able to help with my experience so far!

I’ve recently booked trips to Scotland, Copenhagen and Amsterdam in the next month, so looking forward to my European adventures! Feel free to follow me on Instagram @courtney_yule to follow my adventures!

Until next time,

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What I’m Packing: Courtney

The Countdown Begins….

As I begin the final countdown to leaving for London (10 days… what!?!) I’ve had to start packing up everything, as I also am moving out of my current flat at the same time. This is one of the least exciting parts of moving abroad for me, the only thing worse is unpacking. Despite being fortunate enough to travel quite a few times, I have not yet mastered the art of packing, as I either seem to bring too much or too little. In first year, when I moved up to Auckland to study, I had an entire suitcase dedicated to my shoes. So let’s just say packing for six months in one suitcase was not going to be an easy task!

The great thing about London is the shopping, so I have a great excuse of not packing everything, of course to make room for everything I’m going to bring back! I’ve made sure to pack my warmest sweaters and jackets, as I’ll be landing in London in the middle of winter, so while you’re all enjoying the beautiful kiwi summer I’ll be wearing everything I’ve brought with me in an effort to stay warm. My cousin, who currently lives in London wisely told me I’ll need a good coat, and the one I use for my Auckland winters is just not going to cut it. Which is another great excuse to go shopping in the after Christmas sales on Oxford St! I’d show you everything I’m taking, but I’m not sure a pile of my sweaters will prove rather inspirational…

I’ve made sure to bring a tote bag that I’ve folded up in my main luggage, if I need more space on my way back. I plan on travelling around the UK and Europe during the six months I’ll be studying in London, and I’m sure not every trip will require my (very large) suitcase, so it will be good to have a smaller bag for the shorter trips I’ll be taking.

Apart from my clothes, I won’t be taking much else. I’ve got a few printed photos of home that I’ve packed to help with the homesickness, but luckily the UK has some great cheap stores (see Primark), so anything I’ll need for the six months will likely be purchased cheaply there. I’ve also got a travel journal, which I will use to help document my travels, to hopefully keep me (somewhat) organised!

While packing my main luggage is always a personal struggle, I have mastered the task of my carry on. I’ll be flying straight to London with a very short stopover in Hong Kong, so I’ll be travelling close to 30 hours straight. When I do long haul flights like this, I always like to bring a change of clothes, which help me feel a lot fresher during my journey. Warm socks are always a must, as they always seem to put the plane temperature on max and my feet freeze! A sleeping mask is also great for the plane, when your (not-so) friendly neighbour decides in the middle of a great sleep they want to turn on their overhead light nice and bright! And if you’re fortunate enough to be seated next to a baby, earplugs are not a bad idea either. Otherwise, I always like to pack my iPod with some soft music to drown out any crying babies while I sleep.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, and next time you hear from me, I’ll be braving the cold UK winter! (As I write this a quick Google search tells me the current temperature is a balmy 4C). See you soon London!

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