My time in student accommodation was my first go at living out of home. I surprisingly settled in very quickly, found nearby places to call my local, and got lucky with some lovely European flatmates. Living as a student in one of the most expensive cities in the world was new, tricky at first and very valuable as a learning experience. Although it wasn’t the comfort of home, for a while it was perfect.
I rarely felt unsafe in London, but I suppose that depends on the area. It was a rattling shock hearing about the Paris attacks in November, especially because I had seen the band whose show was targeted, only a week before. That period was very grounding for us, because it was physically so close and we realised those threats were very real where we now called home. If I did have any trouble, I had a few Australian friends living in London and a close family friend an hour away if I truly got stuck, which I never did.
Exchange really allowed me to explore my other interests because I had so much free time. I enjoyed a lot of performing arts, galleries and live music. London is bursting at the seams with these sorts of events, as well as hidden coffee gems, street art and pop up shops. I loved that culture.
Someone said to me that Australians are either drawn to the UK or visit once and happily return home for good. After my exchange, I see myself moving back as soon as time and money allows. London very quickly felt like home to me and I really struggled to leave.
I spent roughly a month on either side of my 3 month semester taking advantage of England’s proximity to mainland Europe. Although I didn’t see a huge number of places, sacrificing a longer list for more time in each really paid off for me. I visited Australian friends on exchange in different cities, learnt about the joys of budget airlines, went on an international student weekend trip, and caught trains and buses over borders. My favourite city in Europe is Amsterdam because of the relaxed vibes and arts scene. I also really loved Switzerland! The day we had on the “Top of Europe” was absolutely beautiful, despite the shockingly cool temps and mild altitude sickness we all faced – lightheaded and giggly for the entire time!