Housing

I am living in a triplet (3 beds, 1 bathroom, 1kitchen) with two other roommates. For NYU students, there are three choices for housing: Guildford House, Byron House, or Nido. I am a Guildford and overall, I am very glad that I got assigned to this housing choice because it is only 10 minutes away from the campus, 2 minutes from the underground station, and 4 minutes from the supermarket. It is very conveniently situated. If I want, I can eat at different places every day, every meal without having to walk for more than 5 minutes.

Another thing that is awesome is that the room is cleaned by a cleaning lady every Friday. It’s just like living in a hotel. She would take our trash, wipe the floor, clean the kitchen, clean the bathroom, and change the sheets. The whole process take less than 1 hour and during that time (Friday morning), I and my two roommates would just leave for an early breakfast. By the time we finish, the cleaning lady is also done, and we go back and start our weekend with a clean, fresh room.

One thing that really disappoints me is that Guildford and Byron do not have gym. Unlike in New York, I have no place to work out and exercise. I had to buy some work out equips myself and exercise in the small, confined area within my room. I could potentially go to a public gym in London, but they are very expensive and are almost always very crowded. 

Living on Budget

 

London is extremely expensive. Period. That’s really all there is and I would stop my post here except that my post has to be at least 250 words minimum. So I will go on and maybe try to come up with some tips.

Tip #1: Know what to spend money on.

I think this is an extremely important point. Now, it is very important to realize that you are abroad, you are on a special occasion, and it is difficult to not spend money. It costs money to eat out, watch football, board Eurostar…etc. These foreign experiences are expensive yet necessary. Without them, your abroad experience would be pointless. On the other hand, you don’t have to eat Domino here (which is extremely expensive anyway). You can also live without Subways for a few months. GAP is probably not the best place to shop, and Starbucks should be able to survive without a few months of your loyalty (Don’t get me wrong, I really miss Starbucks, but I promise myself that I won’t buy Starbucks while abroad).

Tip #2: Have a plan

Having plan will save you big money. If you are planning to see a musical, travel to Europe, watch football, and book hotels, plan months ahead is absolutely critical. The later you book those tickets, the more expensive those tickets will be. For example, I booked a train ticket from Paris to Milan months ago. It cost me 144 pounds. If I didn’t book it then and try to book it now, the ticket cost at least 300 pounds. 

Study Part Study Away

 

I am actually taking full 18 credits this semester and I hate myself for doing this. Without these courses, I will definitely have a much enjoyable time in London. But don’t get me wrong, the courses here are great. The professors are brilliant, the materials are challenging and inspiring, and most of all, professors’ accent just make the classes exciting.

Courses I take this semester are Corporate Finance, Internship Seminar, Issues in Contemporary British Politics and Culture, Business Law and Society, and Social Psychology. These courses are not just regular business and psychology courses. Having these courses in London means looking at these materials in British aspects.

Take the class of Social Psychology, the Professor sometimes assigns us a topic and asks us to go on to the street to find out answers. For example, one topic was how would Londoners react when they heard Americans faking British accent on purpose? I would not go into the details of our findings, but I will suggest that none of you try this on your own. Some Londoners find it amusing, even hilarious, but some Londoners are just incredibly offended by our innocent, although disastrous, attempts.

Another course worth mentioning is the Issues in Contemporary British Politics and Culture. To be honest, that class is boring, yet it is very informational. I actually learn a lot about British culture, British foreign policy, European economy, and many others world knowledge. To be fair, that class is sometimes interesting since occasionally our guest speakers will jokingly poke fun at political figures, especially the French. 

Everydayness

Source: Self

Source: Self

One thing great about Europe is that the pace of life in Europe is much slower than the pace of life in New York. Even in the great business center—London—one is able to enjoy every day in a relaxing and meaningful manner.

Being abroad for a semester has the advantage that I do not have to treat every day like my last day in a foreign country. I don’t have to take my camera and visit a new site every day. In short, I do not have to live like a tourist. This is absolutely great.

On any given day, I can wake up late, get up slowly, and decided where to have my breakfast/lunch. Usually, I have my breakfast at a corner coffee shop just next to the Russell Square Station. A lady would be handing out newspaper to the people passing by and I usually grab one on my way into the coffee house. No rush, I would enjoy my coffee until it is the time to catch my afternoon class.

After class, it’s my time to do grocery. In New York, the way I do grocery sprinting in and rushing out. Here, I don’t. On my way to the local supermarket, Waitrose, I would take a peek into few stores locating next to the supermarkets. I would almost always run into someone I know who happens to be sitting outside of the supermarket having coffee with friends. Inside the supermarket, I always find myself staring at the wide selection of wines, liquor, and beers that the store has. God, British really enjoy their lives. That alcohol isle in the supermarket is my most visited place in London. 

Cultural Differences

Now that I have spent quite some time in London, it is time for me to comment on the cultural differences between Londoners and New Yorkers. First noticeable difference is that Londoners considered themselves Londoners all the time. What do I mean by that? For example, when asked to identify themselves, Londoners answer “Londoners” most of the time despite their race (Asian, white, black…etc). On the other hand, when asked to identify themselves, New Yorkers throw out all sorts of answer: Californian, New Yorker, Chinese, Asian, African American…etc. This difference shows that Londoners (maybe all British?) have very strong ties to their community and think of themselves as part of the community while New Yorkers are relatively severed from their community and think of themselves as passers-by to the city.

For those of you who are not yet convinced, just compare how clean London’s street is compared to New York’s. Both are cities of high traffic, yet London’s street is much cleaner than New York’s street. Are New Yorkers just a group of people with bad hygiene practices? The better answer, I think, is that New Yorkers simply do not care.

Another cultural difference that I notice is that Londoners live in a much slower pace than New Yorkers do. In London, everyone is chilled and relaxed. You see a lot of people sit outside of restaurants, enjoying the meal as well as the weather, during meal times. You don’t see that in New York. In New York, you see two things: huge queues and people eating on streets. They rarely have time to sit down and enjoy their meals. They are always in a hurry.

Getting Around

This semester is a busy semester for me. I am currently taking 5 classes, and, on top of that, I spent 20 hours interning  each week. As a result, I practically have no free time at all during the weekdays. My weekends are overloaded with schoolwork while my roommates’ weekends revolves around Paris, Amsterdam, and Stockholm. As I am writing this blog, one of my roommate is enjoying his second trip to Paris with his girlfriend!

Although I didn’t have time to make fancy trips, I did manage to fit a number of local trips into my weekends. For the past four weeks, I visited quite a few places: Greenwich, British Tate Modern Gallery, Westfield London Shopping Center, and Piccadily Circus.

On my trip to Greenwich, I cruised along Thames River on Millennium Diamond, which is a very nice cruise boat for tourists. That afternoon, I visited National Maritime Museum, Queen’s House, Old Royal Naval College, Royal Observatory Greenwich, St. Alfege Church, and the well-known Prime Meridian Line. It was a very relax trip for foreigners to enjoy British’s rich history.

Piccadily Circus and Westfield London Shopping Center, on the other hand, are very different places from Greenwich. These sites are crowded and boisterous. They offer everything that our generation loves and worships. I am just going to list some stores out straight and I think this will be enough to excite many of you:  Zara, Burberry, Gucci, Aldo, LV, French Connection, Prada, Armani, and Ferrari. There are also coffee houses, bars, restaurants, and theaters. If these places won’t energize your spirit, I don’t know what will.

First Impression

 

I have lived in many big cities before (Taipei, Dallas, New York, and London), but, after a week, London is by far my favorite city already. Like typical big city, it is very convenient to travel around within London given its comprehensive public transportation system. It is also an energetic city bustling with people and vehicles. Moreover, it is a prosperous city that thrives on multifaceted restaurants and shopping centers. What is impressive, however, is not what London does have. Instead, it is what London does not have that keeps me amazed as I walk down the streets.

First of all, it is just incredible how sanitary the area is. The street is free of litters and cigarette butts, and the subway is very clean and comfortable to ride with as opposed to subway in New York.  I am also surprised to find that there are hardly any homeless people in the area around me. One would assume that London’s streets, like those of other big cities, should be overwhelmed with paupers and homeless. That is, however, not that case.

Before I came to London, I really thought London is going to be just New York on another side of the globe. It turns out that London is, in a good way, very different from New York. I enjoy my daily walk to campus. Sometimes, when I am not in a hurry, I even spend a few minutes inside Russel Square Garden on my way to campus. I don’t mind taking long subway ride here as it is very relaxing and comfortable. If I have to find one fault with the city, it will have to be its high living expenses, but it’s expected. Other than that, it seems that I am having a very enjoyable semester ahead.