So you’ve just come back for your second year of university, the memories of first year fondly put behind you and ready to take on new challenges. For everyone who has chosen to do a placement year, now is the time to start looking at your options. Personally, the big city was calling and I made it my sole requirement to be able to spend my placement year in London. Now, about 2 months into my work placement, I want to help you make this decision. I introduce you to the good, the bad and the ugly sides of doing your placement in the capital city.
Let start this off with the pros of London:
You’re unlikely to be bored (unless you’re broke): When you’re in London there’s always something to do. Whether you’re into stamp collecting or Pokémon go themed bar crawls, you’ll always be able to find your niche with a seemingly inexhaustible amount of events and attractions in London. You’ll never find yourself lost for choice about what to do on the weekend.
All of the food: Foodies rejoice with this one, the London food scene is incredible. The options are endless, whatever your dietary preferences. I personally recommended checking out one of the many food markets around the city. Meal deals for lunch will seem like a thing of the past when you can find mini tacos and all sorts of weird and wonderful foods at every street corner.
So many people: With a population nearing nine million, one of the great things about London is that you’re sure to meet all sorts of weird and wonderful people during the year that you probably wouldn’t encounter anywhere else.
You’ll be spoilt for choice of employers: You don’t need to be that clued up to know that all of the biggest companies are based in London. One of the biggest attractions of London for many in terms of placement is the sheer amount of choice and opportunities for jobs. I personally went with a smaller start-up company, but the choice is immense, especially within the banking and financial sector, which primarily bases itself in the city, along with other big names such as Disney and L’Oréal.
‘Live fast, die young’ as quoted by M.I.A: Being in the city means it’s always bustling, especially with the night tube having recently opening alongside the wide network of 24hour buses. If you look hard enough you’ll always feel like something is happening.
Day to Day Costs: So you were probably expecting this one; living in London is expensive. On an average day my spending will be about £15. The food, the transport, the drinks … It all adds up.
I’ve paid £14 for a double vodka red bull in Piccadilly Institute before, which is probably a fairly extreme example, but I’m making a point. The average pint will be about £3 for the ‘cheap stuff’ and a single + mixer puts you back at least £4.50.
Here’s a tip though: if you want to go out in London on the cheap, Facebook is your best friend. There are dozens of free events dotted around the city; scout them out and you are already on a good one.
However, the post-work drinks are not the priciest part regarding day to day expenses. The most expensive daily costs in London are transport costs- yes it’s true, despite the incessant delays and being held at red light signals, London’s public transport system costs a bomb despite the fare cap; I’m still topping up £50 on a weekly basis. Luckily enough, Transport For London offers student oyster schemes giving you a 3rd off your journeys, which you can apply to as a Surrey student on a London placement.
Many students working in London choose to commute in order to pay less rent, so another thing to consider is that the average London worker commute is 79 minutes each way. On a more positive note, you could use the time to be productive, for example read a book or listen to a podcast. After a year of 6am starts, getting to your 9am on time will be a piece of cake.
Waiting around: whether it’s at a restaurant, a club line or your morning coffee before heading into the office you’ll always be waiting or queuing, it’s part of the London life.
Living costs: One of the worst things about doing placements in London is living expenses. I know for a lot of people (including myself) placement means living at home again, but for others accommodation is something to consider. With that in mind, I’ve done some research to give you a quick break down of the sorts of living costs you can expect to be paying (let’s bear in mind this is purely hypothetical and based on my own personal research):
- Average rent for a student in London would be around 600(pounds) pp/pm
- However, it depends where you will live, since more central locations could have rents of up to £900 pp/pm
- Your average bills could be about £50 monthly
- In terms of weekly living costs, aim to give yourself a budget of about £100
It’s important to emphasise that despite the pros and cons I’ve mentioned from my own personal experience, in my opinion, the pros by far outweigh all of the cons and I’m so pleased with the decision I made for this year.
With that, happy job-hunting ex-freshers!
Text and photos by Maïté Owens.