I am a full time Environmental Science student in London for the last two years and I blog and do Instagram as a hobby/ part time job. I am originally from Vienna, Austria so I moved to London two years ago to pursue my dream of living and studying there. I have grown and experienced A LOT during that time and my time there hasn’t always been positive. Quite on the contrary, I had a very tough time.
A lot of you seem to be very interested in how it is to study and move to London so I’ll answer some questions here. Let’s get to it.
How it all started
I got the idea to study in London while I was in school and I came up with it together with my boyfriend. I am not sure how old I was but I think I was either 17 or 18 (I graduated at age 19 because I went to a special “Vienna Business School”). I wanted to get out of Austria, live in a bigger city and get a good education. From there I researched A LOT on how to get into a UK university. It was not easy since it is a completely different system than in Austria and I had no help (except two friends of ours that studied in London who were kind enough to read over our Personal Statements), especially at the beginning. It takes a lot of research on how the system works and how to start and plan. I quickly realised that I need to get good grades to get into a good university – something that is not necessary most of the time if you want to study in Austria. In Austria you can study for free and don’t have to have good grades, except if you want to go to a private university – which most students don’t. There are entrance examinations a lot of times in Austrian unis but not in all of them. Why did I want to study in the UK then? Because Austrian universities are also very much flawed: In contrary to UK unis, you don’t study for three years to get your Bachelor. There is no limited time. You have to pass your exams to be able to attend the next courses and the exams are very hard. That is why a lot of students in Austria do a Bachelors degree in AT LEAST 4 years or even 5, 6, 7 or 8 years. Not just because they failed exams but also because Austrian universities are overcrowded so modules can be full and they have to wait a semester to try again. Austrian universities are also very low in the global university ranking which means there are not as good and esteemed internationally. Those are just a few disadvantages of Austrian unis.
Back to studying in London: I had to get my grades up. So I studied A LOT. I barely left my home (except for school) for a good 8 months before graduation. Remember, I was in school with business focus. So I had to study a lot of maths, microeconomics and accounting which were the classes I had the lowest grades. Graduating from the Vienna Business School also meant writing a thesis (which you have to defend) and graduating in 6 modules (which means I had 6 exams). One exam – which was accounting and economics – was 6 hours long and I didn’t even finish. While studying and during the summer before my last year of school, I wrote my personal statement (motivational essay) and prepared my application to the universities. If you are an EU/international student in the UK yourself, you know that you have to do this by yourself. There is no teacher or parent preparing you for it. So this wasn’t easy.
I managed to get good grades and make the impossible possible. During the summer, I prepared for the IELTS standardised english test and managed to get a good result too. That was all I needed to get into university in London.
During the summer I had to prepare my application for a student loan (to pay for university).
During the summer before attending university I studied and took the IELTs test for about a month, traveled to California for a month and to Crete for two weeks. For the rest of the summer I stayed in Austria to prepare my move. At that time I had huge personal things going on in my private life and I remember wanting to book a flight and leaving Vienna immediately. But I had to wait and pack one big suitcase and a little one. I flew to London together with my boyfriend and stayed at my godfather’s place and my boyfriend’s parents came to London to help us with the move a few days later. Our first flat was a tiny 17m2 flat in a student accommodation – we loved it. I was SO happy.
Time passed and some problems occurred with the flat, banks, the student loan, the university and more. I also think the staff is highly under qualified (in banks, propoerty management and official positions). The time was really challenging. Also because of the cultural differences. We both never really clicked with British people. Both Max and I became friends with other EU/ international students but it took some time. There were times where I was unhappy with my english, where I was unhappy with my modules and the dark and tiny flat made us both a bit depressed. Plus, we both came to the conclusion that London won’t be our home for very long. The city feels too big for us and we felt a little lonely. It takes forever to get somewhere in London because of the size of the city, so we stayed at home a lot. We were used to Vienna, where you can walk to a lot of places or take the quick public transport. When you walk on Vienna’s streets you most certainly see someone you know. When you go out clubbing (there are not that many clubs in Vienna), you’ll see at least 1, 2, 3 or 50 people you know. Things I was annoyed about when I lived in Vienna suddenly became attractive again.
Managing to keep in touch with family and friends in Austria
I always kept very busy with projects, social media and studying so there wasn’t a lot of time to fly to Vienna. I mostly flew to Vienna during Christmas and the summer break (while I traveled a lot last summer to Thailand, Ibiza, Bali, etc so I didn’t stay in Vienna that long). Of course, I didn’t see and speak to my family as much as I used to. This just happens for most people if you move to another country. Whenever I was in Vienna I LOVED it there: while I still always had bit of studying to do, or some errands to run, I loved the vibes of the city, seeing my family, meeting friends, etc. In Vienna I feel seen and known. I know much more people there than in London. I know many more places there than in London. In London I feel much smaller and anonymous which has its advantages too – I’ve grown a lot there (also personality wise) but it’s tough!
The person I kept in touch with the most was my bestie Sarah. We had times where we called each other every day for 2 weeks or so to talk for 2, 3, 4 hours a day. We also texted a lot and sent each other voice messages. But as you can imagine, I cannot do this with every family member and friend simply because it would take too much time. But I always enjoy the time with them in Vienna even more because of it.
Environmental Science, BSc
My study left me feeling frustrated, depressed and annoyed a lot of times too. I wanted to study Environmental Science to learn about climate change, environmental protection and environmental problems. But the study was a lot about learning biological and geographical basics to understand the science behind nature which I didn’t enjoy as much. It also involved field trips which were not fun at all. I had to be out in the wind, cold and rain for a good 9 or so hours and come back to the accommodation and work on writing essays and reports which were part of my grade. The toughest day involved me staying up until 1 am to finish my report (and eventually being in bed later than that because I had to brush my teeth etc) and waking up at 7 am to go out in the field.
The modules that were about labour conditions in Bangladesh, development in “Third World” countries, climate change and the environmental problems animal agriculture is causing made my heart beat faster of happiness and excitement though!
How I grew
After just two years of living in London, I improved my english and grew so much in my personality! I am much more self confident and don’t care anymore what other people think of me because I experienced anonymity and because I learned to simply not give people the right to judge me anymore. I also learned about how the world works and how international companies work since the next step for me is to work in a company like that.
What about you? Do you have experience in moving to another country? Did you experience challenges?