27 October 2005
Answers provided by students from C05 and D05 appear in italics.
- What are living arrangements like?
- What are the dorm rooms really like?
- Are we going to have a kitchen and close by supermarket?
- Where do you suggest we go grocery shopping?
- What kind of projects are there to work on?
- When will we find out about the projects and how does the selection process work?
- How much money is typically spent by students on the trip?
- How much spending money is reasonable to bring?
- Does London use the euro-dollar, or the traditional pound system?
- How much does it cost in US $ to go out to a local pub and have a few drinks?
- Is it expensive to go out after work/on the weekend?
- Do I have to pay for the tube, or is it included in going away?
- How much will the tube cost us for the time we are there?
- Is the tube like the subway in which you are crowded and should be warned about safety?
- Where is the night life located in London?
- What was the most popular social activity that a young person can enjoy in London?
- What is the weather in London during C term?
- How far away are Oxford and Cambridge?
- How do I find my way around London?
What are living arrangements like?
Shared double rooms in IES Student Residence on King’s Road in Chelsea, one of the poshest streets in London.
You'll be staying at IES residence hall which is a student dorm with mostly international students (most are Americans). The rooms are pretty small and contain a bed, desk, closet/bureau, and your own bathroom. You will also share a kitchen with 2 other rooms or 6 people total.
Fairly small. You'll get to know your roomie well.
The IES dorm is nice, the kitchen is really handy. Make sure you get along with your room mate and that he's not a total slob..
You get a small double bedroom, with a private bathroom (shower, toilet, sink). You can bunk the beds or leave them on the ground separately. You also get a desk, with computer hookups, etc. There are 4 sets of wall plugs, all British Style. Bathroom has Euro style plug. NOTE: The wall plugs can’t accept most adapters, because they are too close to the floor, and the angle is too steep to fit. It’s difficult to find a voltage converter that will fit, sorry. But you shouldn’t need to use a voltage converter in the bedroom, just in the bathroom (shaver, hairdryer) so it’s not that big of a deal.
Dorm rooms, two students per room, with a bathroom to share. Things are a little tight, but you're also have less with you than in the WPI dorms. Overall.. you shouldn't be in the room except to sleep & write home..
Cramped (think a Stoddard single with two people, two beds, 1 bathroom, 2 desks and 2 bureaus in it). That just makes you want to get out and explore the city. Think of it as a place to eat, change and sleep and you'll be better off. The dorm manager is also kind of strict and unpleasant, so avoid crossing him if possible.
What are the dorm rooms really like?
Small with a shared bath. See a photo
Pack light and use soft luggage. The British and Europeans are accustomed to much smaller living spaces than Americans. American-style living is extraordinarily expensive.
Think of a single at WPI (maybe a little bigger) now put two people in it.
In a word: tiny.
The living quarters are modest (yes, small), but well beyond adequate. Each room has two students, and each student has a bed (they can be bunked and have sheets on them), a desk with shelf and a locking armoire with plenty of space for about 2 weeks of clothing. Internet hook-ups for each student (good idea to bring your own network cable or else you will have to buy their over-priced one). Each room has its own tiny bathroom with shower, toilet and sink. Three rooms share a kitchen with table, chairs, stove, microwave, dishwasher, sink and plates/cookware/silverware. There is a full-size fridge and each person gets a personal cabinet that locks. The bedrooms are small so the kitchens are a good place to hang out. We got 10-15 people in the kitchen most of the time. Each floor also has a main common room with couches and TV (DVD players can be borrowed from the front desk). There is no alcohol allowed in common rooms, but it is allowed in personal rooms and kitchens. Above all the dorms are clean and safe. They are small, but you should be out exploring London anyway, not in your room.
Quite frankly…not so good. The beds are ultra uncomfortable and the rooms are TINY. Also, you only get one blanket, so I highly recommend buying a blanket or bringing one if you can fit it in your bags. Also, the walls are really thin and you can hear every word your neighbors are saying at any hour of the day or night. The kitchens aren’t too bad, nor are the common rooms. You learn to put up with it though.
Very small, but who wants to spend time in the room anyway.
Are we going to have a kitchen and close by supermarket?
Each set of three doubles shares a common kitchen. Each resident has a small locking cabinet in the kitchen but share the fridge, range (“cooker”), utensils, and responsibility for washing up. The kitchens are professionally cleaned each week, but you must wash your own dishes, pans, and utensils. Convenience stores are close by but not cheap.
Yes you have a kitchen that you share with approximately 4 other people. The kitchen is accessed by key card. There are super markets on to the left and right on King's Rd. However they aren't like US supermarkets. They are much smaller and don't have as much of a selection.
. . . You all get a lockable cabinet and share a fridge and such. Across the street is a Tesco express (sort of a classier version of Store24 on Highland) or for less money, you can go to the supermarkets that are maybe 15 minutes away.
Three rooms share a kitchen with table, chairs, stove, microwave, dishwasher, sink and plates/cookware/silverware. There is a full-size fridge and each person gets a personal cabinet that locks. The bedrooms are small so the kitchens are a good place to hang out. We got 10-15 people in the kitchen most of the time.
Sainsbury supermarket is less than a 5 minute walk to the right down King's Road. Waitrose is 5-10 minutes to the left down King's Road. Waitrose is a bigger, Stop 'n Shop like store and I heard it had better prices on most things. Sainsbury is a smaller market type place, but I went there because it was closer. There is also a Tesco's convenience store two minutes right down King's Road. Shopping is more of a daily thing in England. There aren't a lot of preservatives in foods so don't buy more than you can use within 2-3 days.
Where do you suggest we go grocery shopping?
At Haymarket tube station there is a larger, more economical supermarket. Some students use their rolling luggage to bring groceries back to IES.
I'd go with the supermarkets. The amount of cash you'll save is worth the trip. Plus, better food than is at the Tesco. There's a small grocery store about 10 minutes walk down the Kings Road towards Sloan Square, but it's as expensive as going to Tesco. I’d hop on the tube to a supermarket more out of the way, like over in Vauxhall.
a. Tesco: Leave IES and turn to Kings Road. Take a right and go about two blocks. It’s on the left side of the road. Pretty small, but good prices.
b. Waitrose: Leave IES and turn left onto Kings Road. Go about 3 blocks. Its very hidden, only a small store front. Inside it’s really big though, almost as big as a US supermarket. Very good to go for your big shopping trips for food, but a little farther away than Tesco.
Tesco is the cheapest and most convenient (open late, decent selection of American foods), but has the smallest selection. Waitrose has a decent selection for a moderate price. Marks is the farthest, has the biggest selection but it is also the most expensive. It looks like a clothing store from the street, so don't be fooled.
In Piccadilly there is a large Tesco which is has a large variety of foods. However right near the hotel there is a Waitrose and Tesco Express which we used almost daily.
What kind of projects are there to work on?
Projects vary from year to year but usually include
- A number involving cutting-edge urban issues, especially with an environmental focus,
- Exhibit, education, or other support for museums such as HM Tower of London, the Dickens House Museum, the National Museum of Science and Industry, or the National Art Library of the Victoria and Albert Museum
- IT and organizational support for a range of non-profits that serve particular populations, such as those who are aged or suffer from arthritis, for example.
For a list of completed London projects, visit Interactions, then select London.
Websites of some recent London Sponsors follow.
- London Borough of Merton
- Museum of Science and Industry
- Museum of Science and Industry (WPI project teams worked on these exhibits during 2006.)
- RADAR (Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation)
- Centre for Accessible Environments
- London Borough of Merton, My Merton Magazine
- National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum
- London Borough of Brent
- Lewisham Strategic Partnership (Web site and communication tools developed by a WPI IQP team)
- HM Tower of London Education Department
- Dickens House Museum (On-line tour developed by a WPI IQP team)
- City of Westminster
- Commonside Community Development Trust
The London Project center has a large variety of projects for all types of interests including projects at the National Art Library, Tower of London, London Science Museum, RADAR, Amnesty International. There is something for everyone here.
Changes every year, but regular trends seem to be evaluating exhibits in the Tower of London, routing power and heat through the Borough of Brent and planning buildings to be handicapped accessible.
Mostly business-style. Chances are you'll be working on some kind of computer/database/website implementation and maybe correlating some data for a company. Nothing too hard-core 'engineering' but not a total b.s. kind of thing either. You'll be doing work, but it's a lot less than you do during a regular term.
I guess this depends on the year.
My year there was a lot of CS project which isn't too cool if you weren't a CS.
When will we find out about the projects and how does the selection process work?
Typically, project descriptions are distributed to London-bound students in a meeting just before the preparation term begins. Students express their preferences among the projects and describe what they bring to their first-choice project. The advisors and center directors form the teams based on those preferences and the apparent needs of each of the projects. The primary goal is a good educational outcome for you and your team members, the secondary goal a good project outcome for the sponsor.
How much money is typically spent by students on the trip?
I spent maybe $1500-2000 on food, pubs, and a trip to Wales. The range is all over, but I’d say at least $800
I probably went through about $3000. This includes groceries, travel expenses (I went to Scotland for a weekend, and Amsterdam for another), drinks and eating out, and souvenirs. It’s an expensive place, no question.
Between $1000-$3000 depending on your lifestyle over there.
I never had the heart to add up all of my expenses because I didn't want to know, but I estimate I spent around $2500. That includes a weekend trip to Ireland and 4 days in Venice over the long weekend. It is definitely worth the money if you can afford it because you're in London!!! Have some fun and see the sites!
Unfortunately the exchange rate isn’t the best roughly 2 to 1. So everything is very expensive. The amount of money you should bring depends on whether you want to travel or not going to Scotland, Ireland, or some day trips will increase the cost quite a bit. I brought roughly 3,000 dollars with me (including a trip to Scotland, Ireland, and Oxford) and had some left over. However, you can probably get by with much less.
How much spending money is reasonable to bring?
Plan to spend anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 and a credit card.
Plan for a grand, and remember to email your parents for more. Oh yeah, the bank 'Barclays' is affiliated with Fleet/Bank of America, so you won’t get a fee for using their ATM’s. Good to keep in mind.
Maybe like $3000 or more, depending on how crazy you want to be. You can spend a lot less if you don’t do a lot out, and if you don’t go away for your weekends. You can still have a wicked good time.
I blew through $2k between train / bus travel, hostels, and pubs.
For your first day bring about 50 pounds for a taxi ride to the dorms, a meal and some starter groceries. Otherwise just use an ATM card without international fees. It is safer, more convenient and you can keep track of your spending.
Bring some cash to get settled in with, but there are reliable ATMs all up and down King's Road and they will give you the best rate. I'm not sure what the fees were but I know they weren't that bad.
Does London use the euro, or the pound currency?
The United Kingdom uses the pound; the balance of Europe and the Irish Republic use the Euro. Estimate current exchange rates.
How much does it cost in US $ to go out to a local pub and have a few drinks?
A pint of beer costs about $5.00, more or less. You will notice that in most British pubs the patrons do indeed limit themselves to a very few drinks. Getting hammered is as sure a mark of an American as a baseball cap.
Approx. $10. It depends on what drinks you choose.
I think the cheapest we saw pints were something like 2 pounds for something you won’t mind drinking. Depends on your definition of fun.
I’d spend something like 10 pounds on a good night, at least.
For drinks, you’re looking at about $5 per drink, for something like Carlsberg. If you want a Guinness, Stella, or something else higher on the list, it’s more like $7 per pint. Remember though, the pints are 19 ounces.
$20 on an average night depending on where you go. "Pregaming" a pint at the pub costs about $5-$6.
A beer in London is roughly 2.5 - 3 pounds so 5 - 6 dollars.
Is it expensive to go out after work/on the weekend?
Yes, to clubs and pubs, particularly night after night.
But there is much to do in London that is cheap or free, especially involving music and theater. The weekly magazine Time Out (http://www.timeout.com/london/) lists more events, artists, and venues than you could visit in a year.
It is expensive to go out just because the pound is worth about 2 dollars so everything you buy is double in American dollars. However, if you budget wisely and don’t go overboard it can be reasonable and is something that unfortunately you have to get used to with the exchange rate.
Not if you pick the right places. A lot of the tourist’s hot spots are free but there are some things worth doing that you have to pay for (i.e. the London Eye).
It can get expensive, but you can find deals and save a lot that way. Also, you just get used to paying more than you’re used to, so it doesn’t seem so bad after a while. If you don’t want to spend a lot, you’ll find the pubs and places that don’t charge much; we did.
Yes, but only because of the exchange rate.. the prices are relatively the same as in the states. Unless you like American goods.. then the import duties are pretty high.
If you go out every night it will add up quickly. Weekend trips to Scotland, Ireland or the mainland are fun, but pricey. There are also day trips to places like Stonehenge, Bath and Windsor Type Castle that are reasonably priced and are a pretty good time.
Again it depends on how much you bring and plan to spend. Many of the clubs have cover charges but if you look for promotions or ask certain nights students might get in free etc.
Do I have to pay for the tube, or is it included in going away?
You have to buy your own tube pass on your first day in London. (You’ll need a passport-size photo and a credit card; more details are given at the London orientation before you leave.) Its cost for your 49 days in London is subsidized (subsidized rather than reimbursed because of variations in transactions costs and exchange rates). Your tube pass will get you to and from your sponsor’s every day and throughout central London. In some case, it can save you a bit on train fare as well.
How much will the tube cost us for the time we are there?
Most students receive either a zone 1-2 pass (about $260) or a zone 1-4 pass (about $370), depending on their sponsor’s location. This purchase is subsidized by IGSD.
Is the tube like the subway in which you are crowded and should be warned about safety?
During rush hour, the tube can be crowded, as is public transport in most metropolitan centers. Pickpockets are common in all those cities. In London, they tend to concentrate in tourist-rich areas like Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, or Covent Garden.
Standard big city advice: avoid carrying lots of cash, all your credit cards, or your passport. Keep what you do carry in a zippered inside pocket or a money belt. Backpacks, purses, laptops, and cell phones are easy targets unless they are attached to you and under your constant surveillance. Pickpockets are quick and ingenious. Distractions like pressing crowds, busy pubs, or begging children can make their work easy. Replacing a stolen tube pass, credit card, or WPI cell phone is an expensive headache you can avoid by being careful and alert.
The tube can be extremely crowed but it's fine. Just remember you are guest in England.
I heard about all sorts of worrying things, but I'm sure you've heard the same from your parents about the "T" in Boston..Paranoia, the whole lot of it. That said, it doesn’t hurt to be cautious. It does get very crowded at times, and I figured pick-pockets could work the crowd pretty easily. I never had a problem.
I found the tube very easy to navigate and safe as well. Like any public transportation system it does get busy but did remain safe and efficient.
I loved the tube. During rush hours, it can get a bit crowded. Especially on the way to work, and on the way home. Also, around last call it can get wicked crowded. But I never felt at danger. Just travel in groups. Most of the time, it’s really not that bad, especially on the less popular lines. Picadilly Line is crowded most of the day, but something like the Bakerloo, Central, Jubilee, etc aren’t so bad. If you don’t want to be crowded, you can take a different route. Or just take a bus.
Don't worry about safety, but you'll be stuffed in like cattle during rush hour. The Oyster Card you’re getting is amazing, with unlimited bus and tube travel. London has an excellent and VERY nice public transport system. Every bus station has a little sign listing all the places you can get to from there. You find where you want to go, and then look across the row to find out which of the busses that stops there you will want to get on.
The "journey planner" will give you public transport step-by-step directions (including walking) for getting around town. It’s like map quest for the tube.
Depending on the time of day it can be very, very crowded or reasonably sparse. Like any big city there is an element of crime, so be smart about where you go, with who and when. Generally the tube is safe, but that's not a guarantee of safety.
The tube is crowded during main commuter hours and you will probably have to stand. Also just as the pubs close it is really busy. Other than that you can usually sit. The stations are very clean and well lit and there are always enough people on the trains so you should feel safe. You should always practice general safety in a big city, but I definitely never felt threatened in any way on the tube.
The tube in London is excellent ─ very easy to find your way around and there are plenty of officials around to help if need be. However it is always good to use common sense and keep your valuables close.
Where is the night life located in London?
Everywhere. See Time Out
There is a bar with open microphone night if you go to King's Rd. and take a left. It's after the "park" across the street from Starbucks, I think.
All over. There are pubs everywhere. The clubs are spread around too, but there's a good concentration around Picadilly Circus. That's where you’ll find the theatres and all the tourists as well.
The best night life is around Piccadilly Circus, Totenham Court Road, Leicester Square, Soho, and areas like that.
All over. There's a bar under the Cornish Pasty Shop (near the dorms) called the Bosun's Locker. They do open-mic nights on Thursdays. Bring instruments. You’ll get free beer if you're good.
You can find clubs and pubs on pretty much any street corner.
Everywhere. There are good pubs around the dorms, but it is also a short tube ride (less than 20 minutes if I recall) to Picadilly Circus and Leicester Square, which are like the Time Square of London. There are good pubs, movie theatres, souvenir shops and places to eat in these areas.
What was the most popular social activity that a young person can enjoy in London?
Football (i.e. soccer), drinking, sight seeing
Most popular? Pub crawls. Drink up before the early curfew (it'll take some getting used to) and make your way somehow to the tube before it closes or you'll be trying to navigate your way home via bus routes.
Clubs and pubs are probably the best things to do at night. Unfortunately a lot of businesses close really early in the UK, so there isn’t much else open at night. During the day though, parks, museums, etc. are awesome to go to, and they’re free.
Walking around like you live there. It's nice to blend in so well you get asked for directions.
Pubs, clubs and games at the park. Visiting museums (they are all free) is also a good idea. There are some world class museums there with some very famous and interesting collections.
We enjoyed going to pubs most of the time. They usually had an older crowd, although some of the pubs had younger people more our age. Just look around and find places you like. There are also a couple of clubs around but they have a high cover and drinks are very expensive, about $8-$12 each.
Pubs, and night clubs are popular.
Any term can be cold or rainy in London, but the weather on average is milder than in New England. C term may see occasional temperatures as low as freezing, maybe even a little snow. B and D terms may tease with a little summer-like weather but windy weather with a little chill in the air is more common. E term can be beautiful. The English may be the best rose gardeners in the world!
London weather, select summary of weather during previous months of interest.
C-term we wore mostly winter stuff. Sweaters and such; it's like a Worcester fall. We never had real snow, and it was generally in the 50s and 60s (F) until the end when it rose up to maybe mid 70s
During D term, it was pretty much constantly in the high 50’s to low 70’s. Some days it got a little warm, like high 70’s. Doesn’t rain THAT much; it was really nice during our term away. But I would purchase or bring an umbrella.
Spring. Mid-50s, flowers, some random flurries at night.
In D term it was dry, warm and overcast. For some reason the locals wore jackets almost the whole time, which may mean the weather is usually less pleasant, but generally the weather was not a problem.
C term it is cold, but definitely not New England cold. When I was there C term it actually snowed, which was a big deal in London. It doesn't happen all that often. It didn't rain as much as I thought it would either. Most of the time I was fine wearing just a fleece or a sweatshirt, but I would recommend bringing a winter coat just in case.
I was there in D term we had excellent weather mostly sunny with a little rain and generally warm.
How far away are Oxford and Cambridge?
About an hour by train or bus. Both are easy, fun weekend day trips.
For all sorts of journey information in and around London, visit The Journey Planner.
Note that trains to different locations leave from different stations and are run by distinct companies. Some offer special deals, as you might expect from an airline, so it pays to shop. There can be special rates for students as well. Check with the desk at IES, the student residence.
Oxford and Cambridge are both about 1-1/2 hours away from Paddington and Kings Cross stations and are HIGHLY recommended.
Oxford was a 90 min bus ride I think . . . and one of the prettiest places I went.
Cambridge: about an hour and a half away by train
Oxford: about an hour away by train
How do I find my way around London ?
Buy an "A to Z" ("A to zed" in British). It is a comprehensive street map book of London that comes in various sizes to suit your backpack and eyesight. You can also use Street Map, MapQuest for the UK, more or less. (Postal codes are particularly helpful with Streetmap.)
Fodor's Guide to London came in very handy.
London tube map is by far the easiest thing to read for finding spots, and most of the places you'll want to go will mention the closest tube stations. I recommend spending the first week or so just wandering around getting lost in the city so you know where things are and then going from there.
This isn’t as tough as you’d think. The bus stops and tube stations are made with really easy to figure out directions. You can find your way home from ANYWHERE, trust me. If you can find a bus stop, they all have maps and schedules, so you can even figure out connections really easily. I don’t think we ever got lost. Also, the TfL has a great website (Transport for London). You can input start and end places, and it’ll tell you how to get there. Also, a good tourist guide is helpful, AAA makes a good one that I used.
The tube. Posters advertising events will have that small blue circle with red bar symbol on them (the underground's logo), and the name of the tube station you ought to get off at and Transport for London is a big help.
Use the internet or the London A-Z guide (See A-Z Guide to London) at first. The tube is fairly well thought out, so you should be able to figure out how to use it to get around fairly quickly.
A good guide book always comes in handy with a street index, but I found good websites that let you find specific streets as well. Pretty much every attraction has a website that includes directions from the nearest tube station. Then it's just a matter of going on the Tube website which has a map of the system or just looking at the map in the station. It's real easy. (Try Street Maps)
One thing I did is purchase the A-Z London guide which is recommended to you and you can find it all over the place in London. Second thing I found useful is getting a bus tour map while you’re in the city. It helps outline the key attractions in London that you can travel around and see, I didn’t actually go on the bus tour.
Last modified: May 21, 2007 15:24:09