“He hitchhiked to London one weekend. While he was there he decided in a moment of elation that he would not apply to Oxford…He was coming here, where people seemed larger and louder and unpredictable and the famous streets carelessly shrugged off their own importance.” – On Chesil Beach
Okay, so technically I wasn’t actually ever going to go to Oxford (I did try, but that’s a whole other story). Yet choosing my university- and London as a choice in particular- has shaped my life and started the domino effect within my sphere of existence.
A London university isn’t perfection. There are those days I crave a community, university lifestyle rather than the ‘every individual for themselves’ mentality, which appears to run through the blood and system of every Londoner. It bothers me that we don’t have free ‘safety’ buses transporting our drunken messes back home to our cocoons and I face daily frustrations looking at the ridiculous prices of everything from rent to a Gin and Tonic (unless it’s Wetherspoons). So with all this c**p in mind, what is the reason we all chose to study in London?
One night in a too hot and too bothered state to sleep, the frequent ambulances and police cars not exactly providing a soothing lullaby, I didn’t. At five o’clock in the morning I paced down Mile End, music plugged into my ears, with no particular destination in mind. I walked past the herd of Halal chicken shops, past Aldgate East, past the Gherkin and onto the London Bridge.
If you walk down most streets in Kent at five o’clock in the morning, you’ll most probably encounter a flock of seagulls, feasting on leftover, late-night fish and chips. Yet, at five o’clock in the morning in London, there are photographers gearing up to get the perfect sunrise shot of Tower Bridge. A young guy on the drunken walk home from Piccadilly Institute, strikes up a conversation with me about what it would be like to jump into the Thames- I suppose standing alone on a bridge at the early hours of the morning could look a tad suicidal. My point is, London never dies out.
Buses in kent arrive every twenty minutes to half hour- if you’re lucky and the bus driver isn’t being a w****r- and stop 10:00PM on the dot. In London we have buses every five minutes usually and however shady it can sometimes appear to be, the world and his mother is on the Night bus. And the tube for that matter. London is alive.
Being part of London as a student, gird’s up your loins for real life because of one simple fact. Life is constantly surrounding you. There is no time to be the Kent girl away with the airy fairies. London is too much for that. Too much theatre to see, too many museums to visit, too many cafe’s to ponder life in.
On the walk back to Mile End, I looked up at the Shard towering above me and Canary Wharf bundled in the distant corner. London is a city where humanity is literally piled on top each other, one big, cramped bunk-bed with the little one constantly saying ‘roll over’. It can be crowded, it can be costly and it can at times seem really cold. But to study in London is one of those rare blessings which can be bestowed upon you. You can come across the CEO of a major company, a traveller of the world and a pained poet all in one day. You can walk through one neighbourhood where the townhouses are hitting the six to seven figure prices and then turn the corner where a block of council flats soaring above you houses a couple of hundred families. London is not only the capital of England, but it is the capital of Variation.
So I’m glad I don’t study in Bristol, Oxford or Durham. London will do me just fine.