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Bad Uni Halls London(37 Posts)
Just a quick warning to people considering Garden halls, London for their dc. The halls are shared between the university of london institutions so it is nice to meet people from different backgrounds. The halls themselves are amazing and very up market for uni accommodation. Unless your dc are international, part of the rich london set, or very independent I wouldn’t recommend it.
DD was sociable and fairly popular in school, no problems there. She lived in the halls for 5 months before moving out to a different one where she had a much better experience.
In her halls, she tried her very hardest to make friends. Only her one neighbour spoke to her. The person on the other side she never ever saw, even knocked his door. (She knew he was a guy from noise through wall)
There were several people on her corridor who she would say hey to when leaving her room and many would completely blank her.
The halls are very very international, meaning that people naturally stick to their own native groups. Those who are from the UK, the vast majority are very wealthy and already have friends from their own schools. So basically I would advise to avoid the halls.
I would not recommend intercollegiate halls at all. I lived in one in Bloomsbury, many moons ago. In the whole hall of residence there were only 7 other students at the same university as me.
A friend’s DD dropped out of UCL for precisely this reason. She was a happy sociable girl but ended up in the inter collegiate halls and was miserable. She would return from a lecture to her halls where no one communicated at all. She was so lonely and miserable that she left.
If is a problem that the London universities don’t have enough accommodation. There are more international students there and plenty live at home. It’s certainly not the student experience that many expect. Halls used by one university are better in my view.
Looking at the astronomical weekly rent, this is not a student hall for normal students. It’s ultra expensive so will attract a certain type of student. Best to slum it to make friends!
London is a terrible place to be a student really. Most of the central london (Bloomsbury etc) are reserved for foreign students because of the income from their fees. British students often get accommodation way out of town on the fringes. Inter-collegiate halls are just one of the problems. But as a rule of thumb I'd avoid really expensive accommodation if you are not wealthy.
The university halls are open to all but the most expensive ones tend not to have many students on basic maintenance. The cost of these halls alone is more than that so the top up from parents would be huge which many parents don’t have. It’s risky renting these halls if you need to work to eat.
There are no halls on the fringes of London for first year. They are within reasonable commuting distance. Some UCL accommodation is nearer to the university but isn’t luxurious. Second year - many students live miles out to save on rent.
London is a terrible place to be a student really.
MN is a funny place. Bristol/Oxbridge good, London bad.
I don't think anyone would dispute that there is some first class, world respected, teaching going on, and that career prospects for graduates of London's top Universities are on par with Oxbridge.
I think that Garden Halls have recently been rebuilt. Prior to that they were deliciously grotty but brilliantly located. A friend of DS was there in the last year of the old building and built a great set of friends. Indeed someone I know, there a very long time ago, made friends for life.
DS had a similar problem to OP in the nearby International Hall. It was a huge 60s building with about 800 rooms. Not easy to meet anyone, though judging from posters all over the place, the senior residents were trying. For him it did not matter. He was close to campus and joined three or four societies and a casual football team. In his first term he also made the trek over to Imperial where one of his friends was studying and joined one of their societies.
Ironically one of the friends he made through his course about five weeks in, had spent three weeks in International Hall but had then decided to commute. If they had met earlier their hall experience would have been different.
It depends. Often this brilliant first year hall experience proves to be a myth. It may be true for some, but not all. I know I met plenty of people in hall in my first year, but they were then largely replaced in my second year by friends from my course or from societies. These were in the days of the innocent hall disco.
London University is international. But as in the current Oxford thread about kids from posh schools, some international students mix, others don't. Indeed some posts I have read on here, in the past, have bordered on the racist.
International students are not necessarily rich. South East Asian parents (an area I know well) absolutely prioritise education. And their children often prioritise proximity to University when it comes to selecting Halls, making the savings through not spending on fares, and getting back for meals. DS went on to share a ex-council flat more-or-less overseas students (I think one was first generation British, and another had been to a British boarding school) close to Garden Halls. Slightly cramped and no living room, but again their intertwined social and academic lives were campus based.
In truth DS' experience was far more positive than DDs at Bristol, where you run the risk of being thrown into a flat with 11 randoms, where the one positive is a chance to witness the development of ket-bladder. (A Bristol area of national expertise.) As a Londoner, the whiteness of Bristol, and the lack of diversity, amazed and disappointed her. There are plenty of affluent students. DS and his friends brought in packed lunches which they ate together. Eating out was the cheapest Chinese restaurant in Soho. (I took him out once and he suggested a fairly ordinary Wardour Street restaurant, but upmarket to them and where they went for special events.)
China Town in term time is buzzing. You dont need to know much about BDS to know that Asia, in many ways, is the new cool. And Asians are far from heterogeneous, coming instead from a wide diaspora often with international educations. And as well as Asians, DS was friendly with Europeans, especially Germans and Austrians and a Lithuanian, Nigerians, Latin Americans, Americans, kids brought up in the gulf, and so on. Indeed he found his way into a football team of Malays. His UG course social life was mainly organised by a couple of girls from Hong Kong and an Australian. At masters level he was the only Brit out of 39, and they bonded really well.
A truly modern international and top class education, which opened the doors he wanted opened.
London is not easy. If you want dreaming spires, a party atmosphere, or more nurturing, go elsewhere. If you thrive, you will be very employable, and wherever you go in the world you will have an instant network of fellow grads. It is even tougher for international students. I understand that Singapore now give special training to Government scholars in cooking, cleaning and bedmaking to help them adapt to London life. Interestingly, once acclimatised to London, very few of DS' peers wanted to return home. London is what it is. A brilliant buzzy world capital - but tough...and expensive.
I hope that OPs daughter goes onto to enjoy her second and third years more. In truth I think it is not uncommon to not enjoy your first year. There is a lot of adaptation and a lot of hype. When he and his school friends met at the first Christmas DS noted that up to half were not happy. There was no particular pattern, whether Oxbridge, London or elsewhere. A couple went on to move, one from Oxford. Others settled down, though one at least (Durham) continued to slightly regret their choices. We know a student who chose to move from Bristol to UCL and our neighbours son wished he had gone to UCL rather than Oxford. Horses for courses.
Like OPs DD, my non-London DD should have moved Hall earlier. And who knows, instead of the unfriendly boy, there could have been someone lovely in the next room.
I would also caution against writing overseas students off. They are a diverse group, and are facing much greater adaptation. The climate for one. The language. Some will be insular, but not most. When I was at LSE the first ever group of Chinese students allowed to study overseas moved into our halls. We watched with fascination as they cooked up amazing meals on a single hob, but never really spoke to them. Years later when working in New York I met one of them. They would have been more than happy to share their food with us. Equally they were confused by majority decisions to watch football rather than the news on the common room TV. Did we not understand how privileged we were to live somewhere where Government policy could be discussed. What a pity no one was brave enough to reach out and get to know the other group.
Whilst I do agree with the majority of your post, as any university is horses for courses. I take particular note of you mentioning your dcs disappointment at the comment regarding "whiteness of Bristol, and the lack of diversity, amazed and disappointed her". This sentiment does nothing to combat any racism in the UK. How is whiteness a disappointment? How would one feel if someone said that the asian-ness of Tower Hamlets disappointed them?
Being White and not from London is not something to be ashamed of. Likewise, coming from a multi cultural area with mixed heritage does not make you any more interesting or better than those who don't. It's views like this that cause people to have issues with immigration et cetera, a view that we must all strive to be of a mixed background.
At the end of the day, the UK traditionally has been a homogenous country populated with white people. There is nothing wrong with that, and that's how it is. If you feel only easy in multi-cultural areas then best to stick to areas with large influxes of peoples from abroad.
Horses for courses.
DD would have preferred a more diverse university body, perhaps because that was what she was used to. I was wrong in referring to "whiteness". London attracts a lot of European students, something Bristol does not. (French is apparently heard in LSE corridors almost as much as Mandarin, and with claims that if anything the French are even more cliquey regarding the Aldwych as a 21st arrondissement.)
Op refers to international students. That was what I was really referring to. Roughly 75% of the LSE student body is not from the UK. For many that is a huge advantage. A truly international education. For some it will be a challenge.
Perhaps worth turning your last statement on its head: "If you feel only easy in multi-cultural areas then best to stick to areas with large influxes of peoples from abroad." and consider whether you might find a very international environment, overwhelming. There are plenty of other Universities which have a much larger intake of home students.
International students (have not been resident in the UK, will be paying fees up front) is a different thing from home students from ethnic minorities (eligible for student loan).
International students (or their parents) have enough money that they are able to pay the tuition fees and accommodation themselves. They tend to have more disposable income than the average student. They won't be living with their parents as their parents live overseas (unless they arrived in the UK within the last couple of years).
I went to KCL which had plenty of students from both groups.
Needmoresleep I realise you already know this, but wanted to make the distinction for future readers of the thread who might not.
I found the diversity at KCL to be a positive thing. I had attended multicultural primary and secondary schools, so perhaps the demographic at KCL made me feel more at home.
My children attend(ed) schools where the majority of pupils are from families of South Asian origin. The eldest is the only university-age one so far. He didn't want to study in London for reasons of cost and laziness (wants to live near lectures) and chose Leicester, which is diverse for a non-London university.
I think anyone who spent any time in various cities would be able to work out the likely make up of the universities. No one can choose their flat mates but there are stats for which universities have the most diverse student body. Bristol isn’t one but it’s not obligatory to choose it. The expensive halls of residence tend to be multicultural but that’s no guarantee of anyone being friendly.
TheFirstOHN I think we largely agree here.
However there are different strands, and with the caveat that this is largely from observation.
1. London University diversity tends to be a good mix between home grown BMES (and others, for example one of DS' good friends arrived from Poland as a child) and overseas students including Europeans, Africans and Americans as well as Asians. (DS Master's degree had a good representation from Latin America, surprising as the assumption is that they would head for the USA)
2. London almost certainly outperforms Oxbridge in terms of recruiting talented British BMEs. Cambridge have even suggested that a shortage of Afro-hairdressers is hampering their recruitment efforts. Not a problem in London. Another of DS' friend had parents who owned the Chinese take away in a rural village, for whom there may have been a real attraction in studying somewhere with an international and multi-ethnic feel. At the same time many Londoners, particularly if they are the first generation to attend University will choose to study locally.
3. Not all international students are rich. Some are, and this will apply to the Europeans as much as others. Yes a good proportion of the French at LSE would appear to be scions of Parisian banking families, but equally there were really bright East Europeans taking advantage of full student loans. Ditto other internationals. Some are astoundingly rich. London taxi drivers will tell you that they regularly ferry overseas students from Mayfair to UCL or LSE. But for others, education is a passport to safety or a better life. Whether you live in Egypt, Russia or Malaysia, you may want your children to have the security of a good international education, and perhaps a toe hold in the UK, US or Australia. Yes these students may live in better quality halls, close to University, as their parents will want them to be safe and to be able to focus on studying. (Plus the word is out that large shared student flats can be challenging.) But they save money where they can. (From my landlord experience, confirmed by DS' observation, some overseas groups are notorious for over-occupying. Rent a three bedroom flat in central London and you can find each bedroom shared and the living room occupied. DS claims some letting agents even encourage it, on a "don't tell anyone" basis.) "Family scholarships" are also a thing, where the family club together to send the brightest kid overseas. They then repay, and perhaps will be in a position to act as a sponsor should family members want to emigrate. Or more urgent still, the friend of DS who was born and brought up in the Gulf but with no rights of residence there once he turned 21, and no immediate right to live in the country of his parents birth. His British student visa ended the day before his American one (for a funded PhD) started, so a day when he had no right to live anywhere. I guess he ended up flying the long way round!
London offers a world class education in an international city. DS is now studying for a PhD at a good American University, and has a network of friends and contacts in similar positions across the US, Europe and Asia. Far more useful, at least for him, that any Etonian/Bullingdon group.
But not for everyone.
I mean except for the very obvious point that Oxbridge alumni aren't required to limit their social intercourse to fellow students who went to Eton and/ or were members of the Bullingdon Club (or its Cambridge equivalent).
Yes, but that’s what people on a parallel Oxford thread seemed to be complaining about!
All these universities are big enough for almost everyone to find people they find interesting and stimulating. However London can mean making more effort, but perhaps then enjoying real rewards. I would add that it was probably easier for DS, who is pretty single minded about his subject (though in fairness he was active in a couple of societies and played casual sport). Friends were based on shared interests, his course was rigorous challenging and interesting, and he was pretty oblivious to differences in background.
London was perfect for him, probably better than Cambridge, and certainly better than Bristol. But all DC are different.
I would think your DS had a head start having been to school in London and living in London. That brings a massive advantage in terms of settling and enjoying and making the most of a London uni. I completely see the merits you talk about but I'm not sure it's quite as straightforward for a great many other students.
(And on the other thread I think the OP is complaining about that, and not getting a vast amount of sympathy!).
I had the same experience at my upmarket halls at university of Edinburgh. None of my direct neighbors ever spoke to me, intact they would actively ignore me when I spoke to them as I don't think I fitted the kind of person they would usually mix with (I was a local comp student where as they were private or international school background). I made lots of other friends through other avenues but the halls were very isolating.l and miserable. Also cost about £1000 per month!!
It was a new build with ensuite facilities, a daily cleaner and meals served in a main building cafeteria across campus, the facilities were great. You couldn't even mix with students in other areas of the building because it was all swipe card access to each floor/wing. It was constantly vandalised too but stupid student antics who didn't care about their deposit.
Friends in shared flats and the older hall buildings seemed to have an easier and more social time of it because by nature you need to mix more with the people around you.
I read your posts and sometimes wonder if you are a little bitter about Oxbridge?
Seriously though my concern, and the reason I first started posting several years back, is the negative, sometimes inaccurate, way London Universities can be portrayed on MN.
We are very lucky in this country to have a number of world class Universities. At times MN can feel like Oxbridge or bust. London too can be a great experience. Not for everyone, but really worth considering.
Hence my cheerleading. Which I hope is helpful to some.
...sleep I read your posts and sometimes wonder if you are a little bitter about Oxbridge?
Reading this makes me sometimes wonder how many stalkers obsessed with Oxbridge there are on MN.
And FWIW I chose not to apply to Oxbridge back in the day, but to go to LSE with my four good A levels. (Better A levels than my Oxford scholar DH!) And DS rejected Oxford for a Masters in favour of LSE. He preferred the course.
Which does not mean different decisions are invalid. However championing London absolutely does not imply Oxbridge envy. Why would it.
nmsleep it may be seen as envy by those for whom it is the pinnacle of achievement, possibly because they do not see that the world has not only moved on, but has always been wider than these shores.
Also it many mean people who are immersed in the moment cannot see that in a few short years, there will be another phase of selection and that competition only increases - not only from graduates from other places but other cohorts. Comparison is not only the thief of joy, on a practical level it fuels burn-out like nothing else.