General Living & Traveling Info
Living Facilities: Most dorms (flats) are coed. Rooms tend to be small, so keep this in mind. You will probably have a private room but share the bathroom facilities (which could be down the hall) with several other people (possibly both male and female). Make sure to bring a bathrobe and flip-flops to wear to the shower, since you will be sharing facilities with men and women.
Linens: There is maid service and bed linens are provided. Linens include two sheets, two blankets, two pillowcases and two pillows. There is no charge for linens provided. You are responsible to do your own laundry. While two smallish bath towels are provided, we suggest taking two large towels and/or a robe to facilitate co-ed bathroom conditions. We suggest lighter-weight robes for packing purposes.
You may wish to take a few wire hangers or plan to buy some there.
Cultural Living Adjustment: Culturally, you will have to adjust to a living arrangement that is unlike Biola. For example, there are student bars on every campus. The drinking age in Europe is 18, so you will encounter many pubs where people your age and younger gather to socialize. You may find that drinking is an activity that Christian and non-Christian British alike participate in. However, don't forget you are still under contract at Biola while you are there!
Phones: Rooms do not have phones! However, you still can receive external calls. The calls go through the main office and then to a common phone extension, which a whole flat shares (about six rooms). If you are planning to have someone call from home, make sure you arrange a time so you can be at the phone when it rings. (Don't forget the 8-hour time difference -- London is ahead!) You will receive your flat's extension number and mailing address at orientation.
For making calls, many former Biola London students recommend taking an international calling card.
(See BLS web page for calling card tips).
An international calling card must be recharged in the States, so leave the phone card number and a credit card number with someone at home who will recharge it for you when you ask them to.
Alternatively, First Telecom in Britain has a service whereby customers are charged an up front fee of £20 (on a credit card) and thereafter can make calls to the States against that (1999 rate was £7 or 12¢ a minute). The customer can keep adding money to this account, and whatever they don't use in the end can be charged back onto their credit card (for an administrative fee of £5). Although this is perhaps the most convenient service (for those who have credit cards), it is by no means the only telephone deal that is offered, and students are encouraged to shop around.
For First Telecom's service in London, call 0800-376-6666
At the end of the term, room keys should be returned to the staff of your particular college, (either Southlands or Digby Stuart).
There are IBM computer labs in the Learning Resource Center at Digby and other small labs scattered throughout the campuses. (Southlands' computer lab will be the closest and often the least busy). E-mail and Netscape are available at Roehampton; however, the server is a bit unstable. All the computers are networked, so when the system goes down, all the computers crash (even if you aren't on-line yourself). Because of the system's instability, it is most important to save your work frequently. Also, take some IBM formatted disks to save your homework and e-mails on. THERE ARE NO MAC computers.
If you bring a Mac PowerBook with you, you will also need to bring your own printer. In addition, you'll need a transformer for the different electric current.
While taking a laptop is both burdensome and risky, some students recommend it. Remember, however: There are many computers available there (provided you don't wait until the last minute to do your work). Do remember to save your work frequently, as suggested. Remember to take your IBM formatted disks.
|"Sometimes you will feel like complaining, and that is okay, but be sure to put it in perspective. Say to yourself, 'I am in London' and keep repeating that until you remember just how lucky you are."
The dorms (flats) at Roehampton are equipped with kitchens, so you can make your own meals. Basic cooking equipment will be provided. In the event the kitchen in your flat is not stocked with dishes, pans, etc., check with Reception, or with David Street. If your kitchen does not have a toaster, use the broiler on low and make toast that way.
For groceries, shop at Tesco, Sainsbury's in Putney, or Asda. Asda is located on the 265 bus line. They are good and inexpensive stores. Expect to spend AT LEAST £20 per week on self-catering. It is possible to spend much more than that. You can carry your groceries back to campus in your duffel bag or backpack. A Sunday shuttle runs from campus to grocery.
(See BLS web page for food shopping tips).
At the end of the term, kitchen supplies (pots, pans, etc.) need to be returned to David Street in the International Centre.
Normal Dress: Every day dress around the University varies. Former students have suggested taking one nice dress/jacket for formal meals and special occasions. Don't overdue this.
Most people wear black or other dark colored clothing, including socks, tights, coats, etc.
It will rain, so umbrellas may come in handy (though the wind can make them a bother to use at times).
Wear Wool: London is very cold! Remember that sun does not equal warmth. A wool pullover is very good to take (or purchase in the U.K.), because it keeps you warm and makes an excellent top layer. (Wool is much warmer than cotton, having the advantage of keeping you warm even if the garment becomes damp). Wool sweaters are available at thrift stores there for about £5. Pack a warm scarf, hat, gloves, and a pair of waterproof shoes/boots!
You might take a hooded sweatshirt to wear under your wool pullover. If the day warms up, you can shed the pullover and be comfortable.
Some students just took a wool coat. An all-weather coat would probably work.
Still, you must remember to pack as light as you can. You really don't need to take very many clothes….just take the correct ones.
|"My advice is to plan on being warm and casual most of the time with a dressy outfit thrown in for special occasions."
-- student quote
GETTING TO CENTRAL LONDON: London is about thirty minutes from campus. You may want to see Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Parliament as soon as you can, so get an underground map. The easiest way to get to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliament is to take the District Line all the way to St. James' Park. Make sure you get a train headed for Upminster or Tower Hill. You can always catch any train headed for central London and change at Earl's Court. If you want to go into posh London, change to the Piccadilly Line at Earl's Court. The Piccadilly Line is the main underground line, and will take you to Piccadilly Circus. From there, you can wander around and enjoy the popular sights of London. You will be near the movies and theatres - take advantage.
Suggested by a returning student: Barnes Station Rail is the best way to get to London and the underground is the best way back.
There is a bus stop right outside campus. Bus will take you to Hammersmith, etc., or wherever you need to go to catch the tube or another bus to reach your destination.
Suggested by a returning student: If you plan to use both the bus and the tube (subway) in one day, buy one-day travel cards (zones 1-4) from the newsagent by the Maltese Cat pub BEFORE getting on the bus. The newsagent referred to is located not far from the Southlands bus stop. If you ask around, people can tell you where he is.
(See the BLS web page for other transportation tips).
London Shopping Suggestions: There are a number of thrift shops on Putney High Street, in Wimbledon, and in Southfields. Students also suggest Camden Town and High Street Kensington Markets.
By all accounts, London is a very expensive city. You can also plan to visit museums, parks, etc., and spend some time just looking and browsing, enjoying what you see. Take advantage of the fact that you are actually THERE!
(See BLS web page for shopping tips).
Exchanging Money: You can take some British pounds in cash so that you can get around easily for the first few days; or you can access an ATM (cash machine) at the airport for initial funds. Check with your ATM provider to see what they charge for international withdrawals. Thomas Cooke or your bank are good places for exchanging dollars for pounds. Just remember there is always a charge when changing money. Thomas Cooke and other exchange agencies are open 24 hours a day in the Heathrow and Gatwick airports, in case you forget to take care of this before arriving.
ATM's & Credit Cards: Most students have found ATM cards to be a better way to obtain cash. Most ATM cards work in British "cash machines" (as they are called). However, you should check with your U. S. bank about the international use of ATM cards and the fees involved. The ATM's in England only have numbers and not letters, and PIN's are limited to four-digits. Check with your bank to be certain that your ATM cards work in all the contries you plan on visiting. Some countries may require "pins" for your credit cards, while other countries do not. Do make sure to check expiration dates on your ATM and credit cards before leaving the States.
Bank Accounts: Some students have actually set up bank accounts in England without problems. To cash any type of check in England, you must have a bank account. Their banking system is very different from ours. Other students have preferred to use their ATM card to access their own accounts here in the States.
If you use your American bank account, NationWide Bank on Putney High Street (on the left side of the road when you face the Thames, near the river) has the feature of giving your current balance in pounds sterling. Most ATM's do not do this, but the NationWide cash machines will, at least for Bank of America accounts. If you have a Bank of America account, they charge $1 every time you use your card. This includes checking your account status and just trying to get money out. (Be careful!) Each withdrawal has a fee of $3 or $4 so use your ATM like a VISA card when you can and save your cash. If you do this, make sure that you record each transaction just as if you were writing a check.
(The above-mentioned fees may have changed; check with individual banks).
Traveler's Cheques, Cash, & Credit Cards: While most students recommend using credit cards and ATM cards for obtaining cash, traveler's cheques can be best for those wishing to keep a close eye on expenses. It is best to get your cheques in British pounds. You may do this stateside before leaving for Roehampton. If you take "traveler's cheques in dollars", you will lose more on the commission. One hundred U.S. Dollars is equivalent to about 62 British pounds (June 2002), so do not be surprised when you receive less for your dollar.. Credit cards will bring a better rate of exchange, (provided you do not mind using them). However, as with ATM cards, be sure to check on the fees for obtaining cash with your credit card.
Spending Cash: Some students suggest taking around $2000 for all expenses. This may include travel, food, souvenirs, etc., etc. For certain, some have spent much more, and the amount will vary depending on how much traveling you do. When considering the amount of spending cash to allow, be sure to take into consideration that the cost of living (and traveling) abroad is significantly higher than it is at home. Extra consideration will also need to be given to self-catering expenses (cost of your groceries, personal toiletries, etc.).
(See the BLS web page for money talk).
Travel Books: There are many opportunities to travel both within the U.K. and on the European continent while you are in London. Several students have recommended Rick Steves' Travel Guides, as well as Eyewitness Travel Guide, Let's Go Europe, Fodor's Guide, Lonely Planet, and the Berkeley Guide. Frommer's Budget Travel is also a good supplement, as is the Rough Guide
Brit-Rail & Eur-Rail: If you are planning to do extensive traveling outside Britain in a short period of time (1-2 months), then an Eur-Rail pass is a good investment. This is a super deal to travel Europe, especially if you are planning to travel before or after your semester of studies. Check with your travel agent for the best youth's rate (up to age 25) to meet your needs. There are 3 different plans available (3, 5 or 17 countries). *(If you plan to arrive early in England to do some traveling, you can make arrangements ahead of time with Roehampton to store your luggage while you travel). Brit-Rail is highly recommended for the United Kingdom. The Brit-Rail allows you to travel on any train in the U.K. without having to pay a fare. Most students recommend the 8-day pass (used over 1 month) as adequate for most travelers. A 15-day pass (used over 2 months) is also available. An 8-day Brit-Rail pass runs $245, while a 15-day Brit-Rail pass costs $369. Price quotes are for Youth rates (up to age 25) as of June, 2003 from STA Travel. We have been advised by STA Travel that Brit-Rail pass fees never change. However, you must indicate that you are asking for Youth rates (up to age 25) and that you want the pass that does not have to be used on consecutive dates (the "FlexiPass").
Brit and/or Eur-rail passes must be purchased in the U.S. and activated on your first train trip. (Brit-Rail can be activated at Clapham Junction, or another larger railway station, such as Barnes, near Roehampton.) *For early luggage storing, contact Val Vassallo at Roehampton.
Brit-Rail passes will cover Great Britain: Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England.
(See BLS web page for travel talk).
Note: Biola Bible Integration Seminar field trips do not require a Brit-rail pass. The program pays for all field trips.
|"I wish I had purchased a Brit-Rail before I went over to England! I would have saved a lot of money and time. It's really stressful without one!"
|"I loved my Brit-Rail Flexipass because with it I never had to worry about how much the fare was going to be; I could just get on a train and go."
Young Person's Railcard: A Young Person's Railcard is available to anyone under 26 and to all students. You pay approximately 18 pounds to purchase the card, which is valid for one year, and you receive 30% off each ticket you purchase. You can save the price of the card in one or two long journeys. You can purchase the card as soon as you arrive and use it for travel immediately.
Travel Costs: If you need to know specific costs of travel, it would be best to contact a travel agent. They will have the best and most current information. But, in general, it is less expensive to travel by bus than by train. Still, the train is often more convenient as they run more frequently and connections are easily made from one place to another.
In London you can contact the following number for information about times and fares for travel:
British Rail: 0845 748 4950
Other Options: Another option would be to visit the STA offices there to receive great deals for traveling to Paris. Bus trips are an option too.
Roehampton has an active International Students group that takes day and weekend trips at very reasonable rates. Other Options: See their website.
|"Go with an open mind. Things are a lot different than you are expecting, but that doesn't make them bad."
Be flexible, and always take a book with you, realizing there will be delays in the transportation system over there. Make sure you allow for some "extra" time in your schedule for delays.
Suggested by a returning student: Take a book, your Young Person's Rail card, water and change anytime you go on errands or a daytrip.
The weather is cold! Think LAYERS! The temperature range during autumn and winter may be from 65° F to 20° F. Often it feels colder than it is, due to wind and dampness. There will be both beautiful autumn days and clear, cold winter days, but be forewarned that rainy gray days, foggy nights, and maybe even a little snow are sure to come. So, be sure to pack a warm coat and waterproof WALKING shoes/boots! London gets windy, so umbrellas can be difficult to use, but still suggested to be included in your packing. Some students have advised that a coat with a hood is best. Expect to get at least one cold while in England.
After the time change in late October the days become very short. On the shortest day of the year, there are less than 8 hours of light. It will be dark by 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon. But then, you don't have to get up early to see the sun rise. It comes up around 8 am.
Some students say they wore a scarf/hat and gloves almost every day. Some wore warm boots.
|"Britain is the only place where you can get all four seasons in the space of four hours."