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Life In The World's Best City For International Students

A recent study crowned London as the best city for international students. Vietcetera spoke to two Vietnamese students in London about their experiences.

Away From Home: Life In The World's Best City For International Students

London was recently named the best city for international students for the third time in a row. | Source: Irina Pham

What is the world’s best city for international students? According to the 9th high education analyst QS Quacquarelli Symonds, in a report released two weeks ago, London ranked on top.

The survey collected the views of more than 95,000 prospective, current, and former students on eight criteria: tolerance and inclusion, diversity, friendliness, ease of getting around, affordability, nightlife, employment opportunities, arts and culture, and sustainability ​​— in order to gain a holistic understanding of each city.

When asked whether London excelled in all of the aforementioned aspects, or still have room for improvement, Irina Pham, a senior at The University of the Arts, London (UAL), states: “In my opinion, ‘Tolerance and Inclusion’ and ‘Diversity' are the most prevalent in London because I have never felt like I was out of place or treated differently.” For international students leaving the comforts of their homes, friends, and family behind in the name of education, finding a community is one of the most important factors. And in the eyes of Irina, “London seems to welcome everyone from around the world with open arms!” 

Khue Nguyen, a recent graduate from The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), echoes this message. 

Irina with London friends. | Source: Irina Pham

At the same time, they both agree in the words of Irina that “‘Affordability’ is definitely the aspect that still needs improving to attract more international students.” Their observations ring true, with London ranking as one of the top 18 most expensive cities to live in. When suggesting ways students can save money, their advice included splitting rent with friends and roommates, learning to cook rather than relying on eating out and utilizing their student status to receive discounts for commuting.

Aside from affordability, Khue highly ranks criteria such as nightlife, employment opportunities, arts and culture, and especially, the ease of traveling. 

Being in such a bustling environment, especially with the added convenience of traveling due to the underground tube system, Irina says that “the city has all the amenities and attractions to allow me to explore outside of the classroom and make the most out of my university years.” 

Outside of domestic travel, Khue added the benefit of “[getting] really cheap tickets to mainland Europe… I’ve bought a return ticket to Denmark for £20 (630,000 VND) before!”

But it wasn’t just the city and the amenities that won their hearts, it was their institutions, too.

London School of Economics and Political Science's Department of Economics. | Source: Shutterstock

Home to 18 of the world’s top universities, as listed in the QS World University Rankings, London is a well-known hub for scholars and academics alike. When coming into the college process several years back, Khue shares that “LSE was really the only university I was interested in. I have a personal bias for LSE from the start, and knew that I always wanted to go there.” 

Similarly for Irina, UAL won her over by being “the largest specialist art and design university in Europe, which can provide more advanced facilities and support to students” like herself, the Fashion Management concentration shared.

With both LSE and UAL being highly-ranked universities, they are inevitably vested with a great network of notable alumni — from 18 Nobel laureates such as Economist Robert Mundell to 55 past and present heads of states to fashion designers Stella McCarney, Jimmy Choo, and John Galliano, respectively. By attending these prestigious institutions, students are highly regarded by top firms globally; this means that there are a plethora of networking opportunities and career-orientated societies.

“There is no denying that the UK’s education is recognized and respected worldwide for its high standards of teaching,” Irina says. “The intensive nature of the courses in most UK universities provide the students with a solid foundation and specialized skills to enhance their employment prospects after graduation.”

Being a “financial and cultural hub of Europe, if you want a career in these big finance, law, and professional services firms that are world-class, London is where their headquarters are,” Khue shares. “So it is safe to say that this is where most opportunities would be if you want a career in those fields.” With a Bachelor of Science in Management, the LSE alumna is set to work at Ernst & Young LLP this upcoming September. 

In reflecting on the time they’ve been there, Khue would advise her younger self to “try to meet more people and join events hosted by other universities,” a nod to the great connection London institutions share. But for Irina, she “would not change anything” about her London experience. 

If anything, she says, “I just wish that I could study in this beautiful city for longer.”