Dear Spring 2011 ICLC students,
One of the questions that we ask in the evaluation of the ICLC is "What 3 things do you think are essential for us to tell you when you first get here?" Here are some of the most popular answers:
- "Learn about buses"- Buses are part of the Transport for London (TfL) system. You can use your Oyster card on them, and the fare is less than that of the Tube. You only have to tap your Oyster when you get on the bus. They are great for getting a sense of the geography of London, especially from the top of a double decker bus. Buses run throughout the day and night (24 hr buses and night buses) so they are particularly handy after the Tube has closed for the night.
- "How to set up internet"- You must have a BT landline in your flat and have it switched on to get broadband. Though you only want it for the 4 months that you are here, the minimum contract is longer so build the cancellation charge into the cost of turning the line on. You can get your internet from other providers (Be There does short contracts), but the BT landline must be on. If your flat does not have phone access you can get a dongle (that's what they're really called here, I bet they might be called something else in the USA). Dongles can be bought from mobile phone providers and work on the mobile phone network. You can buy a pay as you go version that you top up in the same way as you do a pay as you go mobile phone.
- "The deal with transportation"- One of the most user friendly public transport systems in the world is London's Tube (this is what we call the subway). The different lines have names and are color coded. The system closes around midnight each night and opens around 5am the following morning. It can be accessed with paper tickets, but are more cost effective if you use an Oyster card. You must tap your card on the reader to enter the barriers and then tap it again at the barrier to exit. As students you are eligible for student Oyster cards, which give you a 30% discount on travelcards (travel passes for a week or a month). You can also top them up with prepaid money on them. London is divided into zones in concentric circles and prices vary depending on which zones you are traveling in. TfL has a website with info about all the forms of transport they offer www.tfl.gov.uk. On most weekends there is construction work on the Tube and many line and station closures. You can check the website for updates on travel disruptions, or sign up through the website to have the weekend closures emailed to you.
- "How Tube strikes work"- This past fall we also experienced Tube strikes. These are union strikes, usually scheduled for a weekday beginning at 5pm and lasting around 24 hours. Tube strike days are usually good ones to have plans to take the bus or walk wherever you need to go. Bear in mind that these strikes DO NOT CAUSE CLASSES TO BE CANCELED. We are all crossing our fingers that there are not more Tube strikes.
- "Emergency numbers"- 999 is the main number for the emergency services in the UK. 112 is used through much of Europe and is also an option in the UK. 911 can also be used, but it is not the best. I'm not sure how the different numbers are routed to the emergency services, but just to be safe use 999 or 112.
- "Introduce the professors"- Most of our faculty are of British extraction, with a few exceptions. They lecture for us part time, and many also work for other universities. Courses are structured more towards the British system than American, so there is more focus on essay writing than quizzes.
- "Get rent money out for rent early"- Most landlords take cash payments that students either deposit into the landlord's bank account or the landlord comes and collects. Most do not accept checks in US dollars. It can be very difficult to set up a bank account when you arrive here, so don't rely on that. Because you are most likely going to have a limit on how much money you can withdraw per day start taking out your rent money a few days in advance. Also remember that you will also have to put down a deposit with your first month's rent, so allow for the extra days of withdrawing cash during orientation week. Unlike the USA which asks at the ATM if you would like to withdraw from you checking or savings, UK ATMs will automatically take from your checking. Make sure that your money is in your checking, NOT your savings account.
- "Common real estate agency practices"- Different estate agents will offer different deals, but remember that they are all trying to sell you something. We have copies of old leases that you can read to see what they are like here in the housing room during orientation week. Some you will need to chase up for internet access if that was offered as part of the flat. We want you all living in safe places so remember to check for things like the record that the gas boiler (if there is one) has had its annual check. Get everything about the flat in writing and if you aren't sure, feel free to ask any of the ICLC staff about it. Clarify how and when your deposits will be returned to you when you move out of your flat.
- "Relax, you'll find housing"- In the same vein, someone also recommended a reminder to breath. These two are pretty self explanatory. Same with "We will find a flat". This statement is a fact.
- "British slang"- We have a small dictionary of this waiting for you in your orientation pack.
- "Learn that your [fake] British accent just doesn't cut it"- I fear this led to an awkward evening in a pub? Not sure.
- "There are no trash cans here, beware!"- That's not strictly true, though you will probably notice that you can't find a bin when you are looking for one. There are generally none in train and Tube stations. London has much experience in anti-terrorism measures, of which this is one (bombs in trash cans), and I believe this practice goes back to the days of the IRA. I'm not sure if this is a fact, and I'm open to being told I'm wrong, but there are nonetheless fewer bins in public areas than you may find in America.
The fall 2010 groups also says to the spring 2011 students:
-Elsie (and Claire)