Studying abroad is a fantastic experience but it can be tricky to know which country and which city to pick. If you’re thinking of heading to university in the UK or Ireland, London and Dublin are the first two places you should consider, because they’re the capitals. Luckily, we’ve got all the details on both cities, helping you decide on the best one for you.
From London’s royal heritage and eclectic social scene, to Dublin’s historical past and lively nightlife, here’s everything you need to know about student life in each city.
Whether you want to study science or the arts, both London and Dublin boast excellent universities.
London has more than twenty universities specializing in academic subjects, from science and maths to humanities and business, so you’ll be spoilt for choice. Fashion and art students will feel right at home too, in the heart of one of the world’s fashion capitals – London College of Fashion and the Royal College of Art, for example, offer an impressive lineup of courses that’ll really help your career opportunities after you graduate.
Dublin’s highly respected main universities, University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin, have all kinds of courses, making them colleges for everyone. Both universities are really welcoming of international students too.
London’s Underground system is world-famous for a reason – the impressive map of tubes will take you across the whole city, so whether you need to cross over the Thames or you need to get from North to South London, hop on a tube and you’ll be there in no time! The Underground trains run round the clock too, so you can easily get back in the evenings after a fun night out. Make sure you get yourself an Oyster Card to make trips on the tube easier – it stops you having to queue for a ticket every time, and also saves you quite a bit of money in the long run.
For shorter distances, catch one of the many iconic red buses. If you’re looking to go further afield, many of the tube stations double up as main-line train stations – incidentally, studying in London wouldn’t be complete without a trip to King’s Cross to visit Platform 9 ¾. A lot of London is surprisingly walkable though!
In contrast, Dublin is a much smaller capital city. There are no tubes but its bus system is really comprehensive and there are stops outside all of the universities and colleges, letting you get straight into the centre if you don’t want to walk. As everything’s closer together, you’re likely to spend less on transport in Dublin than in London.
It can be easy to get distracted from your studies when you’re living in a big city. With all the hustle and bustle around you, sometimes you’ll just want a quiet spot to study in.
Amidst all the high-rises and traffic of London there are loads of parks and outdoor spaces, which are perfect retreats for you to do your work in peace. Regents Park and Green Park are two of the biggest – simply find yourself a bench or grab a picnic mat and nestle down to your course material without the noise of the city around you.
If you don’t want to study outside, head to one of the many public libraries across London, including the V&A Library and the British Library, for a free, quiet study space. Or head to the Google Campus for a trendy, free workspace, with super-fast internet that’s perfect for tackling an essay or revision.
If you choose to study at Trinity College Dublin, you don’t need to leave the uni campus to find a great study spot. The university’s park is ideal if you want to quietly concentrate.
Dublin also has tons of student-friendly cafes with free WiFi, so you can pitch up with your laptop and get down to studying. Oolong Flower Power, Accent Coffee & Tea Lounge, and Fixx are some of the best, all offering an amazing choice of teas and coffees to help you through, without breaking your student budget.
A big part of university is the social scene and you really are spoilt for choice in both capital cities, with heaps of bars, live music venues and clubs to check out.
If you love dance music, you can catch some of the most prolific DJs playing sets across London in renowned clubs, such as Ministry of Sound and XOYO. London’s also a hotspot for seeing up-and-coming artists before they make it big, and seeing big artists in both academy venues and exclusive tiny shows, in places like Camden Underground and Bush Hall.
There’s not just one area in London with bars – whichever borough you’re living and studying in, you’ll never run out of places to try. From Soho’s trendy craft beer joints to Shoreditch’s cool cocktail bars, there are so many happy-hour deals to make the most of. And the city is famous for its collection of speakeasies and secret bars too, hidden away behind laundrettes and corner shop signs – you’ll have to try and find at least one during your time studying in London!
Despite being much smaller than London, Dublin doesn’t compromise anything in its social scene. Make sure you try the city’s iconic Guinness beer, before working your way through a huge selection of craft beers on offer at many of the pubs, including along the legendary Temple Bar area.
Dublin is great for alternative music lovers too – simply head to Camden Street and Wexford Street for a selection of live music venues. And to take you through the whole night, The Workman’s Club and 4 Dame Lane are some of the best student-friendly clubs.
Whichever capital city you choose, you can guarantee that your student experience will be amazing. Both places have so much going on and are great for students studying abroad.