Things to Do at University: Imperial College Edition
Note: This blog uses British English rather than American English.
University is commonly a bridge between school and the ‘real world’ for some people, including me, which is why I decided to go to university straight after high school.
I stayed in London, my home city, and studied chemistry at Imperial College London, one of the top 10 universities in the world. It is best known for exclusively offering STEMM (science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine) courses and more recently, business studies.
Fun fact: (Dr.) Brian May, the lead guitarist of the iconic rock band, Queen, attended Imperial College and they performed their first ever gig on campus! He also returned in 2007 to finish his doctoral studies.
Going to a prestigious and high-ranking university was daunting at first, with unfamiliar feelings of academic pressure and competition suddenly seeping through. But one of the steepest and most invaluable learning curves at university, at least for me, is learning to overcome these feelings! As well as studying the subject you (hopefully) love, university provides you with a boundless range of activities that you haven’t experienced before. Here are a few of the opportunities that I came across whilst studying at Imperial College London.
The Victoria and Albert Museum
What to Do in South Kensington?
When you first arrive on campus, you will be amazed by the stunning buildings and attractions you are surrounded with. Imperial’s main campus is located in the affluent South Kensington, and there is no better way to describe the neighbourhood than as luxurious. The area is filled with elegant cafes, chic boutiques and authentic book shops, creating a posh atmosphere. You can find Imperial amidst the cluster of London’s most famous museums:
The Natural History Museum
Less than five minutes away from campus resides the royal Hyde Park; the serene natural space has the Serpentine River running graciously through it, with swans and squirrels roaming peacefully around the gardens. Students often go here to relax, revise, or attend socials and play sports after class.
Each year from November to January, Hyde Park organises one of the most magical Christmas events in London: Winter Wonderland! Whether it’s the sweet smell of hot chocolate and churros, the thrill of roller coasters or the moonlit Christmas market that enchants you, you will surely have a merry time at this wonderful event. An exciting advantage of being planted so close to Hyde Park is going to Winter Wonderland as many times as you want!
Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park
Directly neighbouring one of our on-campus halls of residence (dormitory) is one of London’s highest esteemed buildings: The Royal Albert Hall. The historical concert hall hosts the world’s most famous events, and has previously hosted legendary performances from Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and Bob Dylan. If you’re lucky, you can even see celebrities walking the red carpet from your dorm room!
The Royal Albert Hall
All these beautiful and exclusive attractions bring loads of tourists to the area, so you will always be part of a lively environment! Just by location, Imperial College offers a wealth of places to explore, so you’ll always find something to do (besides studying). Although it is an expensive area, most stores and events offer great local discounts to the university’s students and staff, so you can enjoy first-class experiences at student prices.
The Queen’s Tower
Where to Find Food at Imperial College?
A student’s hunger for knowledge is often accompanied by hunger. Literally. Lucky for you, there are 29 different food outlets scattered across campus. For example, each building has its own college cafe where you can buy sandwiches and hot drinks. However, there are a bunch of other catering outlets for you to try. These include:
- Pieminister – Pies of course, a food loved amongst all Britons
- Kimiko – Japanese food, who doesn’t love sushi?
- Plantworks – Vegan food, 100% plant-based, healthy and sustainable
- Starbucks – Expensive coffee, a student’s best friend
What’s more, Tuesdays at Imperial College are very special… Our campus is honoured with the London Farmers Market. The market is spread across the Queen’s Lawn, the centre of campus, and sells all sorts of fresh food. The diversity of the cuisines provided is second to none; from ice-cream to curry or freshly-picked fruit, you can rest assured knowing your food is directly from the farm or made with local ingredients.
What Hangout Spots and Events are there?
Imperial College London is located in the heart of London so you can easily travel around, but there are still a few notable places to hangout on campus. This includes the Beit Quadrangle which is directly adjacent to the Royal Albert Hall.
First and foremost, the Quad is the home of Beit Hall, one of the halls of residence. As well as dorms, the hall has activity spaces where society events are held. In the Beit Quad you can also find Metric, the university’s very own night club, the Union Bar, a casual restaurant and bar which is always crawling with students, and last but not least, the Union Concert Hall. Events at the concert hall include cultural, music, dance and fashion showcases, but my favourite event by far is the cinema! Open on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, you can watch all the latest movies here for a fraction of the theatre price.
What Societies are at Imperial College?
What made university a special experience for me were the societies. In British high-schools we have after school extracurricular activities, but the variety is quite limited. On the flip side, when you begin university you are exposed to countless societies!
For example, the Imperial College Union has over 340 clubs, societies and projects which are available to students, staff and alumni. As well as the conventional societies, you can find some truly unique clubs that fit your specific interests.
Initially, I did not take part in any of these extra-curriculars, thinking that I had to devote all my spare time to studying – or more truthfully, worrying about studying – if I wanted to have a stellar academic record.
I was completely wrong.
Halfway through my degree I joined the Belly Dancing Society and it transformed my entire university life. After finishing exhausting days in labs, I began attending dance lessons. Contrary to my initial beliefs, I found that this was not only a great way to wind down, but it motivated me to do more with my evenings. My involvement in belly dance helped strengthen my confidence, both personally and academically.
On this note, I believe that engaging in extracurriculars (of your choice) is an essential part of university that benefits your personal development. Here are a few of the advantages:
- Socialising with like-minded people
- Meeting different people and making friends
- Learning more about topics you’re interested in (outside of your degree)
- Developing life skills
- Participating in competitions
- Growing in confidence
- Having fun!
Life After University…
At long last, I (virtually) graduated from Imperial College this summer and I am excited to embark on what lies ahead. Unclear as to whether I want to continue with postgraduate studies or start a job, one thing I am certain of is that I love to write!
That being so, I started as a Journalism Intern with Come On Out – Japan. I’ve had an amazing experience so far, learning critical writing and editing skills from the Journalism Team and I can’t wait to see where this internship takes me!