'I followed my dream to move to London - and learned just how expensive it is'

Being an international student in London comes with its own challenges, writes Pranjali Hasotkar.
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Moving to London has been a dream of mine, but dreams are one dimensional. I moved to London with a pair of rose-tinted glasses which were broken – shattered really – in the first month because, well, London is just too expensive.

Six months back, I took a major life decision of moving across the world from Mumbai to make a life for myself as a journalism student. Before moving to London, a lot of people told me about how it is overpriced and I did believe them – but you’d never know what it is if you haven’t lived there. And with university and an attempt to maintain a social life, you tend to shrug off the concept of budgeting.

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While I am thankful to be able to live in Walthamstow, where my rent is taken care of at the moment, that doesn’t mean I don’t have near misses with my monthly budget. I don’t think everyone understands the emotional toll “not having enough money to sustain” takes on someone. I have had to switch from the Tube to buses because it’s just too expensive. I know that doesn’t seem like “too much of an adjustment”, and physically it doesn’t really matter whether I take the 34-minute tube to class or the 67-minute bus. The underlying factor here is its emotional effect.

Being a 23-year-old international student comes with challenges and with wanting to associate with peers and needing to network, there’s not much left for you to spend. I have had my share of reckless splurges at Indian grocery stores – so now I try to minimise those to once a month.

I knew what I was getting into when I moved here, but I didn’t know that everything – including something as simple as daily travel – could burn a hole in my pocket. I have often had difficulties in concentrating on my work due to worry about how I am going to go through with my life with the money I have left.

One aspect that I generally don’t like to talk about is how despite the city making me independent, it has also has a bad impact on my social skills. I was aware of the pub culture here, but seeing the excess in person shocked me to the core. No, I simply don’t have the budget to go to the pub with my friends every weekend. I strongly believe that financially struggling in a city as fast-paced as London and being unable to bond over a pint has left me with an occasional lack of confidence amongst peers.

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Pranjali HasotkarPranjali Hasotkar
Pranjali Hasotkar

Sleepless nights and spending guilt have unfortunately become a part of my life – and it’s not like I can’t save money, or I recklessly spend on fancy dinners or cute tops. It’s just that sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the city’s dynamism.

It gets demotivating. In a couple of months, if I want to live in the UK, I will have to pay £2,070 for my graduate visa. With London’s costs and this payment, I don’t know whether I will be able to live here.

But I cannot lose hope or get demotivated. So, when things get overwhelming, I count my blessings and hope that living here will get at least 5% easier than it is right now. There’s a saying in my culture: “Every dog has its day.” So, I hold onto this proverb and get on with my life.

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Pranjali Hasotkar is an MA Newspaper Journalism student at City University.

Project Peter Pan - launched by National World as the UK heads toward a general election in 2024 - aims to use our collective media power to give a voice to those in their 20s and 30s who have negotiated a pandemic, work hard and are ambitious, yet are lost. Frozen out of the housing ladder and stuck in a rental cycle often in substandard accommodation, many are in debt and facing impossible decisions.

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