3 Years and counting at Kings
First things first, what do I know about studying in London? Well, I am a medical student at King’s College London (the finest medical school in the land). I’ve studied 2 years of Medicine and 1 year of Global Health, which I took as an intercalated BSC at King’s. So far I’ve survived 3 years of university, which makes me halfway through my degree (actually an achievement I’m very proud of).
This blog gives you a little insight into what it is like to study Medicine at London’s best university (disclaimer: this blog may be slightly biased) and how to live in London, which has successfully managed to hold the title as the: ‘most expensive city in Europe’ for 3 years running (yikes). So now, by proxy, I’ve successfully accomplished living in the most expensive European city AS A STUDENT. If that is not an achievement, then I’m not sure what is.
Back to the specifics
King's medical teaching is very similar to that offered by other integrated courses with the first 2 years of the course demanding students to sit through 9-5 lectures every day (it may sound pretty bad but, on the plus side, our lecture theatre was a bright pink and orange building which is something to wake you up at 9 am on a Monday morning). The lectures were mixed up with dissection practices and histology. During the week, you also have scheduled tutorials where you have to prepare work for questions beforehand.
While histology classes tend to drag a little (or a lot), dissection classes were so interesting as each tutorial group were given a cadaver each to study. My tutorial group respectfully named our cadaver Bill. Over the weeks we came to know Bill very well as we made our way through the whole anatomy of the body. These sessions coincided with anatomy lectures that we received. I have 2 top tips which I gathered from 1st and 2nd-year dissection classes.
Top tip #1
One thing that I was warned very seriously about was the ANATOMY MUNCHIES. Yes, they are a thing, as the cadaverous are prepared with certain chemicals that notoriously give of a pungent odour that can make you very hungry... I didn’t really experience this but perhaps prepare for dissection by eating (whilst furiously cramming in anatomy notes).
Top tip #2
Be careful when you're using a scalpel to get rid of any fascia (fatty layer on the cadaver) as it can flick everywhere and is really greasy. Time for a funny anecdote I think - a student in a neighbouring tutor group somehow managed to flick fascia into her mouth whilst cutting - perhaps she had the anatomy munchies?
The eternal struggles of note taking
What I struggled most with was being able to pay attention in lectures whilst writing down notes. I would suggest that quite early on you have to accept that it is an impossible task to try to write out every lecture into your own notes.
To try to keep on top of things, I would attempt to go through the lectures at least once at the weekend and in the evenings to get a chance to look up different topics and write my own notes (mainly mind maps and diagrams) of each topic. This meant that at the end of term time I had a stack of my own notes ready to revise with. 1st and 2nd year were hard as it tested your ability to recall endless pages of vastly pointless facts. At one point I prided myself on being able to tell you the width of different cells in the body. I kid you not (mitochondria=10nm – A* material right there).
Back to the future
The curriculum has changed now meaning that 1st and 2nd years have a lot more clinical, hands-on time than before. Even so, I didn’t mind 1st and 2nd-year lectures as it was almost like a continuation of school. However, I was ready for a much-needed science hiatus after 2nd year and so I took an intercalated year in Global Health for a change…
Medicine: Work Work * Work...
*intercalated BSc/ my medical “Gap Yah”
Reasons why I took BSc
- NO MORE SCIENCE
- A more flexible timetable which let me take on more roles in the hockey club
- Studying something I was always interested in and something I had always sidelined
- Learning that the world is a very very complicated place and improving my vocabulary to words like neoliberalism, which instantly improves your IQ if it is dropped into a casual conversation.
During my BSc, I had lectures based at Denmark Hill campus in Camberwell (next to King’s College Hospital) for 3 days a week with seminars mixed in between. Most of the studying in my BSc centred on doing readings and writing essays which vastly differs from the multiple choice questions that you revise for studying Medicine.
On a serious note: King’s is really well known for being an excellent place to intercalate and many medical students from other universities come to King’s for their courses, so it seemed like a good idea to intercalate and get the chance to don a gown and have an extra graduation (because, you know, why not?)
How to prove you're not just obsessed with science
Straight after starting at King’s, I signed up to start hockey and netball at the Fresher’s fair. I wasn’t sure which I was going to pick but everyone had told me that the best way to meet people was through societies as well as uni halls. King’s sports clubs are slightly confusing as there are both King’s teams and GKT teams within the whole of KCL.
GKT stands for Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’ hospitals and that encompasses health and sciences courses from Medicine to biochemistry. So instead of having a strict medics team, it’s more of a health sciences team – yes, we’re pretty edgy like that. It’s important to note that, as a medical student, you immediately get enlisted by GKT sports clubs – you must not play for KCL (that is very bad – very very bad – a big no no). Within KCL there’s a strict rivalry between King’s and GKT teams and this comes to a head when the two sides compete every year in the Macadam Cup.
Joining GKT hockey meant that I was able to meet lots of people on my course and in the years above, as well as people from other subjects that are majority based on Guy’s Campus, which is considered the science and health-based campus at King’s.
Meeting older years is great as they can give you advice, pass on lecture notes and advise you on exams at the end of the year. I’d definitely recommend joining any society at King’s because it is hard to meet people across the different campuses that are spread out over London. Sometimes it can feel quite a disjointed university, but societies help to bring a campus feel back.
Back in the day, as a naïve and VERY KEEN hockey fresher (I turned up to every single social in my first year – pretty legendary in all honesty), there was no better way to spend a Wednesday then dress up as Red Indians/Stars/ Superheroes/ Angels…the list goes on and on. At the end of 1st year, I had a bigger fancy dress box than I ever did growing up but there was nothing better than our whole hockey team getting ready after the occasional (and very rare) win against another team.
Decisions..decisions..why did I choose King's?
My prime reason for picking King’s was that I really wanted to study in London. I was conscious that if I was going to spend 5 or 6 years in one place, I wanted a good city to live in that I wouldn’t get tired of. As Samuel Johnson famously said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Well said, Samuel.
So I looked at medical schools in London and settled on King’s because I didn’t want to commit to having to do a compulsory intercalated BSc that is offered at UCL or Imperial. At the time of applying, I also had never really heard much about St George’s or Queen Mary’s having not known anyone who had gone there, so I settled on King’s!
London Life on a Budget
“I’m broke” – most commonly used phrase of every London student ever.
The biggest downfall to studying in London is, of course, the cost of living, but London will always be expensive no matter whether you're a student or a working graduate. Whilst you do get a slightly bigger student loan, the chances are that you'll struggle to find a decent price for a flat or box room. But the benefits far out way the prospect of an empty bank account. For example, in my 1st year, I stayed in the cheapest halls available that were directly opposite the Shard (tallest building in Europe, just saying) and next door to our main lecture theatre. During 1st year, I perfected the art of timing as I was able to get to all my lectures on time by leaving at exactly 8:59 am for a 9 am start (make sure to factor in waiting for the lift which can add a good 20 seconds). Learn more on how to be a savvy student.
There are many tricks of the trade that you can find living in London that make that student budgeting just a little bit easier. Here are a few that I have found:
Lesson no. 1: Accept and befriend your overdraft
Going into your overdraft is annoying but also unavoidable and it’s good to remember that, at the end of the day, as a doctor, you are almost guaranteed a job so don’t stress, unemployment won’t last forever! I definitely recommend starting a student bank account before you leave for a university as big banks often give freebies when you open one. I started a Santander student account and got a free 5-year railcard, which is so good considering I live in the far far North, basically beyond The Wall, so I travel on trains between London and home a lot.
Lesson no. 2: Walking improves your health and your bank account
Central London is actually relatively small and often places are only 1 mile away but it can take up to 30/40 minutes on the bus or the tube. Bus and tube fares can really quickly add up to nearly £20 a week so my answer is to just walk it! Walking saves time, money and means you can spend your bus fare on a cup of coffee instead.
Lesson no. 3: If you’re lost, walk towards the Shard
Very quickly after moving to London you realise that you can get lost very easily and end up in some questionable areas by making one wrong turning. The best way to navigate around is by downloading the app Citymapper (the London equivalent of Google Maps). In 1st year, I followed the rule of ‘walk towards the shard’ if I ever got lost and needed to find my way back to Guy’s Campus or my halls of residence.
Lesson no. 4: South London isn’t dodgy, it is in fact “up and coming"
Students studying health and science subjects based at Guy’s Campus tend to live and spend most of their time in South London, from London Bridge to areas around Camberwell. Many people in London look down on the South as a bit of a rougher place compared to North of the Thames. Yes, North London has Covent Garden, Oxford Street, Kensington and the likes of the Made in Chelsea crowd. BUT what it doesn’t have is UP AND COMING AREAS (i.e. more disadvantaged areas that have a few pop-up shops or coffee shops inundated with cactuses that sell £10 avocado and eggs). South London really does have some cool areas and is definitely more affordable to live in and who doesn’t like an underdog?
To make it sound more sophisticated I like to tell people where I live in London in relation to a Monopoly board as I live on Old Kent Road (one of the Brown Sets). From my highly acclaimed monopoly career the ‘Browns’ are actually great because they’re cheap and you can build houses really quickly…it’s all about perspective, people.
Lesson no. 4: Always choose top-deck on a bus
An important note is that buses are cheaper than the tube and if you do choose the bus, make sure to sit on the top deck for the best air conditioning and the best views!
And finally, lesson no. 5: 49p filter coffees exist!!!
This is a lesson I have recently discovered and oh how it has changed my life! During exam time, most of my money goes on library snacks which predominately involve caffeine and chocolate. It is vital that you invest in a reusable cup because it is quite nice to help our lovely old planet AND it means Pret deducts 50p off any hot drinks, so what was a 99p filter coffee becomes 49p!!!! You love to see it.
The (un)official (and not at all biased) London University rankings:
3. All the rest…
King’s is a great option if you're looking to study Medicine in London without immediately having to commit to studying for 6 years. Even though the different campuses are spread out, Guy’s campus almost feels like a mini-university within King’s, as most students in GKT societies study at this campus and all know each other. I would definitely pick to study here again and I’m looking forward to my clinical teaching in some of the most renowned hospital wards in the country. I’d definitely recommend studying here!