Commuting in London is a major part of life. Due to the fact that the city is so large and there are nearly 9 million people living in it, it often takes a significant amount of time to commute to work, school, or even to a gym. Public transportation is the primary means of getting around the city for most people. This includes buses, trains, and, of course, the tube. In addition to public transport, taxis, cars, bikes and walking are quite common- if not a combination of a few. For me, the tube is my go-to form of transportation. Although it took a while for me to get used to (and I’m still not 100% there), it is quick, effective, and generally reliable.
Getting to CAPA from where I live in Camden Town takes about 40 minutes. Leaving from my flat, I walk about five minutes to the Camden Town Station where I get on the Northern Line Southbound. I ride this line for about six stops and get off at Leicester Square, at which point I transfer to the Piccadilly Line Westbound. I ride for another five or six stops and get off at Gloucester Road. About 5-10 minutes walking along Cromwell Road and I reach the red doors of CAPA.
Had I been commuting to my internship at Clic Sargent, I would have taken the exact same lines but I would have stayed on the Piccadilly line for another three stops. From there, I would exit the station and would be a short 5 minute walk from the office.
The quality of the commute is typically hit or miss. Despite the fact that I leave home at the same time everyday, some days rush hour hits hard and your packed into the tube like sardines, while other days you have a plethora of seats to choose from. Obviously, I prefer the latter. When I can get a seat on the tube, my mornings are much calmer, as I often rest my eyes a bit while listening to music. However, when I’m crammed up against a bunch of other cranky people on their way to somewhere important, it is stressful, uncomfortable, and often quite warm.
This is similar to the transportation I take when I am at Pitt, just on a larger scale. At Pitt, I often take buses that may be packed full of people as well. However, I would not say that that prepared me for the tube. Ultimately, the tube is a great resource, but it just takes a little bit of getting used to before you can fully appreciate it.
In terms of transportation advice for future study abroad students, my best tip is having access to music. A long commute no longer seems long when you can tune out the screeching brakes of the tube and just spend your commute relaxing. Also, I would recommend leaving at least 10-15 minutes earlier than most transit apps suggest (CityMapper is the best) just in case there are delays or you accidentally get on the wrong line.
It’s often suggested to take advantage of commute time in terms of doing some school work. I personally do not think the tube is a conducive space to the type of work you’d likely have to do, nor would you really have enough time to accomplish a lot if you have to switch lines frequently. However, it is a good time to reflect and maybe jot down notes on what you’ve been doing, seeing, and learning. It also isn’t uncommon to read on the tube- whether that be books or newspapers, so if that is something that makes one’s commute pass quicker, then by all means!
Overall, taking the tube is critical to getting most places that are outside of walking distance, and most commutes are rather long. However, 45 minutes no longer seems like a long time as it becomes more routine. Taking the tube is the best way to immerse yourself and establish yourself as a Londoner, so embrace it!