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There’s no way around it: Studying abroad in London is expensive. Every time I walk down the street, I see at least half a dozen new restaurants and cafes I’d like to try. Pub culture is incredibly welcoming, but just one pint sets you back about $7. Then there’s the lure of travel. A weekend trip to Edinburgh, a spring-break vacation in Barcelona— even the subsidized Arcadia excursions add up. Despite the $4,000 or so I set aside for the semester, I’m quickly realizing I’ll have to pick and choose the things I see and do.
But that doesn’t mean I’ll have to spend that down time sitting in my flat. Luckily, London is home to such a wealth of free— that’s right, free— activities that there’s a little something for every taste. For history buffs and art snobs (myself included), the vast majority of London’s countless museums operate by free-will donation. Foodies can find cheap eats or simply explore lively street markets in Camden, Exmouth, Whitecross, and beyond. For a study abroad student trying to make every quid count, these budget-friendly activities are a godsend, as well as an excuse to explore new parts of the city.
One of my first experiences with the many free sightseeing opportunities in London brought me to Canary Wharf. It’s a modern, industrial section of the city boasting pricey restaurants, a beautiful view of the Thames and, on this visit, a (free!) outdoor sculpture exhibition. Called “Winter Lights,” the exhibit took me on a meandering journey around Canary Wharf. The path to a dazzling array of unique masterpieces was charmingly illuminated with fairy lights and bustling with Londoners and tourists alike. Not only did the “Winter Lights” exhibit give me a tour of the neighborhood, but it also combined two of my favorite hobbies (art and people watching) into one. Best of all, the price was just right.