Student life

10 tips for settling into a new city


Whether you’ve moved away from your home town because you’re starting university or to embark on a new career, the prospect of settling into a whole new city can seem like a daunting one. There are people everywhere, thousands of buses and taxis (except for the one you’re waiting for), and a series of very counter-intuitive transport maps, all of which can serve to overwhelm someone trying to navigate a new city for the first time.

But worry not, because there are lots of easy ways to get to know the surrounding area and feel more settled in your new home. Here’s our top 10.

1. Register with the doctor

First things first, let’s get the dull stuff out of the way. When moving to a new city, there will be a million and one things you’ll be trying to sort out - from changing your address on your driving licence and bank account, to figuring out whether you need to pay council tax in your new digs. Which means that it can be easy for the less exciting stuff, like registering with the local GP, to quickly fall to the bottom of the priority list.

But, unfortunately, the unexpected does occasionally happen, and you don’t want to be left without a local doctor should you fall ill or injure yourself when you’re trying to settle into your new home. Registering with the GP only takes 10 minutes, so make sure it’s one of the first things you do when you arrive. If you’re attending university in your new city, there may even be a stand where you can sign up for the doctor when you go to pick up your keys on arrival day.

2. Download some useful apps

Apps are used to organise every area of our lives nowadays, so it should come as no surprise that there are lots of useful apps you can download to your mobile phone that will help you settle into your new city.

For example, if you’re worried about getting lost, route planning apps such as Citymapper will give you clear instructions on how to find the quickest route home. The best part? The instructions are so easy to follow that it’ll look like you know exactly where you’re going, so no passer-by is going to have any idea that you’ve been wandering around in circles for the past half hour.

Alternatively, if you’re planning on going cycling in your new city, it might be a good idea to familiarise yourself with apps such as CycleStreets, which will allow you to plan your cycling route based on your ability level, ranging from beginner to regular commuter. This will help you to stay safe when cycling on busy roads.

3. Be a tourist

When moving to a new city alone, it can be easy to hole up at home for fear of getting lost in the busy, bustling city. However, the only way to familiarise yourself with your new surroundings is to get out and explore.

You could spend a day visiting all of the local tourist attractions, just to be able to say you’ve seen them when it comes up in conversation - you might even be able to cross a few items off your bucket list. But you’ve got to make sure you’re wearing some sort of novelty cap while you’re doing it, otherwise you just won’t get the full ‘tourist’ experience.

4. Never go to the same place twice

Similarly to the above, the only way to get used to a new city is to try everything once – after all, you’re not going to have the time to experience everything if you’re busy revisiting the places you’ve already seen.

After moving away from your home town, it can be easy to latch on to places that feel non-threatening, and to create yourself a whole new comfort zone without even realising it. That’s why it’s important not to allow yourself to fall into the trap of revisiting the same places, and to constantly be on the lookout for new things to see and do.

5. Find a new hobby

In the spirit of trying new things, finding a new hobby or attending group activities is a great way to meet people, especially if you’ve just moved to the big city alone.

Research the local area – are there any activities that are particularly popular in your new city, such as rock climbing or cycling? By immersing yourself into the hobbies of the community around you, you’re more likely to come into contact with like-minded people and make some new friends as a result. Equally, it’ll help to make you feel more at home if you try to live like a local.

6. Create a new tradition

Humans are creatures of habit, which means that our traditions and rituals are essential to helping us to feel at home in our surroundings. But while one of the hardest things about moving to a new city is having to develop a whole new routine from scratch, this can also be one of the most exciting things about starting over.

So now that you’re out of your comfort zone, why not create a new tradition to help you settle in? It could be something as simple as visiting a new coffee shop for your morning latté, or finding your own secret route to work or university.

Whatever it is, it’s important to create new rituals, as holding onto the old ones might only serve to make you more home sick. Start afresh, and use it as an opportunity to try new things.

7. Get lost

Despite the variety of navigation apps that are available nowadays, it can still be easy to get lost when exploring a new city for the first time. You’ll wander for hours, feeling confident that your internal compass is pointing you in the right direction. But then you notice that some of the surrounding landmarks look eerily familiar. Haven’t you passed that busker before? And that’s when you realise - you’re right back where you started.

But that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. After all, you’ve now seen far more of your city than you planned to, and now know which direction NOT to walk in when you’re trying to get home. It’s all just a big learning curve.

However, if you are planning on wandering the city alone, it’s important to take precautions to protect both yourself and your possessions, as you may be slightly more vulnerable than if you were exploring as part of a large group. Carry a theft-proof backpack that zips from the back, rather than the front, and make sure to stick to busy areas.

8. Make a friend

Moving house, whatever the circumstances, is exhausting. Not only is there a lot of admin involved, and a whole new city to work your way around, but you’ll also be on the hunt for new friends to experience everything with. This is especially the case if you’re moving to a new city alone.

But remember, you don’t need to make twenty new friends to feel more at home – just one companion that you can chat to when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed should do the trick. And you might even be able to enlist their help moving furniture around if you make a really good first impression…

9. Stay close to the phone

Just because you’re seizing your independence by making the move to the big city doesn’t mean that you can’t lean on the people back home for support. Everyone gets lonely sometimes, so your friends and family probably aren’t going to mind a phone call when you need someone to chat to. Even if you don’t have time for a full-on phone call, you can stay connected to your friends and family by sending them daily photos and updates using one of the many social media apps available. They’ll likely be missing you as much as you’re missing them, so social media is an easy way for you all to stay involved in each other’s day to day lives.

10. Take your time

Even if you follow all of the recommendations above, it’s important to remember that you might not feel completely at home in your new city straight away, as it can sometimes take a bit of time to adjust. Everyone reacts to new situations differently, so don’t worry if it takes you a few extra visits home or late-night phone calls to your parents before you feel fully settled in your new surroundings. It’s not a race, so take as much time as you need to feel completely at home.

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